The Benefit Of Yoga As Something You Do
When we engage, we change how the situation unfolds. Instead of things simply happening to us, we become an active participant. We exercise our agency, the ability to act.
Yoga is an invitation to get off the sidelines and act. As we do so we can now affect how the game turns out. Our participation creates the possibility of change and gives us different options than if we just stood by.
If you were to break down the process of “doing yoga” it would be:
Engage doesn’t mean to dive into a situation without thinking. On the contrary, you endeavor to see what’s going on. You want to understand.
In the Indian mind, actions are the ways we think, move and speak. By training our attention on something, we are engaging with it. We are connecting through yoga.
This connection is not only physical but mental, emotional and even spiritual. It involves your whole being and differs from getting on a treadmill and staring at a TV.
As you practice yoga you ask, how does this feel in my body? What thoughts or emotions am I having? How can I work with this? Elite athletes know about the importance of connecting your physical being with your mental and emotional state. They call it the mental game.
Benefits Of Yoga That Are Supported By Science
Derived from the Sanskrit word “yuji,” meaning yoke or union, yoga is an ancient practice that brings together mind and body .
It incorporates breathing exercises, meditation and poses designed to encourage relaxation and reduce stress.
Practicing yoga is said to come with many benefits for both mental and physical health, though not all of these benefits have been backed by science.
This article takes a look at 13 evidence-based benefits of yoga.
Yoga As In Yoke Not Yolk
Patanjali, who we know next to nothing about, is credited with compiling his yoga sutras. What we do know, from the text he put together, is that he was an ascetic.
Ascetics come from the second period of yoga and approach the world . This is known as Nivrtti yoga or the yoga of renunciation. You can see this language in both of the definitions of yoga above.
Both dictionaries also add an interesting “fact.”
Merriam-Websters states the first known use of yoga is 1785, but in their help section mentions that:
The first known use of the word yoga anywhere comes from the Rig Veda, dating back to 1700-1100 BCE, or about 3000 years before it appeared in English. The Oxford Dictionary gives the origin of yoga as:
Sanskrit, literally ‘union.’
The definition of yoga as “union” is also associated with Patanjali, and more precisely, the union between you and the divine called Purusha. This is where the term theistic, relating to god, applies.
Let’s move beyond Patanjali and even god to explore the earlier meaning of yoke.
I love that they were war horses for they are the perfect symbol of frenetic beings “chomping at the bit.” If you couldn’t control them, then there weren’t useful.
Concept Of The Ultimate Reality
OM – Symbol of the Ultimate Reality
Hari Om! Namaste!!
This is a very touchy topic. So, non-believers and doubters need not read any further. Others, continue!
Ultimate Reality, sometimes referred to as God, is nothing but the Permanent Truth that controls everything without limits of time and space.
It is also called Paramatma or Brahman in Indian philosophy. It is important to know this concept properly. If we don’t, it becomes very challenging and abstract to understand our philosophy or Scriptures. So, let us make an attempt to know it with complete clarity.
In Sanatana Dharma, the Scriptures define God as Sat-Chit-Ananda. Sat means Ultimate Truth that exists all the time and everywhere. The Truth that does not need a comparison or proof.
Chit roughly means consciousness in English. This aspect of Reality is the toughest part to understand. So, it needs elaboration.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to describe it – explaining it in words is like- telling somebody about the smell of jasmine flower who has not seen the jasmine flower yet. We can feel chit aspect of God as pulsating energy during certain types of meditation e.g. Kundalini Yoga.
Is there a way to know it without going into all that meditation stuff? Yes, by analogies.
Some Analogies for Chit
It is like electrical energy, we can see its effect, not itself. We can see light glowing and not electricity.
The Ultimate Proof
Other Attributes like Shape, Color etc.
Foundation Of Yoga: Yogic Philosophy
Philosophy of Yoga is a part of 6 orthodox schools in Hindusium namely Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa & Vedanta .
