Yoga establishes your true self in the driving seat of your life. Whoever you are, yoga can help you live your life to its full potential.
Yoga is an ancient Indian spiritual practice and a potent tool to realize human potential. The root word of yoga in Sanskrit, is ‘yuj’ which means ‘to unite’ / ‘to join’. It refers to the true purpose of yoga – to experience the one-ness (union) of one’s own consciousness with the universal consciousness.
If it sounds overly spiritual to you and makes you think that yoga might not be relevant to you – well, you are in for a surprise!
Yoga is often positioned as merely a form of physical exercise. In reality, the benefits of yoga stretch far beyond the boundaries of physical health improvements, which are just a happy consequence and side effect of practicing yoga.
Yoga is a system for transcending your limitations. If you have ever wanted to become better than yesterday at any of the roles you play in your life – a professional, a student, a spouse, a parent, an athlete, a leader or a member of any team – yoga can help in a big way.
The Difference Between Being In Yoga And Practicing Yoga
What most people completely miss is that the term ‘yoga’ is both a noun and a verb. Yoga isn’t just something that is, it is also a process in which you actively engage yourself in. Yoga, when thought of as a verb, is about connecting with your inner self and with the present moment. Yoga enables your body, intellect and emotions to exist in harmony with each other. The word yoga refers to both – the state of being in this harmony as well as to the methods to get to this state.
Most individuals are compulsively driven by the various traits, habits and behaviors – which they refer to as their ‘personality’. The state of being in yoga enables you to break this pattern and put your inner self in the driving seat. In this state, you can choose to ‘adopt’ the personality you need, based on the demands of the situation, instead of responding as your usual self.
Practicing yoga, on the other hand, simply means following the various yogic practices in order to prepare yourself for attaining the state of being in yoga.
Become The Master Of Your Destiny With Yoga
Have you observed that given the same challenging situation, one person might succeed while another might fail?
One of the most high impact realisations you can ever have is that the results you create in your life are largely determined by your responses to different situations, and not so much by the challenge of the situation itself. It is also the reason why there is probably no other tool better than yoga for productivity.
As per a recent study at Cornell, as an average person you make about 35000 decisions everyday! These decisions, both big and small, truly determine how you come across to the world – in your personal as well as your professional life. They also determine the results you create in your life. Yet, most of these choices are driven by your compulsions – your habits of thought and behaviour, your biases, your view of the world and of yourself.
Making these choices differently is the key to creating the desired results in your life. Being in yoga will enable you to choose your response in these situations. The power to choose your response leads to the possibility of creating the results you want.
In the words of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, a renowned yoga teacher who had deep influence over the development of postural yoga – yoga is the ‘process’ of replacing old patterns with new and more appropriate patterns.
Think about it. Isn’t that the same as shaping your own destiny?
Yoga Is For Everyone
Yoga is a skill for living life. You can learn and practice it, irrespective of your religious or spiritual inclinations.
Practicing yoga will make you aware of the innate traits, tendencies and psychological compulsions with which you identify yourself. It will also increase your awareness of each moment in time, and teach you to be present – in the here and now. With the awareness of self in the present moment, you will be able to make choices mindfully, rather than compulsively.
These effects have nothing to do with the spiritual aspect of yoga, whatsoever. And yet, they will raise the quality of your life like anything. These are compelling reasons to integrate the practice of yoga into your life, even if you do outrightly dismiss the narrative about universal consciousness and the spiritual ideology behind it!
There are many common myths about yoga but let us call out and bust some of them right away. Remember this –
- Yoga is not a religious practice
- Yoga is not just a bunch of postures and impossible body movements.
- Yoga is not about sitting with eyes closed and chanting mantras.
The most significant aspect of the practice of yoga, is the process of developing the faculty of awareness within you to remain conscious of your physical, mental and emotional tendencies. Like any other skill, it takes work and practice to develop. And that’s exactly what yoga’s playbook is about – the mechanisms to build this super life-skill.
The yoga asanas (yogasanas, yoga poses or yoga postures), the meditation practice, recommended daily rituals and habits in the original texts, are all ways and means to achieve this desired state of being. They are just tools and mechanisms to help you build this skill. None of them are magic. Nor are they silver bullets for any of your problems and challenges. They were carefully conceived to prepare you physically, mentally and emotionally – to achieve and persist in this state of being in yoga.
The Four Paths of Yoga And Their Meaning
You need not become an ascetic or monk to be a yogi. You also don’t need to be seated in a meditative pose or contorted in a difficult yoga posture. Those are just means to prepare you for attaining the state of being in yoga.
