Most people, specially from western worlds, think of yoga as merely an eastern exercise program. Nothing could be further from the truth. The underlying purpose behind the practice of yoga – the literal meaning of yogais `joining’ – is to reunite the individual self (Jiva) with the absolute or pure consciousness (Brahma).
Union with this unchanging reality liberates the spirit from all sense of separation, freeing it from the illusions of time, space and causation. Since according to yogic philosophy the human body and mind are part of the illusory world of matter, with a limited time span, while the soul /spirit is eternal and passes onto another world when this body wears out. Thus, central to yogic philosophy are the concepts of Karma (cause- effect relationships) and Reincarnation.
Yoga is therefore regarded as a divine science of life, revealed to enlightened sages in meditation. First textual mention in the Vedas was corroborated by oldest archeological evidence of seals from the Indus Valley dating back to around 3000 B.C. The Upanishads that followed the Vedas provide the main foundation of Vedantaphilosophy (that espouses the idea of an absolute consciousness called Brahma) and yoga teachings.
Around the sixth century B.C. appeared the massive epic The Mahabharata written by sage Vyasa and containing The Bhagavad Gita. Apparently a set of battlefield instructions on one’s duties in life, they are very allegorical in showing how the challenges of life have to be faced – so much so that it is often considered the best book on management ever written. The Gita contains yoga terms and concepts to enable the reader face life similarly.
The backbone of Raja Yoga is furnished by Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, thought to have been written in the third century B.C. The classical text on Hatha Yoga, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika which describes the various asanas and breathing exercises which form the basis of the practice of modern yoga, was compiled much later by a yogi named Svatmarama.
In the modern perspective, Yoga is one of the most effective and wholesome forms of experience to control the waves of thought by converting mental & physical energy into spiritual energy. Yoga eases away pent-up tension, rejuvenates the body & soul, enhances concentration, cures diseases and keeps a hold on the aging process.
Benefits of Yoga