Yogic philosophy is most influential among other six as it conceptualizes theoretical knowledge with the systematic techniques & personal experiment.
Samkhya, the foremost one, is an atheistic philosophy to approach liberation while in yoga, God plays an important role to liberate.
Yogic philosophy comprises a basic understanding of the following concepts.
Misconception 5: Yoga Means Practice
Yeah sure, doing a downdog or some other physical position called a yoga pose might take practice and well known guru Patabhi Jois is often quoted as saying “yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice” BUT is the actual ‘state’ of yoga, i.e. enlightenment / liberation something that can be practiced?
Did you know that there are completely opposing schools of Eastern philosophy & meditation who disagree as to whether meditation and enlightenment/liberation require practice or whether they can occur as a spontaneous awakening?
Even within the path of yoga itself, there appears to be inconsistencies depending on which worldview, lineage or scripture you choose to consult. So on the one hand with practice, you get a little glimpse of the ‘light’ and you can incrementally edge towards it, or on the other hand you’re either enlightened or you’re not.
So effort or grace?
Option 1: Do you need to put your leg over your head and your foot on your ear whilst breathing out one nostril and looking up to your 3rd eye
OR Option 2: can you just sit in the garden listening to the birds?
I continue to explore both options and believe that ultimately both or neither option could lead to yoga, so long as there is no grasping for such outcomes.
Personally, there is only so much sitting in the garden that I could manage before I would be jumping up and handstanding around. The reality is, my natural temperament is that I’m more of a pusher, than a natural go-with-the-flow…type person. .
Laya Yoga And Kundalini Yoga
According to Georg Feuerstein, Laya yoga “makes meditative absorption its focus. The laya-yogin seeks to transcend all memory traces and sensory experiences by dissolving the microcosm, the mind, in the transcendental Self-Consciousness.” There are various forms and techniques of Laya yoga, including listening to the “inner sound” , practicing various mudras like Khechari mudra and Shambhavi mudra as well as techniques meant to awaken a spiritual energy in the body .
The practice of awakening the coiled energy in the body is sometimes specifically called Kundalini yoga. It is based on Indian theories of the subtle body and uses various pranayamas and mudras to awaken the energy known as or . In various Shaiva and traditions of yoga and tantra, yogic techniques or yuktis are used to unite , the divine conscious force or energy, with , universal consciousness. A common way of teaching this method is to awaken the kundalini residing at the lowest chakra and to guide it through the central channel to unite with the absolute consciousness at the highest chakra .
The Bhagavad Gita Explains Three Paths:
The “Bible of yoga,” or The Bhagavad Gita, was the first spiritual text to declare that anyone could be enlightened. In it, the guru lays out three specific margas of yoga.
Each path is unique but they all lead to one ultimate goal: enlightenment. Enlightenment is the true essence and origin of yoga.
Misconception 2: Yoga Is Balance
Hatha is an umberella term for the physical approach to yoga practice. The Sanskrit term hatha is commonly described as being made from the roots ha, meaning “sun,” and tha, meaning “moon,” which is then suggested to convey the idea that physical yoga is about striving to balance the “solar” and “lunar” energies of the body.
Actually, the term hatha literally means “force,” or “exertion,” which is required for yoga practice in order to pertain to meditation.
So the misconception of yoga meaning balance could have been derived from a mis-interpretation or mis-identification with an analogy provided by Svatmarama the composer of the 15th Ce text the Hatha Pradapika. When he describes an aspect of the subtle energy body, the energy channels he uses the analogy of the sun and the moon to discuss the feminine and masculine channels but this is just one aspect of the practice and not the entire goal of yoga.
Let’s consider balance practically. Being in balance would suggest a sense of equanimity and non-extremity. Which is all very well but how realistic is it to maintain throughout life? As discussed above, the nature of existence is in constant flux and life is full of ups and downs. So how can we stay in balance when everything else experiences imbalance? What is a suitable time-frame in which to consider balance? within a moment? 40 days? a season? a year? a lifetime? a generation?