Your state of being is a combination of four aspects – the body, the mind, the emotion and the energy. You can begin with focusing on one or more of these faculties, depending on which one out of the four major paths of yoga you choose to follow – Karma (‘Karma’ means action) yoga, Jnana (also ‘Gnana’ – means ‘knowledge’) yoga, Bhakti (means devotion) yoga & Raja (means king or chief or best) yoga.
Irrespective of which path you take, truly being in yoga will transcend all your waking hours, the smallest of your activities in your day to day life.
As its name suggests, Raja (means chief or best or king) yoga, is regarded to be the best kind of yoga. It is considered to be both – the goal of yoga, as well as the method to attain this goal. It encompasses all of the practices of yoga which are presently popular – including the asanas, pranayamas and the meditative practices.
Raja yoga has become synonymous with Patanjali’s ‘ashtanga yoga’ (astha = eight, anga = limbs or parts). Patanjali, who is also referred to as the father of modern yoga wrote yoga sutras (aphorisms) which are regarded as the classical texts on yoga. He classified the practice of yoga into eight separate limbs/parts. These eight limbs of yoga are such that with practice, they can be followed and adhered to, by anyone living a normal life.
Ashtanga Yoga (The Eight Limbs Of Yoga) And Their Holistic Benefits
The benefits of the different ways and steps of practicing yoga are all rounded. In order to become capable of discerning the true nature of yourself, ashtanga yoga provides the necessary preparations to cover physical, mental as well emotional aspects.
An absolute adherence to some of these principles will be extremely demanding and may be even unrealistic to some in your daily functional life. However, even a partial adherence and cognizance of these recommended yoga practices will set you on the path and do wonders to your presence in the world – by evolving you into a more present, more empathetic yet objective persona who is bound to add more value to any cause or people around you, than otherwise.
For a quick understanding we categories the eight limbs as follows
- Recommended practices of thought and conduct
- Yama and Niyama – to align your emotions and energy
- Physical postures
- Yoga Asanas – for a fit and cooperative body
- Breath work
- Pranayama – for setting the life energy right
- Meditation practices
- Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana & Samadhi – for developing an objective and receptive mind, that obeys
The benefits of physical postures (asanas), breathwork (pranayama) and meditation for physical and mental health are widely experienced and many of them are scientifically proven. From treating lifestyle disorders like hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure and hormonal imbalances to relieving stress, anxiety and regaining one’s sense of balance in life, these popular parts of yoga continue to help in uplifting the well-being of millions around the world.
Other less popular and should we say – underrated parts of yoga – yamas and niyamas – are simple recommendations about the patterns of thought, habits and conduct which you are encouraged to be aware of and put into practice as much as possible, to evolve an objective mind.
With these habits and the meditative practices of yoga, you can expect to start seeing the reality closer to how it is, rather than seeing a distorted version of it, colored by your own compulsions, biases and emotional contortions.
Patanjali’s yoga sutras recommend the different parts of yoga to be taken up in steps. Asanas and pranayama enable you to develop the yamas and niyamas. Once the four of these ‘external’ oriented aspects are set right, they lay the necessary foundation for a swift progress on the more ‘inward oriented’ meditative practices of yoga.
Getting Started On Your Yoga Journey
Today is a good day, now is a good time – to start on the path of yoga.
If you are wondering where and how to start practicing yoga – Congratulations! You have asked a very potent question. From losing weight, managing chronic physical ailments, dealing with the stressful demands of life to keeping you collected in the face of challenges as you plan your next big initiative, yoga can help every cause.
However, there are many types of yoga. So, it can get confusing to choose, especially at the start. You might want to start with your objectives for considering yoga. As per Patanjali’s yoga sutras, it is recommended that beginners should include pranayama and yoga asanas for beginners in their routine to kick start their yoga journey. Nevertheless, it pays to cultivate the right mindset and be informed about essential fundamentals, right from the beginning. This way, you can expect to benefit from your practice sooner than later.
If you have a specific physical or psychological challenge you have been up against, and you think that specific aspects of yoga can help you, you can/should consult a professional yoga expert in order to cut the chase and avoid reinventing the wheel.
Yoga can equip you with a sharper perception, the ability to transcend your limitations and a finer control on your responses to any situations. Therefore yoga not only presents the possibility but also provides the mechanisms to accelerate your progress towards creating a life you truly want to build. That, we say, is the goal of yoga which you should endorse in your life.