Really Answering The Question “What is Yoga?”
Yoga is a form of physio-spiritual exercise method, which was developed in ancient India. There is a common misconception that Yoga is only an exercise method or a system of exercise that develops a flexible body.
Yoga does obviously include a physical practice, however, unlike other exercise methods, Yoga is not limited to physical exercises.
There Is More To Yoga Than Just A Form of Exercise
Spurred by the rapidly growing number of “all-in-one workout gyms” being set up, more and more people nowadays are practicing yoga as a form of physical exercise only. This is fine of course, but that means that they are only engaging in one of the many aspects of Yoga – the Asana part, which is the third limb of Yoga.
There are inevitable and unavoidable connections between body, mind, emotions and spirit. They are all interlinked. While improvement in one area will also result in some level of improvement in another area, the intention within Yoga is to gradually build on all the areas simultaneously.
You will see below that if you were to fully delve into the question “what is yoga” and answer it, that there are several other aspects or “limbs” of the Yoga tree.
Yoga As A Preparation For Meditation
When the great Yogis of the past began to develop Asana – the physical postures and stretches commonly known to most yoga practitioners nowadays – the idea or intent was to develop those postures to condition and prepare the body for prolonged periods of meditation.
Preparation and conditioning the body in Yoga is not limited to only stretching, but also includes purifying the body of toxins and, developing strength and stamina. That was the intent behind the creation of Asana. But as mentioned before, the physical part, Asana, is only one part of Yoga.
The Eight Limbs Of Yoga
There are seven other parts of Yoga that are equally important. These eight essential parts of Yoga are called “Eight Limbs of Patanjali”. Patanjali, called the father of Yoga, was an Indian master who developed a complete set of guidelines for practicing Yoga. His Eight Limbs include:
1. Yamas: Yama is the first milestone one needs to achieve while practicing yoga. Yama means Restraints. This first limb includes 5 sub-limbs.
a) Ahimsa: Ahimsa means Non-harming.
b) Satya: Satya means Non-lying
c) Asteya: Asteya means Non-stealing
d) Brahmacharya: Brahmacharya means control of the senses
e) Aparigraha: Aparigraha means Non-hoarding
2. Niyamas: Niyama means Observances. This limb also includes 5 sub-limbs.
a) Soucha: Soucha means Cleanliness
b) Santosha: Santosha means Contentment
c) Tapas: Tapas means Zeal or Desire or Enthusiasm for Yoga
d) Svadayaya: Svadyaya means Self-study
e) Ishvarapranidhana: Ishvarapranidhana means Surrender.
3. Asana: Asana means Yoga poses.
4. Pranayama: Pranayama means Breathing Exercises.
5. Pratyahara: Pratyahara means Withdrawal of the senses.
6. Dharana: Dharana means Intense Focus.
7. Dhyana: Dhayana means State of Meditation.
8. Samadhi: Samadhi means State of Oneness.
All the eight limbs should be practiced simultaneously.
Yoga For Promoting Higher Consciousness
Yoga, a Sanskrit word, could also be taken to mean “Coordinate”. Yoga is a physio-spiritual method that coordinates our physiological (body) and psychological (mind) relationship through getting the working capacity of our body’s organs to their highest level and getting our mind power to its highest state.
Yoga is not only an exercise method, it’s a complete lifestyle developed by the Indian Gurus and now has a global presence. Yoga also means conscious living. Through the combined practice of Poses, Breathing and Meditation one can achieve better health both physically and mentally.
To be in harmony with oneself and nature one has to integrate the body, the mind and the source of energy we all come from (whatever you choose to name it). Arguably, Yoga is the one and only way to integrate these three components of human existence.
Yoga For Promoting A Balanced State
To have a peaceful life we need to have, not only a balanced body but also a balanced emotional state of mind. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance through exercise, breathing, and meditation – the three main Yoga components. Breathing, as you know, is vital to your physical existence. It is also a key component in how you feel mentally and emotionally.
The goals of yoga are varied and include, improving health to achieve an inner “State of Oneness” or “Samadhi”. According to Ancient Yogis the ultimate goal of Yoga is the liberation of ourselves from all worldly suffering, refining our behavior in the outer world, and focusing inwardly until we reach Samadhi, a mental state where one feels the Oneness with his or her creator.
So, “What is Yoga?” you ask? It’s all of that. It definitely is more than meets the eye and is definitely more than just a physical practice. Find out the different Physiological Benefits Of Yoga as well as the Psychological Benefits Of Yoga to help you get started.