What Does Yoga Actually Mean
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root word “yug,” which literally means to yoke or unite.
This union is not referring to your fingers touching your toes or your nose reaching your knees. It’s also not referring to the union of mind and body, although, this is commonly repeated within the yoga community.
The union that the word yoga is referring to is that of uniting individual with consciousness .
Yoga philosophy is one of the six branches of the Vedas, which are considered to be one of the world’s oldest scriptures.
The first branch, called , explains that all knowledge and experience comes from one underlying consciousness, or reality.
The second branch, Sankhya, describes how the one consciousness differentiated itself to appear as many things.
The third branch, which is yoga philosophy, describes the processes needed to realize our unity with the one consciousness so that we may free ourselves from the suffering felt through our perceived separation.
All yoga practice is to serve the unfolding of infinite potential of both the human mind and eternal Self.
Through this ultimate union of the self with the Divine, we experience lasting bliss, or , and from suffering.
Awakening Of Self Is Yoga
Big Shakti’s favourite definition of yoga is that it is any method that allows us to wake up to who or what we really are and to what life is all about. Anything that allows us to be more aware of ourselves and to feel connected to ourselves and life is a form of yoga.
Everything we do can become yoga if it is done with awareness. Awareness is the key to discovering all the mysteries of who we truly are. Yoga reveals the luminous intelligence and the beauty that lies within us.
Risks And Side Effects
Many types of yoga are relatively mild and therefore safe for people when a well-trained instructor is guiding the practice.
It is to incur a serious injury when doing yoga. The most common injuries among people practicing yoga are and strains.
However, people may wish to consider a few risk factors before starting a yoga practice.
A person who is pregnant or has an ongoing medical condition, such as bone loss, , or , should consult a healthcare professional, if possible, before taking up yoga.
Some people may need to modify or avoid some yoga poses that could be risky given their specific condition.
Beginners should avoid advanced poses and difficult techniques, such as Headstand, Lotus Pose, and forceful breathing.
When managing a condition, people should not replace conventional medical care with yoga or postpone seeing a healthcare professional about pain or any other medical problem.
Improves Quality Of Life
Yoga is becoming increasingly common as an adjunct therapy to improve quality of life for many individuals.
In one study, 135 seniors were assigned to either six months of yoga, walking or a control group. Practicing yoga significantly improved quality of life, as well as mood and fatigue, compared to the other groups .
Other studies have looked at how yoga can improve quality of life and reduce symptoms in patients with cancer.
One study followed women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Yoga decreased symptoms of chemotherapy, such as nausea and vomiting, while also improving overall quality of life .
A similar study looked at how eight weeks of yoga affected women with breast cancer. At the end of the study, the women had less pain and fatigue with improvements in levels of invigoration, acceptance and relaxation .
Other studies have found that yoga may help improve sleep quality, enhance spiritual well-being, improve social function and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with cancer (
studies show that yoga could improve quality of life and may be used as an adjunct therapy for some conditions.
Origin And Meaning Of The Word Yoga
Yoga is the Ancient Indian Science of Self-Realization . The tradition considers Hiranyagarbha as the originator of Yoga. Yoga is one of the six orthodox Indian Philosophical Schools . It is founded by Sage Patanjali.The aim of yoga is to redeem man from the suffering and cycle of birth and death. It is a practical philosophy. The ancient sages, seers and philosophers adopted yoga as a way of life.
Where Does Yoga Come From
Yoga, particularly in the western world, is thought of by most a physical journey , but yoga is a spiritual discipline first and foremost. True yoga, spiritual yoga, is an ancient Indian philosophy that dates back over 5,000 years and originated in the Indus Valley Civilization. The father of classical ashtanga yoga is said to be Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra and captured the philosophy of the eight-limbed path.
