YOGA is an anicent Science,  developed thousands of years ago, which teaches us how to live life successfully. It is not a religion but a living Philosophy of life, which gives us the power to change our lives and teaches us how to find a new vision, a new way of looking at the universe and ourselves – to find inner Peace in a chaotic world and compassion that will radiate and permeate in every aspect of the Self.

The term Yoga is derived from the word Yuj in Sanskrit. Yuj means to join. Yoga is: which joins. According to the traditional Yoga texts, the entities which are joined by yuj are the individual self (Jivatma), with the Universal self (Paramatma). This implies that every aspect of human being, from the inner most to the external must be integrated.

Through the practice of Yoga, we aim to integrate the body, mind and emotions to bring about a state of balance, drawing ourselves deeper into the present in search of the eternal moment.

The most common known form of Yoga is the Hatha Yoga. Which is the physical form of Yoga involving Postures or Asanas. Hatha yoga was initially conceived by our ancient yogis to prepare the body to sit for long periods of meditation. It is also for health, because it is hard to focus the mind if you are in pain and suffering. Many people think that Yoga is for a week. Yoga in fact is for life.

There are many different forms of Yoga providing numerous pathways from which we can choose. They include :

  1. Hath Yoga: Hatha Yoga is sourced from Tantra. It is a form of yoga which is more physically oriented. Most Hatha Yoga systems begin with purification practices (Shodhan Kriyas or Shat kriyas ) as against Patanjalis Ashtanga yoga which begins with Yamas and Niyamas. There are Several texts of Hatha Yoga like Swatmarama’s Hathyoga pradipika, Sage Gheranda’s Gheranda Samhita, Goraksha Samhita of Gorakshanath, Shiv Samhita, Yoga Rathnavali, etc.The word Hatha is a sanskrit combination of the words “ha” (Sun) and “tha” (moon), Which is in itself a union of the opposites. Qualities associated with the Sun are heat, masculinity, and effort, while moon qualities are coolness, femininity and surrender. Hatha Yoga is designed to help us bring pairs of opposites together in our heart, mind and body for the purpose of discovering something deeper about the nature of our existence.The practice of Hatha Yoga brings together apparent opposites into a harmonious union, to find a place in the middle. This middle place is a gateway into a whole new world for most of us. It is a place where we discover wonderful new things about our abilities and possibilities for our lives.
  2. Karma Yoga : Karma means action. Yoga means Union. Karma Yoga means Yoga or Union through action. It is the path chosen primarily by those of an outgoing/action- oriented nature. It purifies the heart by teaching the aspirant to act selflessly, without thinking of personal gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions and offering them up to God. You learn to sublimate the ego. According to the Bhagvad Gita, ” Karma Yoga is the selfless devotion of all inner as well as the outer activities as a sacrifice to the Lord of all works, offered to the eternal as Master of all the Soul’s energies and austerities”.
  3. Bhakti Yoga: Bhakti Yoga is a System of intense devotion with emphasis on complete surrender to divine will.The true follower of Bhakti Yoga is free form egoism, humble and unaffected by the dualities of the world.
  4. Gyana Yoga: Teaches us to discriminate between the self and non-self and to acquire the knowledge of one’s spiritual entity through the study of scriptures, company of Saints and practice of meditation.
  5. Raja Yoga: Raja Yoga means Royal or Kingly Yoga – It is the supposed climax of all different paths of Yoga. Infact, Svatmarama in his Hatha Yoga pradipika says that Hatha Yoga is a staircase leading to Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga popularly known as “Ashtanga Yoga ” is for all- round development of human personality. These are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana,and Samadhi.
  6. Japa Yoga: To concentrate one’s mind on divine name or holly syllable, mantra etc. like ‘OM’, ‘Rama’, ‘Allah’, ‘God’, ‘Vahe Guru’ etc. through repeated recitation on remembrance.

