What is Yoga?
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in ancient India. There is a broad variety of schools, practices, and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. Among the most well-known types of yoga are Hatha yoga and Rāja yoga.
The origins of yoga have been speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions, is mentioned in the Rigveda, but most likely developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, in ancient India’s ascetic and śramaṇa movements. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date from the first half of the 1st millennium CE, but only gained prominence in the West in the 20th century. Hatha yoga texts emerged around the 11th century with origins in tantra.
Yoga gurus from India later introduced yoga to the west, following the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world. Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise, it has a meditative and spiritual core.
Sadhguru (Founder of Isha Foundation) says –
Yoga means union. When an individual, who is otherwise trapped within the boundaries of his own body and sensations, achieves a kind of perfection within himself, where in his experience, he has become one with everything, then he is in a state of yoga. This is a possibility that every human being carries as a seed within himself or herself. If you are willing to strive, you can experience the whole cosmos within yourself. There have been many stories about this state of yoga.
When we say “yoga,” for most people it probably means twisting the body into impossible postures. That’s not what yoga is about. Among the Yoga Sutras, which form the bedrock of today’s yoga, only one sutra is dedicated to asanas. All Patanjali said was “Sthiram sukham asanam” – a posture which is comfortable and firm, that is your asana. Asanas are a very preparatory step, but unfortunately they are being propagated as the whole of yoga. Yoga means to be in perfect tune. Your body, mind and spirit and the existence are in absolute harmony. When you fine-tune yourself to a point where everything functions so beautifully within you, the best of your abilities will naturally flow out of you.
There is a whole technology as to how to use our inner energies for higher possibilities. Yoga is a tool to find ultimate expression to life. Every human being must explore and know this. Otherwise, life becomes very limited and accidental. But once you start activating your inner energies, your capabilities happen in a different sphere altogether.
On December 1, 2016, yoga was listed by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage.
Benefits of Yoga
Let’s look at the amazing benefits of Yoga:
- It helps to bring harmony to your life
- It makes you stress free
- It helps to improves your heart rate
- It helps you relax
- It helps you become more happier
- It helps you to sleep well
- It improves your flexibility
- It helps you in your reaction (the way you react to situations and scenarios)
- It helps in improving your metabolism
- It helps in improving your posture
- It helps in increasing your blood flow
- It prevents joint problems
- It helps in keeping your muscle strong
- It stretches and protects your spine
- It helps in improving your memory
- It helps in strengthening your bones
- It helps is normalizing your blood pressure
- It helps in reducing weight and normalizing your weight
- It helps you calm your nervous system
- It helps in increasing concentration
- It helps in improving your overall health as it removes toxins from your body
- Everyday yoga practice will give you an increased awareness of your own body. You are often called upon to make small, subtle movements to improve your alignment. Over a period of time, this will increase your level of comfort in your own body. This can lead to improved posture and greater self-confidence.
Yoga is just not some postures (a misconception). Infact, it is a way of life. With all this amazing benefits, I don’t think one would like to stay away from this.
Sadhguru, a yogi and profound mystic of our times, is a visionary humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader. A contemporary Guru, rooted as strongly in mundane and pragmatic matters as he is in inner experience and wisdom, Sadhguru works tirelessly towards the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of all. His mastery of the mechanisms of life, an outcome of his profound experience of the Self, guides in exploring the subtler dimensions of life.
He founded the Isha Foundation, a non-profit organization which offers Yoga programs around the world and is involved in social outreach, education and environmental initiatives. His books have appeared in The New York Times Best Seller list in multiple categories like “Health”, “Religion, Spirituality and Faith”, and “Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous”. He has given speeches at places such as the Headquarters of the United Nations, World Economic Forum and at educational institutions and technology companies. Sadhguru was conferred the Padma Vibhushan civilian award by the Government of India in 2017 in recognition of his contribution to the field of spirituality.
The foundation offers yoga programs under the name of Isha Yoga. The foundation is run entirely by volunteers and it has over 9 million volunteers. The Foundation is also involved in various social and community development activities, which have resulted in the Foundation being granted special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations in 2007.
About Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk and chief disciple of the 19th-century saint Ramakrishna. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century.
He was a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India, and contributed to the concept of nationalism in colonial India. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is perhaps best known for his inspiring speech which began, “Sisters and brothers of America …,” in which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.