Yoga offers an approach to living more consciously, and this spiritual discipline can take many different forms, the most well-known of which are gyana yoga, raja yoga, bhakti oga, and karma yoga.
The History Of Yoga And The Origin Of Yoga: How The Practice Has Evolved Into What We Practice Today
We go to yoga for a variety of reasons, including the physical benefits like strengthening our body or to sweat in a heated room. But, most of us know very well that our yoga practice offers benefits that reach far deeper than just the physical.
This is because the very root of all the yogic practices is to reach only one goal: enlightenment. So, the practice of yoga highly emphasizes a focus on the breath and the inner workings of the mind.
Visit any yoga studio around the world, and you will likely find a teacher that references a quiet mind or cultivates a meditation practice in the beginning or end of class. It’s hard to separate yoga from its roots. And, honestly, why would we want to?
The very root of all the yogic practices is to reach only one goal: enlightenment.
Yoga offers us countless benefits because it is so rooted in its history. By taking the time to draw our awareness inside during our yoga practice, we counter the stresses of our everyday lives.
We may even find small glimpses of ultimate enlightenment. And, of course, this would make the yogis that came before us extremely proud.
So What Union Does Yoga Create
Well, that depends who you ask. A union of mind, body, and soul; of breath and body; of our lower egos with our higher selves. A union with the universe or source or god. All of these have been used to describe the “union” that yoga creates.
In fact, for advanced practitioners, the word “yoga” in and of itself is already a paradox. This is because the true essence of yoga is uniting two things that were never actually separate to begin within. It is just the illusion of separation that we need to remove.
Of course, your personal definition of yoga and its unifying essence is up to interpretation. You have to practice to know the answer.
Misconception 1: Yoga Is Stillness
The entire Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are dedicated to explaining the goal of yoga as being to ‘still the fluctuations of the mind’
An important point to make here is that often meditation is misunderstood as stopping the thoughts. Anyone who has ever actually tried to stop their thoughts can attest to how impossible it can feel. It’s the equivalent of attempting to stop the current of a river by standing still in the water!
This is because there is no such thing as static stillness. Everything in nature is continuously in motion and nothing is ever still so you cannot expect to defy the laws of nature and be ‘still’*. This is true of our body and of our thoughts.
So stilling the fluctuations of the mind should be considered not as stopping but as steering. Rather than the stillness of yoga being considered as the interruption or abruption of thoughts themselves, it should be understood as attuning to one’s underlying awareness and steering this awareness into itself away from the thoughts. Alas, this is no easy feat but at least more possible than stopping the torrent of thoughts!
in which case you can probably defy the time and space continuum).
Patanjalis Definition Of Yoga
The great sage Patanjali, in the system of Raja Yoga, gave one of the best definitions of yoga. He said, ‘Yoga is the blocking of mental modifications so that the seer re-identifies with the Self. Patanjali’s system has come to be the epitome of Classical Yoga Philosophy and is one of the 6 or 7 major philosophies of India.
What Does Hatha Mean
Hatha means forceful or willful, and hatha yoga refers to the physical exercises and poses align your body to allow energy to flow freely. There is also the translation of Hatha as meaning “ha” and “tha” , which refers to the balance of masculine and feminine .
The practice of hatha yoga, therefore, moves us along the path toward balance and the union of opposites. In our physical bodies, this is reflected in the balancing of strength and flexibility with the effort and surrender needed for each pose.
This makes hatha yoga a powerful way to begin the process of self-transformation as we focus on our breath, slow our racing minds, and learn to be present at the moment.
Improves Flexibility And Balance
Many people add yoga to their fitness routine to improve flexibility and balance.
There is considerable research that backs this benefit, demonstrating that it can optimize performance through the use of specific poses that target flexibility and balance.
A recent study looked at the impact of 10 weeks of yoga on 26 male college athletes. Doing yoga significantly increased several measures of flexibility and balance, compared to the control group .
Another study assigned 66 elderly participants to either practice yoga or calisthenics, a type of body weight exercise.
