What Is Yoga?
YOGA is a genuine science of the human being and also a quite rigorous discipline, which unfortunately got rather coarsened and degraded in the West. As a term, YOGA stems in the Indo-European root, that could go in English for YOKE or JOIN, GATHER, MERGE, or BRING TOGETHER.
In Sanskrit, the main meaning of the word YOGA is harness, which goes with some representation of the human psyche as driven by some randy horses (the senses and passions), which strive to master the driver (the intellect, BUDDHI) whereas the reins represent the mind (MANAS).
This is at least the image in the most ancient texts of the Eastern tradition, the UPANISHAD. It is written that the helpless soul would unavoidably crumble unless practicing yoga, as a method to master the horses and even get off the cart, which implies to become a free spirit.
The oldest text about YOGA (1st century b.c.) belongs to Patanjali, it is a systematic presentation, entitled YOGA SUTRAS. Due to enormous information, the text is rather a guide, which was always supposed to go with some oral secret teachings. This is why for those who have never practiced yoga the text is actually a mystery.
YOGA as a method to release the spirit
For the East, the spiritual accomplishment or maturation is considered the only aim in life, which also is the only way to get the human being out of the cycle of incarnation and death. Therefore, YOGA prevails as a method of spiritual release.
Such an extraordinary accomplishment can only be attained after acquiring knowledge and control over the components of the human being, by means of severe methods. The most important parts of the body are those to go beyond death, i.e. the subtle body that will only disappear after the final release, when the only to survive is the purified intellect and the absolute, unconditioned conscience the PURE BEING – PURE CONSCIENCE – PURE BLISS, SAT – CIT – ANANDA.
In attaining the spiritual release, the supreme individual essence ATMAN (our Supreme, eternal Self) merges to the Paramount Principle PARATMAN, or BRAHMAN (GOD), but it still does not disappear.
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No matter the paths enforced by YOGA, they all lead to the same unique target: the Supreme.
HATHA YOGA, which implies: special body poses, having complex beneficial effects (ASANAS), deep relaxing (SHAVASANA), breath control and rhythm (PRANAYAMA), essential methods of purification (KRIYAS), mental focus exercises meant to enhance physical harmony in a lithe and relaxed body. All these exercise together increase vitality, secure perfect health and cure different diseases. By proper diet, the physical body is gradually and entirely purified, which will remove impurities and toxins and help the body assimilate and use vitamins and minerals. Therefore the body and mind will be completely purified and the practitioner will shortly attain the mind control.
KARMA YOGA, this is the path of the detachment in action, which enables the practitioner connection by resonance with the divine, infinite energies. Hereby the actions and the daily social duties accomplished with no attachment or wish to take possession of the results or effects of the actions, the yogi may constantly purify his mind and increase his evolution process. When the mind and heart become pure enough, the karma yogi becomes a perfect tool highly self-conscious inside of which and by which the Divine can manifest and materialize different actions. By such actions, urged by the sublime spirit of devotion, the yogi goes beyond his individuality and experiences the state of communion with God.
BHAKTI YOGA, this is the path of endless love and affectionate devotion to God, to some godlike appearance, to some spiritual master or even to the divine spark inside of any human being, under the form of the eternal Supreme Self (ATMAN).
By means of love, constantly infusing both thinking and feeling and unconditionally submitted to God, the human being will finally merge with the infinite divine love and by transcending its confined personality it will attain the state of Cosmic Conscience. The path of BHAKTI, or endless devotion that directs our whole love upon God or His different appearances, may be easily practiced by anyone. All we need there is strong faith and constant remembrance of God, through our continuous love for Him.
RAJA YOGA, this is the path of intense focus, profound meditation and full mind control. This form of YOGA is based on perfection in morals and ethics, on perfect control of senses, which will gradually lead to a state of meditation, where the mind will be still and sheltered from unpleasant whirls. At such stages, once this state fully attained, all limitations are transcended and by deep fusion to the Divine Mind of the Macrocosm, the yogi will experience the state of supreme conscience or the ultimate ecstasy, known in yoga as SAMADHI.
MANTRA YOGA is the path of the ineffable resonance to some specific, sublime energies of the divine manifestation, by uttering some specific sound, known as MANTRA. A MANTRA is a sound modulation that represents some specific aspect of energy or secret realm of manifestation in the Macrocosm. The proper mental focus in uttering some Mantra will enable the yogi to feel some ineffable state of resonance or unison in his whole being and thereby he will be deeply and ineffably connected to the DIVINE REALITY.
JNANA YOGA is the path of the superior intellectual knowledge, the path of wisdom. It consists of perfect self-knowledge and detached analysis, which gradually lead to complete spiritual awakening. The yogi on this path will acquire early on the first stages the knowledge of his Supreme Self (ATMAN) and therefore he no longer sees his identity in his body, psyche, mind or ego. By complete revelation of his endless Self (ATMAN) he merges with the Divine Essence inside his being; therefore he will all over recognize the Divine Essence surrounding him and he will attain Uniqueness, source of ecstasy.
Yoga today has lost its way. The purpose of yoga is to develop union with our Soul as a natural way of being and living. Yoga practiced in the form of asanas or forms of mind and breath control can be used as a form of distraction and thus an avoidance of true stillness and union. The introduction of postures and physical activities in the last two centuries has led modern yoga away from its true purpose and source, that is, to re-connect and support us on the return to our divine way of being and living.
Esoteric Yoga helps us to understand that how we are living impacts our health and vitality. If how we are living is creating how we feel, then by making changes to the way in which we live, we have the choice to change how we feel.
Yoga Improves Health
Improves your flexibility: Improved flexibility is one of the first and most obvious benefits of yoga. During your first class, you probably won’t be able to touch your toes, never mind do a backbend. But if you stick with it, you’ll notice a gradual loosening, and eventually, seemingly impossible poses will become possible. You’ll also probably notice that aches and pains start to disappear. That’s no coincidence. Tight hips can strain the knee joint due to improper alignment of the thigh and shinbones. Tight hamstrings can lead to a flattening of the lumbar spine, which can cause back pain. And inflexibility in muscles and connective tissue, such as fascia and ligaments, can cause poor posture.
Builds muscle strength: Strong muscles do more than look good. They also protect us from conditions like arthritis and back pain, and help prevent falls in elderly people. And when you build strength through yoga, you balance it with flexibility. If you just went to the gym and lifted weights, you might build strength at the expense of flexibility.