History Of Yoga

The tradition of Yog is quiet ancient- it relates to the Vedic-Era. There is no doubt about it. But some questions, like how ancient  it is and who started it are to be answered. A detailed research has been done regarding this from our enriched and ancient Indian literature.

The foremost pioneer of Yog is considered none other than Hiranyagarbh after an intensified research.

“Hiranyagarbho Yogsya Vakta nanyah puratanah”

Rigveda supports this statement through this depiction, ‘when there was nothing created, Then there was one unique Hiranyagarbha, from whom the Sun like dazzling objects were born. He was the creator,He was the first and foremost one; He was the ancient, prime and legendary creator of this whole creation’. Hiranyagarbha is paid tribute in Various ways in the Vedas. This Hiranyagarbha is only the ultimate God, because He is the creator of this whole universe of animate and inanimate objects. This is approved by the most prominent scriptures.

The beginning of Yoga  cannot be traced with accuracy. Some trace it back to over 5,000 years ago, but some Speculate that Yoga may be up to 10,000 Year old. Its traceable history can be generally divided into four broad periods as follow:

  1. The Vedic period or Vedic age.
  2. Pre – classical Yoga: Upanishads
  3. Classical Yoga: 3rd and 6th century Bc. Patanjalis Yoga Sutras propound the Ashtanga Yoga or Yoga with eight limbs.
  4. Post- classical Yoga : Post-classical Yoga refers to Yoga after the classical period till the present times.

Evolution Of Yoga

From the last part of the 19th Century and beginning of the 20th century, Yoga travelled to the west with some renowned Yoga masters, the most prominent among them being Swami Vivekanand. The modern age of Yoga can be said to begin with this. A landmark date for modern Yoga may be 1893 when the parliament of Religions was held in Chicago, USA. The young Swami Vivekananda made a big and lasting impression on all present in this parliament. Subsequently,  Yoga and it’s tradition received strong inspiration and impetus due to the pioneering efforts of several legends in India – T. Krishnamachari (Astanga Yoga), Swami Sivananda (Sivananda Yoga), Swami Satyanandaji (Bihar School of Yoga), B.k.s. Iyengar (Iyengar Yoga), Swami Rama, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari,  Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, Swami Ramdevji. So on and so forth.

Vedas :-  The Vedas, Upanishads, purans, and epics are considered as the basic sources of ancient Indian philosophy and education. The Sanskrit word ‘Veda’ is derived from the root word ‘Vid’. Vid means to : * To know (knowledge perse)

To be  (one with God)

To obtain  ( salvation)

(1). There are Four Vedas as follows :

(A) Rigveda ( consisting of 1028 hymns) ,

(B) Yajurveda  (dealing with the procedure of sacrifices),

(C) Samveda  (dealing with Indian music),

(D) Atharvaveda  (dealing with medical sciences).

(2) The Six Vedangas listed below help in understanding the Vedas :

(A) Vyakarna  (Grammer)

(B) Shiksha ( Phonetics)

(C) Chandas  ( Metres)

(D) Nirukta ( Etymology)

(E) Jyotish ( Astronomy)

(F) Kalpa ( Rituals)

(3) There are four Subsidiary Vedas called as Four Upavedas each dealing with a different topic.  These are as follows :

(A) Ayurveda    (Medicine)

(B) Dhanurveda ( Military Science)

(C) Ghandharvavea  (Music)

(D) Shilpa veda  ( Arts and Architecture)

Each of the Four Vedas had Four parts as follows :

Samhitas, Brahmanas, Aryanakas and Upanishads.

Samhitas refer to ‘collections’ of Mantras, hymns and chants.

Brahmans were is prose and made up of rituals,and players.

Aryanakas were appendages of Brahamanas.

(Aranya means forest)

Yogacharya Alok Kumar Jha.

(M.a Yoga and Meditation,  Diploma in Yoga, Dnys, President Arogya Yoga Bharti Welfare Society, New Delhi)