After one year, total flexibility of the yoga group increased by nearly four times that of the calisthenics group .
A 2013 study also found that practicing yoga could help improve balance and mobility in older adults .
Practicing just 15–30 minutes of yoga each day could make a big difference for those looking to enhance performance by increasing flexibility and balance.
Summary: Research shows that practicing yoga can help improve balance and increase flexibility.
The Real Meaning And Practice Of Yoga
In contemporary times, yoga as a practice has been rebranded and labelled in myriad ways, leading to the discipline losing its essence and true meaning. In order for us to understand the real meaning of the practice, let us first be acquainted with the etymology of the term.
The term yoga has been derived from the word yug meaning ‘to unite’ or ‘integrate’. The origin of this practice can be traced back to almost 5,000 years ago in northern India. The practice was gradually developed over thousands of years and the whole process is documented in sacred texts of the Rig Veda . Primarily a spiritual discipline, yoga concentrates on the subtle science that focuses on achieving harmony between one’s mind and body. The practice goes beyond the physical asanas that it is popularly associated with, especially in the West. It stands for the union of the mind and body with universal consciousness. The ‘union’ here refers to uniting individual consciousness with divine consciousness . The ultimate aim of yoga is to achieve self-realization that enables the individual to overcome all kinds of suffering, eventually leading towards the state of liberation or freedom . It caters to both the material and spiritual upliftment of humanity.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlined the “Eight Limbs of Yoga”. These inner and outer practices all move toward a scientific method of meditation that enables individuals to perceive their unity with the ever present, ever conscious, blissful spirit.
Origin Of The Term ‘yoga’
The word yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word, “Yug” which literally means
“To yoke or unite”
The union that the root word ‘Yug’ refers to is merely just not your fingers touching your toes or it does not speak about the union of your nose with your knee.
This might sound strange, as this piece of information is commonly repeated in the yoga community, but the union here does not only refer to the union of the mind and body.
Key Terms: Dualism Non
In this piece, I refer to a few terms you may not have come across before: ‘Dualism’ and ‘Non-Dualism’, ‘Brahmins’ and ‘Householders’.
Dualism refers to a belief system that separates nature and consciousness. You could also think of this as separating us and everything around us, and God. Non-dualism is, of course, the opposite. It denotes that everything is One; that nature, consciousness, the divine and ourselves are all made up of the same thing and that there is no separation between anything or anyone.
In the context of Indian social tradition, someone who is considered a ‘Brahmin’ is thought to be of a high caste. These people are often born into affluent families and usually have well-paid and respected jobs. Many years ago, Brahmins would have been royals, priests or scholars.
A ‘Householder’ refers to someone most likely just like you and me; a person in the world with a job who works to maintain their livelihood and their family and who grapples with the daily challenges of life.
What Does The Word Yoga Mean What Is The Meaning Of Yoga Word
Let’s get together and head-on with an interesting exercise. Let us go around asking 10 yogis one question- “what does the word yoga mean”. When we ask this question to 10 yogis, we will probably get 10 different answers.
This is because yoga comes in different styles and forms and is taken up by various people for a variety of reasons. Therefore, it is pretty clear that yoga is a broad concept and is presented in a myriad of ways to serve the people attached to it keeping in mind their needs.
Lets Break Down What Yoga Is
Yoga. We all know this term so well. It is so common in our vernacular that this Sanskrit word has been incorporated into English dictionaries.
The word yoga itself first appeared in writing in the ancient and sacred texts of Hinduism – the . Specifically, yoga first made an appearance in the , the oldest of these scriptures.
The word “yoga” itself comes from the root “yuj,” which means “to yoke.” Now this is no longer a word that is commonplace in the English language, so you might not catch its meaning at first glance.
Yoking was a practice used to connect and harness two animals. They would be “yoked” together to then be able to perform tasks . So, essentially, to yoke is to create a union, and this is typically how we hear yoga defined today.