What is Yoga?
Derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. Yoga is a 5000-year-old Indian body of knowledge. Though many think of yoga only as a physical exercise where people twist, turn, stretch, and breathe in the most complex ways, these are actually only the most superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul. The science of Yoga imbibes the complete essence of the Way of Life.
As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Yoga is not just exercise and asanas. It is the emotional integration and spiritual elevation with a touch of mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something beyond all imagination.”
History of Yoga
Yoga is more than 10,000 years old. The earliest mention of the contemplative tradition is found in the oldest surviving literature Rig Veda, in Nasadiya Sukta. It dates back to the Indus-Saraswati civilization. The Pashupati seal from the selfsame civilization shows a figure sitting in a yogic posture, further corroborating its prevalence in those ancient times. However, the earliest mention of the practices that later became part of yoga are found in the oldest Upanishad, Brihadaranyaka. The practice of Pranayama finds a mention in one of its hymn and Pratyahara in Chandogya Upanishad. The first appearance of the word “yoga” with the same meaning as we know today, perhaps happens for the first time in Kato Upanishad, a mukhya or important Upanishad, embedded in the last eight sections of the Katha school of Yajurveda. Yoga here is seen as a process of inner journey or ascent of consciousness.
The famous dialogue, Yoga Yajnavalkya, (found in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad), between Sage Yajnavalkya and the learned Brahmvadin Gargi mentions asanas, numerous breathing exercises for cleansing the body and meditation. Gargi has also spoken about Yogasanas in Chandogya Upanishad.
Vratya, a group of ascetics mentioned in the Atharvaveda, emphasized on bodily postures, which may have evolved into Yogasanas. Even Samhitas mention munis, kesins and vratyas, various ancient seers and sages who practiced rigorous physical deportments to meditate or do tapasya.
Yoga as a concept slowly emerged and has an elaborate mention in Bhagavad Gita and in Shanti Parva of Mahabharata.
There are more than 20 Upanishads and Yoga Vasishtha, which predate Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita, where Yoga is stated to be the union of mind with the Supreme Consciousness.
Yoga is discussed in the ancient foundational Sutra of Hindu philosophy and is perhaps most elaborately mentioned in Patanjali Yogasutra. Patanjali defines yoga in his second sutra as:
योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध: (yogaḥ citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ)
-Yoga Sutras 1.2
Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for Ashtanga Yoga. Many practices like five vows in Jainism and Yogachara of Buddhism have their root in Patanjali Yogasutras.
The Medieval Ages saw the development of Hatha Yoga.
Scriptures of Yoga: Patanjali Yoga Sutras
Patanjali is considered as the father of Yoga and his Yoga Sutra are completely dedicated to the knowledge of Yoga.
Gurudev’s exclusive commentary on the ancient scripture, Patanjali Yoga Sutras, enlighten you on the knowledge of yoga, its origin and purpose. The goal of this rendition of the Yoga Sutras is to make the principles and practices of the Yoga Sutras more understandable and accessible. The descriptions of each sutra offered attempts to focus on the practical suggestions of what can be done to experience the ultimate benefits of a yogic lifestyle.
Gurudev has also spoken extensively on the Yogasara Upanishad. In his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, he has shed light on the different limbs of yoga like Samkhya Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Guhya Yoga and Vibhuti Yoga.
Types of Yoga
The term “yoga” has been applied to a variety of practices and methods that includes:
- ‘Gyan Yoga’ or philosophy
- ‘Bhakti Yoga’ or path of devotional bliss
- ‘Karma Yoga’ or path of blissful action
Raja Yoga is further divided into eight parts also known as Ashtanga Yoga. At the heart of the Raja Yoga system, balancing and unifying these various approaches, is the practice of Yoga Asana.
Sri Sri Yoga
Sri Sri Yoga is a holistic way of life that integrates all elements of ancient knowledge of Yoga, to make a prayerful discipline uniting the body, mind and soul. Along with the series of simple, yet effective yoga postures and breathing techniques, a greater emphasis is placed on the inner experience of meditation, for the well-being of the mind and other hidden elements of human existence. We believe when one is in harmony within; the journey through life becomes calmer, happier and more fulfilled.
In Sri Sri Yoga programs, the wisdom and techniques of yoga are taught in a pure, joyful and thorough manner. The programs restore balance by helping to strengthen our body, calm our mind, regain our focus and improve self- confidence. It is a complete package for beginners as well as regular practitioners and has something for everyone - of all age groups.
Regular practice of Sri Sri Yoga has brought remarkable lifestyle changes in the practitioners. They have experienced relief from chronic illnesses and have observed behavioral changes. Participants have reported a healthy, happier living with reduced anxiety, increased tolerance and mindfulness.
Sri Sri Yoga is the secret to better health and greater sense of happiness.
Yoga for All
One of the beauties of the physical practice of yoga is that the poses support and sustain you no matter how old or young, or fit or frail, you come to your mat. As you age, your understanding of asana becomes more sophisticated. You move from working on the external alignment and mechanics of the pose to refining the inner actions to finally just being in the asana.
Yoga has never been alien to us. We have been doing it since we were a baby! Whether it is the Cat Stretch that strengthens the spine or the Wind-Relieving pose that boosts digestion, you will always find infants doing some form of yoga throughout the day. Yoga can be many things to many people. We are determined to help you discover your “Yoga Way of Life!”
Breathing Techniques (Pranayama) & Meditation (Dhyaan)
Pranayama is the extension and control of one’s breath. Practicing proper techniques of breathing can help bring more oxygen to the blood and brain, eventually helping control prana or the vital life energy. Pranayama also goes hand in hand with various yoga asanas. The union of these two yogic principles is considered as the highest form of purification and self-discipline, covering both mind and body. Pranayama techniques also prepare us for a deeper experience of meditation.
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