“Yoga is a practice to make our journey from our birth till death comfortable and peaceful filled with compassion, gratitude, mindfulness and love.”
For centuries, yoga has been a tool to open the mind and body, bringing transformation. At its core, yoga is a process that involves confronting your limits and transcending them. It is a psychophysical approach to life and to self-understanding that can be creatively adapted to the needs of the times.
Yoga is a system of practice consisting of development and transformation in the areas of physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual health. When the body is physically healthy, the mind is clear, focused and stress is under control. This gives you the space to connect with loved ones and maintain socially healthy relationships. When you are healthy you are in touch with your inner Self, with others and your surroundings on a much deeper level, which adds to your spiritual health. Yoga is different from other form of physical activities, other forms cover only the physical aspects of a person, they do not cover all the aspects of the human existence. As yoga is the perfect union it covers all the aspects of human existence at physical, mental, intellectual & spiritual level.
Is Yoga only about Asanas (Physical postures)?
Today, most people identify Yoga only with âsana, the physical practice of Yoga, but âsana is just one of many tools used for transforming the individual, but Yoga practice involves much more than just postures it is a way to transform life towards being a transcendent being. Asanas are just one small aspect of Yoga which has been over-glamourized over the years. The real/original form of yoga practice is the full package to transforming your life and the other tools of Yoga transformation, include conscious breathing, meditation, lifestyle and diet changes, visualization, and the use of sound, to name just a few. These tools address all dimensions of the human system: body, breath, mind, personality, and emotions.
What is Yoga?
As per the ancient texts & scriptures yoga is said to be: –
Yoga is the union – of body, mind, intellect & soul. A practice for cessation of mental fluctuations; A method which reduces your tension to reduce mental suffering, anxiety and to calm your mind. To maintain the same silence – same equilibrium or remain same in every/any situation. Whether a news is bringing you joy or sorrow your action should always be mindful making sure that your emotions are not the ones dictating your reaction to the news.
Types/Forms of Yoga: –
Modern yoga practice has been divided in numerous categories (e.g. vinyasa, power yoga, aerial yoga, bikram yoga, etc.) but all forms of yoga practice can be categorized in 3 forms: –
- Raj Yoga – Path of will power
- Bhakti Yoga – Path of devotion
- Karma Yoga – Path of action
The path of self-transformation
Let us try to learn the process of yoga transformation by digging deeper into understanding the essence of yoga.
Nothing is possible in this world if you just sit back and think about it without taking any appropriate actions for it and similarly nothing is impossible if you are willing to work for it and this is known as the Path of will power. In yoga an eight-fold path has been given to transform one’s life. The journey of this transformation is known as Asthanga (Eight-fold path) Yoga.
The Stages of the Journey
- The 5 rules of life (Yama) & 5 rules of living (Niyama)
Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The 5 rules of life (Yama) are:
Ahimsa: non-violence ; Satya: truthfulness/honesty ; Asteya: non-stealing/not taking what does not belongs to you ; Brahmacharya: continence/containing your energy ; Aparigraha: non-accumulation or detachement to materialistic things.
Niyama, is the practice of self-discipline.
5 rules of living (Niyama) are:
Saucha: cleanliness ; Santosha: contentment ; Tapas: ‘austerity’ or ‘discipline’ ; Svadhyaya: self- study ; Isvara pranidhana: surrender to higher self.
If followed diligently Yama & Niyama provide us with the ability to get rid of nearly all our life problems, transforming our life and strengthening our resolve.
Physical Aspects (Asana – Postures)
The health of the body is of fundamental importance in life. As said, “Health isn’t everything, but without health everything is nothing”. To preserve and restore health there are physical postures (Asanas). Asanas are performed to improve flexibility, strength, and balance. The poses are not meant to simply be physical movements but rather used holistically as a mind-body practice to improve physical, mental, and spiritual health.
