Defining Yoga

Article excerpt

Byline: H. Nagendra

Yoga is essentially practiced as asanas, and asanas are addressed as an alternate to exercises for a workout. To sweat out, a common feature of workouts, is evident in Yoga studios. No wonder that the Vikram Yoga is the hot spot. In India, traditionally Yoga is known as one of the six systems of Philosophy called Sat Dar?anas - Nyaya, Vaisesika, Sankhya, Yoga, Purva Mimamsa, and Uttara Mimamsa. Taking into consideration the very meaning of Yoga (Yujyate anena iti Yogah) [Slide 1],

Swami Vivekananda expanded the scope of Yoga to encompass all streams - Joana, Bhakti, and Karma - -also to lay the foundation for the four main streams of Yoga [Slide 2].

And the purpose of all Yoga is to realize, be in tune, and ultimately merge with Reality; call it Perfection, Pure Consciousness, Parmatman, Nirvaia as Buddha called it, Kaivalya as Pataojali presented, Mokua as Uttara Memamsa designates, or Reality which all scientists aim at, in all their research. He, without hair-splitting the semantic controversies, unifying them with an emphasis on the real spirit of Yoga as unification, to reach perfection, said that all paths mentioned above lead to the same goal in his famous proclamation, "Do it work or worship or psychic control or philosophy, by one or more or all of these and be free" [Slide 3].

That holistic definition of Yoga is most relevant to the modern society where the matter-based paradigm has become the truth of the times. Yoga postulates Consciousness--based paradigm and emphasizes that we are not robots governed by a set of physical laws driving us as machines. If we are more efficient than a robot sometimes or work haphazardly, we do it consciously with intelligence. This power of consciousness is featured by the freedom in all of us to choose - kartum, akartum, or anyatha va kartum - to do, not to do, or do it differently. Yoga is to enhance this freedom to choose the way to absolute freedom - freedom from all tensions and stresses, diseases, miseries - to move toward positive health, leading to perfect health.

Systematized and well-worked-out systems of Yoga, time tested for at least a few thousand years, aim at releasing us from all bondages - bondage of thoughts to begin with. We are bound by the thinking process right from the time we wake up till we sleep in the night, having no respite. This is the first bondage - says Pataojali, the master of Yoga Darshana. Bondage of emotions - being tossed up and down in emotional upsurges, responding to the inner and outer inputs as if we are bound to respond like a stone falling down due to gravity determined by the three laws of classical mechanics. …