Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word 'Yuj' which means to unite or to join. People generally think that yoga is a series of exercises with twisted body poses, it is not so. The main aim of Yoga is to help one connect with one's inner spirit, which is connected to the universal spirit or God. Yoga creates a balance between the body and the mind and to attain self-enlightenment.
Yoga brings stability to the body and the wavering mind. In order to accomplish it, Yoga makes use of different movements, breathing exercises, relaxation technique and meditation. Yoga is associated with a healthy and lively lifestyle with a balanced approach to life.
It is the union between the mind, body and spirit. It involves the practice of physical postures and poses, which is referred to as 'Asana' in Sanskrit. Our modern day lifestyle is too hectic and puts a lot of stress on us which in turn causes a lot of life style problems like obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes etc. Yoga is the answer to all these problems. It offers harmless solutions to these problems in the form of relaxation.
Studies in the field of medicine suggest that Yoga is the only form of physical activity that provides complete exercise to the body as it incorporates different aspects of science, philosophy and art. It is one of the most effective and integrated systems for gaining control and experiencing supreme joy in life.
It helps one achieve optimum physical and psychological health. It is a system of physical, mental and spiritual techniques and is a practical, lively approach to life. It is the master key to open the realms of everlasting bliss and deep-residing peace.
Major branches of Yoga in Hindu philosophy include Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Hatha Yoga.
Yoga has gained immense popularity during the last few years and today over 30 million people practice Yoga on regular basis. Yoga is the most rapidly growing health movement of today, despite having existed for thousands of years already.
In modern times, Yoga is heading in a direction that concerns a great many people who honour and respect this age-old tradition. The history of Yoga spans from four to eight thousand years ago to the current day. The physical, mental and spiritual health benefits of yoga are vast and there is something for everyone.
So, here is a quick look at the history of Yoga which will help us appreciate its rich tradition.
The origin of Yoga can be traced as long as 5000 years back. Although it is said to be as old as civilization, there is no physical evidence to support this claim. The earliest reference to Yoga was found when archeological excavations where made in the Indus valley - the most powerful and influential civilization in the early antique period.
Archeological findings from two of the largest cities, Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, revealed a portrait of a human being or God meditating in what looks like a Yoga posture or Yoga poses. The stone seals place Yoga's existence around 3000 B.C.
Many scholars believe that Yoga origin dates back over 5,000 years to the beginning of human civilization. Scholars believe that yoga grew out of Stone Age Shamanism, because of the cultural similarities between Modern Hinduism and Mehrgarh, a neolithic settlement (in what is now Afghanistan).
In Hindu literature, the term 'Yoga' first occurs in the Katha Upanishad, where it refers to control of the senses and the termination of mental activity leading to a supreme state. Important textual sources for the evolving concept of Yoga are the middle Upanishads, the Mahabharata including the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
For better understanding, we can divide Yoga into four periods: the Vedic Period, Pre-Classical Period, Classical Period, and Post-Classical Period.
The oldest written records of Indian culture and yogic activities is found in the Vedas, which are a compilation of hymns and rituals over 3000 years old.
During this time, the Vedic people relied on rishis or dedicated Vedic Yogis to teach them how to live in divine harmony.
This period in Yoga history spans about 2000 years, until year 200. The creation of the Upanishads - a collection of texts revolving around meta-physical speculation marks the Pre-Classical Yoga period.
In this period, Yoga was slowly finding its form. And as it started spreading from teacher to student, the concept of an individual system of thought began to take shape.
The eight-limbed Yoga described in the Sutras by Patanjali is usually referred to as Classical Yoga. It was most likely written around year 100-200 A.C. and consists of about 200 aphorisms (words of wisdom). Here Yoga is presented in a systematic and open-minded way and many yogis see it as an important source of yogic understanding.
Patanjali believed that every individual consists of two parts - matter (prakiti) and soul (purusha) and that the goal of Yoga is to free the soul from the material world in order to take its original, pure form.
During this period, Yogis attempted to use Yoga techniques to change the body and make it immortal.
Post-classical Yoga differs from the first three since its focus is more on the present. The Yoga of this era was characterized by non-dualistic nature. It doesn't strive to liberate a person from reality but rather teaches one to accept it and live in the moment.
During this period, Yoga took an interesting turn - the potential of the human body now became an interesting field of study. Earlier, Yogis never used to pay attention to the (physical) body, as their main focus was on meditation and to re-unite with the soul.
But, it was during this period that the human body was started being recognized as the temple of the immortal soul and not just a meaningless vessel to be dumped at the first opportunity.
Thus, we see that the Yoga as we know today is a result of a complex evolution that has been going on for at least 5000 years.
1. Getting deep sleep
2. Feeling energetic after getting up in the morning
3. Smooth bowel movement
4. Feeling enthusiastic throughout the day
5. Stomach is flatter than chest
6. Lack of urge for intoxicating and aphrodisiacal substances
7. Always feeling happy
8. Potential to work for hours without tiring
9. Tendency to be involved in creative activities
10. Glow on the face
11. Shining and fearless eyes
12. Ever smiling face
13. Feeling youth and new power
14. Productive thought process
15. Normal physical processes
16. Soft spoken
Yoga provides us with a variety of benefits and one is never too young or too old to reap the health benefits of Yoga.
The remarkable thing about Yoga is that its positive effects on the health and mind are visible over time. It is a medication without the actual use of medicines. Moreover, no visible side effects are associated with the practice of Yoga on a regular basis. All you need to know is the most appropriate exercises meant for the structure of your body. But one also needs to know the right way of performing the asanas, because any wrong attempt can cause sprains and injuries.
Below listed are a few benefits which Yoga offers:-
1. The different positions in Yoga act upon the various joints of the body to increase the flexibility of the body.
2. If performed on regular basis, muscles that have become flaccid, weak or fatigue are stirred repeatedly to shed excess flab and floppiness.
3. Yoga has tremendous health benefits for your heart. The gentler forms of yoga lower your blood pressure because the asanas keep blood flowing evenly throughout your body while you focus on your breathing. For example- Power yoga is an excellent form of cardio conditioning.
4. It is very helpful and a natural way for curing frequent headaches because yoga circulates blood and oxygen to your head, which can often prevent headaches from starting.
5. Further, a regular yoga practice helps boost antioxidants throughout your body, resulting in a stronger immune system. Also, Yoga can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight throughout your life.
Modern lifestyle has made human being lethargic. Yoga helps in strengthening the spinal cord, recovers back aches, improves muscular skeletal conditions and digestion.
Thus, we see that Yoga provides us with numerous benefits thereby establishing integrity among ones outer self as well as inner. It breeds a positive effect both in the inner and outer selves of an individual. Yoga brings peace of mind, refreshes the body, releases stress, and brings in good health, relaxation and happiness.