- Breathing (Pranayama)
Breath is the key to the lock that is our mind. The monkey mind will never stop running if you try to control it but your breath is the rope that can help in controlling the fluctuations of your monkey mind. If you want to control the mind, then start with controlling your breath. Breath control consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. the word “pranayama” means, “extension of life force” it is believed that pranayama not only rejuvenates the body but extends the life force.
These above stages of ashtanga yoga concentrate more on transforming our personalities, allowing us to gain better control over the body, and developing awareness of self, all of this will prepare us for the second part of this transcendent journey, which deals with the senses, the mind, and attaining a higher state of consciousness.
The psychological aspects consist of the last four stages of eight-fold namely: –
Detachment or withdrawal of senses. It is the bridge from where the journey from the outer self to inner self starts, in this stage we make a conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. Keenly aware of, yet being detached from, our senses, we direct our attention internally. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and look at our inner self. This withdrawal allows us to objectively observe our energy and getting rid of habits that are detrimental to our health and which are likely to interfere with our inner growth.
the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or concentration. Having relieved ourselves of the external distractions, we are now ready to deal with the distractions of the mind itself. In the practice of Dharana, which precedes meditation, we learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object. In dharana, we focus our attention on a single point. Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation.
Meditation is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Although concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) might seem to be similar but a fine line of distinction exists between these two. Where dharana practices one-pointed concentration, dhyana is ultimately a state of being keenly aware of your surroundings without specifically focusing on a single point. At this stage, the mind has been quietened, and in this stillness, we reach the stage of thoughtlessness. This stage of deeper concentration of the mind is the instrument of self-knowledge where one can separate illusion from reality, and to ultimately reach samadhi (Nirvana). The main purpose of meditation is to bring the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.
ultimate state of yoga—enlightenment. In this stage, the meditator becomes a transcendent being by connecting with the inner Self, gaining an interconnectedness with all living things. With this comes the experience of bliss of being one with the Universe. This is the completion of the yogic path, and deep down, all human beings aspire to attain peace and enlightenment achieved in the state of samadhi.
Karma Yoga (path of unselfish action)
Eight-fold path is a system outlined for transformation along with karma yoga which leads to the path of transcendence. Karma yoga simply explained is cessation of ego and greed. If we do what is right simply because it is right, then we will always have a clear conscience. Attachment to the outcome of one’s actions is said to bring suffering, particularly when something is expected in return. No matter what you do, do not think of personal benefit just do your work with gratitude, empathy, dedication, and discipline without harming anyone. Acting in this way is believed to purify the mind, and it is considered the most virtuous approach to service. Karma yoga diminishes the ego and helps to dissolve any sense of separation between self and other. Karma yoga is essential to the path of transformation a person without greed and ego can only move towards the eight-fold path of yoga transformation.
Aahar (diet) is an important component of a comprehensive yoga transformation plan. Food is regarded as medicine in many systems but this is more obvious and apparent in yoga. Yoga promotes and encourages consumption of natural food, i.e., the food which is provided by nature and is consumed essentially in the natural form.
The one who regulates his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work can mitigate all material pains by practicing yoga.
In yoga food is classified as Sattvik, Rajasik and Tamasik. It has elucidated the three categories of food and its effect on human body and mind. The 3 categories are :-
Those foods which are fresh, whole, natural, of good quality yet mild, neither over nor undercooked are experienced as lending a calm alertness and at the same time a state of quiet energy. Such foods are called sattvic.
Food which is cooked a great deal to increase its taste appeal, that which stimulates the nervous system, speeds up metabolism and activates is called rajasic. Such foods as coffee, tea and tobacco are usually considered rajasic. These foods will energize, but not in the sense of lending a clear, balanced energy.
Those foods which are “dead,” partly spoiled, have been processed a great deal, have been preserved in some way, have no spark of life about them, lack the vitality of food that is alive or has been recently cooked are called tamasic. Such foods create a feeling of heaviness, lethargy; they nourish only the grossest aspects of the body.
