Yoga is essentially a spiritual practice that focuses on harmonizing the mind and body. It is based on a very subtle science. The art and science of maintaining a healthy lifestyle go hand in hand. Yoga is a 5,000-year-old discipline that may have originated in India. Yoga is a Sanskrit term that comes from the root yuj, which means “to attach, unite, harness, or yoke.” Yoga is a cognate of the word “yoke” in English.
Because of the oral transmission of sacred texts and the secrecy of its teachings, yoga’s past is riddled with mystery and confusion. Yoga’s early works were recorded on delicate palm leaves, which were prone to damage, destruction, or loss. Yoga’s origins may be dated back over 5,000 years, but some researchers believe it may be as old as 10,000 years. There is no consensus on its chronology or specific origin other than that yoga was developed in ancient India. Suggested origins are the Indus Valley Civilization (3300–1900 BCE) and pre-Vedic Eastern states of India, the Vedic period (1500–500 BCE), and the śramaṇa movement.
Lord Shiva is considered to be the first yogi, it is believed that he disseminated his knowledge and learning to seven learned men known as the Saptarishis. They, in turn, spread the knowledge in seven different directions covering diverse regions – knowledge that humans can evolve beyond their physical limitations.
Yoga is a philosophical system of exercise and meditation. Afterall the overall philosophy of yoga is about connecting the mind, body, and spirit. In the 5th century, yoga was meant for meditation and religious use, but not as a form of workout. At around the same time, the concept became even more established among the Jains, Buddhists, and Hindus. The first versions of yoga were meant for spiritual practices and revolved around several core values.
The first core value analyzed an individual’s perception and cognitive state while understanding the cause of suffering and eventually using meditation to solve the issue. The second core value focused on boosting consciousness, and the third was used as a way of achieving transcendence. The fourth value was full of mystery because it used Yoga to penetrate other people’s bodies and act supernaturally.
As we now understand, the ultimate purpose of yoga is self-realization, which results in the state of moksha, or “liberation” (Kaivalya). The main objectives of yoga practice are health and peace, as well as living with freedom in all parts of life. The yogic scriptures state that practicing yoga causes one’s awareness to become one with universal consciousness, meaning perfect harmony between the mind and body as well as between man and nature. The practice of yoga, which is commonly referred to as a “immortal cultural result” of the Indus Saraswati Valley civilization has been proven to be beneficial for the growth of humanity’s material and spiritual well-being.
According to conventional terminology, yoga is the union of the individual self, called jivatma, and the collective self, called paramatma. It is a widening of the constrained, egoistic self to an all-encompassing, eternal, and joyous state of reality. Yoga is therefore a deliberate method for mastering the mind. It is a methodical, intentional activity that has the power to speed up human progress significantly.
Yoga is therefore a methodical approach for quickening a man’s whole growth. Man learns to live in greater realms of consciousness as he develops. The cultivation of the mind is the secret to this all-around personality development and progress. Yoga is also commonly understood as a therapy or exercise system for health and fitness. While physical and mental health is natural consequences of yoga, the goal of yoga is more far-reaching. Yoga is about harmonizing oneself with the universe. It is the technology of aligning individual geometry with the cosmic, to achieve the highest level of perception and harmony.
Yoga does not adhere to any particular religion, belief system, or community; it has always been approached as a technology for inner wellbeing. Anyone who practices yoga with involvement can reap its benefits, irrespective of one’s faith, ethnicity or culture.
Yoga comes in many forms and is divided into a number of disciplines. The different philosophies, traditions, lineages, and Guru-shishya paramparas of Yoga lead to the emergence of different Traditional Schools of Yoga e.g. Jnana-yoga, Bhakti-yoga, Karma-yoga, Dhyana-yoga, Patanjala-yoga, Kundalini-yoga, Hatha-yoga, Mantra-yoga, Laya-yoga, Raja-yoga, Jain-yoga, Bouddha-yoga, etc. Each school has its principles and practices leading to the ultimate aim and objectives of Yoga.
Some widely practiced Yoga Sadhanas (Practices) are: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana (Meditation), Samadhi /Samyama, Bandhas & Mudras, Shat-karmas, Yukta-ahara, Yukta karma, Mantra japa, etc. Yama’s are restraints and Niyama’s are observances. These are considered to be pre-requisites for the Yoga Sadhanas (Practices). Asanas, capable of bringing about the stability of body and mind ‘ kuryat-tad-asanam-sthairyam…’, consists in adopting various body (psycho-physical) patterns, giving the ability to maintain a body position (a stable awareness of one’s structural existence) for a considerable length and period as well.
Yoga later became widely valued because of the Indian nationalist movement as a way of building up pride and cultural identity. Surprisingly, the practice of Yoga was widely promoted by powerful families, institutions, and activities until India attained its independence in 1947. Today, millions upon millions of people all over the world benefit from the practice of Yoga, which has been preserved and promoted by the great eminent Yoga Masters from ancient times to the present. Yoga practice is blossoming and becoming more vigorous by the day.