Yoga, basically means union, the unanimous harmony of mind, body, and spirit. For instance, if you look down a lake without any tides or dirt, you will be able to see deeper. In fact, if the lake is very clear without any ripples or dirt, you may even see till the bottom. However, if the lake is dirty or has high ripples, you cannot see much deep. In this case, you can assume the depth as your spirit (your true self) and the ripple/tide or the dirt as the distortions of your mind. Which means, a disturbed or a messed up mind doesn’t let you see your true self, your spirit/soul. Hence, yoga is the tool that liberates you from your mental distortions, your false notions, the illusions; it calms your mind from those distortions and hence unites you with your highest self. In simpler terms, Yoga unites the individual consciousness with the Universal Consciousness.
Today, Yoga is more popular than ever, either understood as a form of physical exercise or as asanas (physical postures), everyone follows it to have better control of mind and body and to enhance their well-being. In 5,000 years of its history, the term “yoga” has gone through a massive change in its culture, exchanging the loincloth for a leotard and leggings. In this article, you can understand what is Yoga, its history, types, the changing culture, Yoga Sutras, and benefits.
History of Yoga
Yoga has its roots up to the ancient times of civilization. From the Vedas to modern practices in the gyms, it has come a long way. Believed to be originated more than 5000 years ago in ‘the spiritual capital of the world’, India. Historians state that the practice of yoga even dates back to the Indus Valley Civilisation (3000-1800 BCE), and the Quetta, Harappan, and Mohenjo Daro civilizations. Excavations carried out in these areas brought to light the Pashupati Seal, that shows a figure sitting in a yogic posture. Thus, explaining how yoga was already known and practiced even then.
Primarily, the earliest mention of the powerful techniques is known to be found in the oldest known literature, the Rig Veda. However, the earliest mention of the philosophy that later became a part of yoga is found in the oldest Upanishad, Brihadaranyaka. One of the most renowned of the Yogic scriptures is the Bhagavad Gita, composed around 500 B.C.E. Here, yoga as a concept slowly emerged and has an elaborate mention of its philosophy. However, there is Yoga Vasishtha and more than 20 Upanishads. where Yoga is stated to be the union of mind with the Supreme Consciousness. Interestingly, it even predates Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita.
Regardless, yoga is perhaps most systematically elaborated and presented in the ancient philosophy, The Patanjali Yoga Sutras.
What is Patanjali Yoga Sutras?
Sutras (in Sanskrit) literally means a thread or string that holds things together and more metaphorically refers to an aphorism. The Patanjali Yoga Sutras are completely dedicated to the knowledge of Yoga which still is the strongest influencer of most modern forms of yoga. It is an ancient philosophy that enlightens one in the knowledge of yoga, its origin, and the ultimate purpose. Its purpose is to make the principles and practices of the Yoga formulae more understandable and accessible for all. In the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, practical and easy suggestions are presented through which one can experience the ultimate benefits of a yogic lifestyle.
Guided by a single thread, a kite can glide and soar to amazing heights. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are life’s threads, each one rich with knowledge, tools, and techniques. These sutras guide not only the mind but also one’s very being to its full potential. Basically, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras offer a systematic form of wisdom for attaining self-realization/enlightenment.
The Origin of Patanjali Yoga Sutras
The creator of the sutras (formulae/threads of knowledge) is Maharishi Patanjali, who is also considered as ‘the father of Yoga’. Although people know very little about Patanjali himself, many believe he’s thought to have lived between 200 and 500 B.C. At the time when the Ayurveda was the greatest wisdom, people had to cure their illness. Patanjali brought forward this powerful knowledge, which came to be known as ‘Yoga Sutras’.
Since, being sick it is not just sickness in the body, but also the sickness in the mind and emotions. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali projects the knowledge that doesn’t just cure the body but also purify the mind, emotions and the complete existence itself, all through Yoga. Patanjali Yoga Sutras with a total of 196 Sutras is divided into 4 chapters. In Detail
Why Do Yoga? Benefits of Doing Yoga
People do yoga for numerous reasons, flexibility, relaxation, and mindfulness are among the most common reasons people try it. Yoga is a tool of personal transformation, perhaps the best one. Many people find that yoga is a vital part of their spiritual lives. It is because yoga brings the mind into focus, yoga practice can lead to a state of mind in which we have clear insights into the world we live in and ourselves. When these insights are guided by reflection on spiritual principles they can help us change in a positive direction.
Once, someone skeptically asked Buddha,
“What have you gained through meditation?”
Buddha replied, “Nothing at all.”
“Then, Blessed One, what good is it?”
Buddha replied, “Let me tell you what I lost through meditation: sickness, anger, depression, insecurity, the burden of old age, the fear of death. That is the good of meditation, which leads to nirvana.”
Health Benefits of Doing Yoga
- Can Decrease Stress
- Relieves Anxiety
- May Reduce Inflammation
- Could Improve Heart Health
- Improves Quality of Life
- May Fight Depression
- Could Reduce Chronic Pain
- Could Promote Sleep Quality
- Improves Flexibility and Balance
- Could Help Improve Breathing
- May Relieve Migraines
- Promotes Healthy Eating Habits
- Can Increase Strength
Various studies and research have confirmed the numerous mental and physical benefits of doing yoga. Its daily practice can help enhance your physical, mental and spiritual capabilities. Thus, it is essential to find some time to practice yoga daily and keep yourself up to the mark.
The Yoga Culture and its Progression
Change is inevitable and it is true in with practices and the culture of yoga. Yoga has come a long way and with the changing time, there are many practices of Yoga that has progressed as well.
Most Famous Forms of Yoga Practice Today
- Hatha Yoga
- Raja Yoga
- Vinyasa Yoga
- Bikram Yoga
- Ashtanga Yoga
- Iyengar Yoga
- Kundalini Yoga
- Restorative Yoga
- Hot Yoga
- Power Yoga
In the past few decades, we have seen the Yoga culture going through various transformations. From being frowned upon to being hailed as one of the best natural therapies out there, it has come a long way. The barriers of caste, creed and social status have been uprooted from yoga to bring it to every home. Rewardingly, the benefits of yoga have not gone unnoticed in the international community. Thus, the United Nations has passed a resolution to celebrate yoga by announcing June 21st as the International Yoga Day.(Last Updated On: July 15, 2019)