Thus, the food of a Yogi must be suitable to his cool nature and peaceful temperament. The yogic diet should be pure, light and nutritious, wholesome, easily digestible, and pleasant to the taste. It is also important that food should be taken in a peaceful attitude of mind, otherwise it will create harm. The specific advantages of such diet are:
- Completely fulfils the average nutritional needs of an individual, when used in proper
- Most ideal diet for those who are engaged in higher mental
The Yogic concept of food takes into consideration the total dimension of human existence. Apart from the atoms and molecules, from which our gross physical body is made of, we all possess Prana, mind, intellect, emotions and spiritual dimensions. Yoga is that process by which we can bring in an integration of the entire personality at all these levels. The stamina of the body is to be developed, the Prana should be flown freely, the mind should calm down, the emotions should be stabilized and cultured. In totality the bliss should arise to keep oneself happy and healthy.
A balanced diet according to Yoga, is the diet which restores balance at all levels. The Yogic diet believes in the concept of Mitahara. This postulates that the final effect of intake of diet depends upon the following three factors:
- Quality of food: It should be sattvik and more akin to the natural from of
- Quantity of food: Half of the stomach should be filled with food, one forth with liquid and the rest one forth should be empty for the free flow of air (gases).
- State of mind while taking food: While during meals one should be calm and quiet; should relish the food, and not be engaged in any form of intense thinking
It is a well-established fact in science that a poor diet can contribute to the development of a wide variety of diseases, including Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and some cancers. Modifying the diet can, in turn, improve health, reduce the need for medications, and in some cases reverse all signs of disease. In addition, yoga would suggest that a good diet can improve your mood, energy level, and overall well-being, and even help make the world a better place.
The ancient discipline of Yoga offers us a timeless and holistic model of health and transformation. Yoga is not a form of exercise, nor is it a method for curing physical disease. It is about transforming the individual person holistically, which means transforming not only the body, but every aspect of the human system, including the mind and the emotions. It is comprised of different dimensions that are interrelated and inseparable from each other. The health or sickness of any single dimension affects the other dimensions, and vice-versa. Yoga is self-empowering and the journey of the eight-fold path of transformation is an ongoing process which happens over a period and is systematically strengthened through repetition, which then become habits that become so strong over a period that they can fight back against any dysfunctional habit. The key in the journey of transformation is regular practice which becomes an asset.
So, just start by applying the basic principles of yoga in your daily routine. Let us start our day with an incredibly positive mindset and positive vibrations. Will yourself to not just practice for a day or two but to make it a habit just the way we have made our habits to eat, sleep, stress and repeat, similarly we can easily train our mind to be disciplined in sleeping, eating and working on our body at physical, emotional, mental and intellectual levels. We can mold our Mind into following a healthy yoga lifestyle by doing a positive thing every day. Our body is made up of anna So diet Plays a very important part in keeping our body and mind healthy, make a habit of eating healthy every day and making sure you are avoiding processed junk food culture and eating with more awareness and mindfulness, make a habit of practising Asans (postures), Pranayama (breathing) and Dhyana (meditation) everyday which will make you feel happy, calm, rejuvenated and refreshed with a body full of energy that you can do all other works to the best of your potential making the best use of your day, instead of being lazy, tired and irritated.
In the beginning, even a daily practice of 30 minutes might seem like a lot, but if you can push yourself through the initial months of your practice, you will start noticing how much better you feel at every aspect of your life. Yoga transforms you by opening the physical and mental binds that block your potential helping you in getting rid of stress, anxiety, pain, tension, etc., remember that yoga is a process which will cajole you to a path of transformation and transcendence.
Efficiency in work is yoga it is not just about doing some fancy postures; Yoga is doing everything with mindfulness and with awareness. Yoga is all about how positively and happily you live.
Most importantly make a habit of thinking positive every day , taking all the things with a feeling of gratitude and then be ready to see a tremendous transformation in your life.
Every Action is a Conscious Action in Yoga.