Over the past four decades, yoga has become a household word in the West. It was popularized in the 1960s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who introduced his own style of yoga called transcendental meditation.
Physicians and therapists routinely recommend yoga exercises and meditation as treatment for a host of medical and psychological disorders, including high blood pressure, stress, anxiety, migraine, back pain and musculo-skeletal problems. Millions of Europeans and North Americans from all walks of life are yoga practitioners.
Yoga means different things to different people. To some, it’s a series of physical asanas or postures. To others, it involves breathing and concentration exercises. But despite its secular applications and benefits, yoga is actually a spiritual discipline deeply rooted in Hinduism.
It is believed that the Hindu scriptures, the Vedas, were revealed to four highly developed yogis when they were in deep meditation, or samadhi, the highest stage of yoga.
The Sanskrit word yog, pronounced as “yoga” in the West, has the same meaning as the English word “union.” The discipline, as ancient as Hinduism itself, was first codified by the Hindu sage and grammarian Patanjali (200 B.C.) in Yog Sutras, the oldest textbook on yoga.
Yoga is a process by which a person can obtain release from the cycle of the transmigration of the soul and attain eternal bliss by uniting with God, the ultimate goal of human life. This state is called moksha in Hinduism and nirvana in Buddhism.
Physical exercises, breathing exercises and concentration are only some of the tools for reaching the ultimate goal. Yoga involves a very rigorous physical, moral and spiritual training for the person who seeks to be a yogi. Under the guidance of a spiritual master or guru, it starts with a strict moral code of conduct, which includes non-violence, truthfulness, chastity and avoidance of greed and jealousy.
The next stage is to train your body through breathing exercises and rigorous physical exercises.
To avoid worldly distractions, the yoga seekers would retreat to forests and caves where no medical aid was available in case of illness. This would enable them to pursue their spiritual goal for years without any interruptions. Therefore, with specific, intense physical exercises and postures, Hatha Yoga or yoga of force, they trained every organ of the body to cure itself. Even today, there are many yoga institutions in India that claim to cure many serious illnesses, including cancer.
The next important part of yoga is the control of the mind through concentration, called raja yoga. It is reaching a state where the body and mind are supremely relaxed and cannot be disturbed by any internal or external disruptions. Only in this state can a seeker practise the spiritual aspect of yoga.
The ancient mystical physiology of yoga needs further serious investigation by open-minded scientists. Their revelations may further benefit humanity.
Article By: Ajit Adhopia
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