History of Yoga
The history of yoga is indeed very old. When did Yoga originate? Nothing can be said about it, but it can be said that it originated in India. The available shreds of evidence show that the history of yoga is related to the Indus valley civilization. At that time people used to do yoga. Based on various sculptures and scriptures, we reach the conclusion that yoga was a part of this civilization. The Indus Valley Civilisation is dated as back as 3300 BC. The Seal of Pashupat found in Indus Valley excavations is the earliest depiction of Yog which shows a humanoid figure attributed to Lord Shiv seated in a meditative yogic pose. Hence Lord Shiva is considered as the creator of Yog and is known as “AdiGuru”, “Adiyogi” or First Teacher of yoga. Like Shiva, yoga is eternal too.
Yoga is also mentioned in Mahabharata, Ramayana, and Upanishads. A very famous sage of India “Maharishi Patanjali” is often considered as the father of modern yoga. He wrote about yoga in 147 BC. He found that yoga was too complex and diversified and hard to understand for the common people. So he created Yoga Sutras. It is a compilation of 196 verses or sutras on yoga. It is compiled in such a way that it can be delivered to the common people in a very simple language. Then after that many sages and saints took it forward generation after generation. Even Kabir, Tulsidas and Surdas mentioned about yoga in their writings. In the 19th century, Swami Vivekanand made it popular globally. After that Baba Ramdev played a crucial role to take it forward to every corner of the world. Yoga is the main part of Indian culture.
Meaning of Yoga
The word YOGA is derived from the Sanskrit root or DHATU, “YUJ” which means to “join” or “union”. The word Yoga hence used in any context defines “Unity” or “Oneness”. It is a science of man’s consciousness. Yoga is the “unification of Atma with Parmatma.” It also means the unification of physical, mental, intellectual, and spiritual aspects of human beings.
Importance of Yoga
It is a well-known fact that today’s lifestyle is full of anxiety, stress, and tension. Nowadays, hardly there is any person who has been leading a happy and fruitful life. They are indulged in materialism. Everyone is running after money. In fact, money is everything for them. These people have excessive money in stores, even then they are mentally disturbed. They can’t sleep without sleeping pills. In recent years diseases like anxiety and depression emerged as one of the biggest threats. Yoga helps us to get rid of these diseases. At last, it can allude that everybody whether rich or poor, is not happy in present-day life. Yoga is important for:
1. Physical fitness: Yoga is very important for physical fitness. By doing yoga metabolism of each of our organs increases. While doing yoga our muscles stretch, blood circulation increases, oxygen level increases, etc. which helps us maintaining the fitness of our body. Even if someone is not physically fit, he will become physically fit after practicing yoga regularly.
2. Cure and prevention from diseases: Various diseases usually hamper There are various diseases that usually hamper the smooth functioning of people. With the help of Yoga, we can cure many diseases and it also prevents us from many diseases. Various yogic exercises increase the immunity power of the body. If an individual performs yogic exercises regularly, he can prevent himself from many of the diseases.
Vajrasana cures diabetes. A large number of diseases such as bronchitis, sinusitis, arthritis, gastritis, dyspepsia, asthma, high blood pressure, hay fever, heart attack, sciatica, menstrual disorders, stress, urinary disorders, back-pain, hysteria, etc. can be prevented as well as cured by Yoga.
3. Reduces mental tension: Yoga can help in reducing the tension. Undoubtedly that most of the persons remain under stress and tension. They feel upset and disturbed in present-day life. They think that money can bring happiness and peace to their life but it further intensifies their stress and tension. Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyan play a vital role in getting the peace of mind. Makarasana, Shavasana, shalabhasana, suptasana, and Bhujangasana are helpful for curing anxiety, stress, blood pressure, tension, and depression.
4. Provides Relaxation: Rest and relaxation are essential for removing fatigue. When we indulge in any physical or mental work after some time, we feel fatigued. At this juncture, we cannot do further work. So, we need relaxation. Shavasana and Makarasana are really very beneficial for relaxation. Padmasana and Nadam Sadhana are the best means of reducing mental fatigue.
5. Keeps the Correct posture of Body: Nowadays postural deformities are common in individuals. Without good posture, they are unable to do their work efficiently. They cannot enjoy life. They usually put more energy into simple tasks. If we perform yogic asanas regularly, we can keep the correct posture of our body. Vajarasana, Sarvangasana, Mayurasana, Chakrasana, Bhujangasana, Dhanurasana, etc. are not only preventive asanas but curative also. Through these yogic exercises, we can keep our bodies in a high profile.
6. Yoga can be performed easily: In present-day life seems to be in a hurry. Life has become fast. Every individual complains about a shortage of time. To do exercise, other than yogic exercises require enough time and money whereas, yogic exercises can be done in a short duration and are not expensive. Moreover, these exercises can be performed in less space.
7. Spiritual Development: Through yoga, efforts can be made to attain spiritual development. We can have good control over the mind by doing regular yogic exercises. If our mind is pure, we can make efforts to achieve spiritual heights. An individual persistently pays attention to God, he forgets about himself. He does not know, who is he or what is he doing? Padmasana and Siddhasana are the best asanas for spiritual development. These asanas enhance meditation power. Pranayama is also useful for spiritual development that brings peace in life.
8. Increase Flexibility: Flexibility is very significant for every person. It helps in the movement of the body efficiently and cures body pain, back pain, joint pain, etc. It is also helpful in preventing sports injuries. Various Yogasanas increase the flexibility of the body. Chakrasana, Dhanurasana, Halasana, Bhujangansana, and Shalabhasana are beneficial for increasing flexibility. Muscles also became flexible by performing these asanas.
9. Reduces Obesity: Obesity is a worldwide problem. Obese people fall prey to various diseases. Yogic exercises can help in reducing obesity. For example, pranayama and yogic asanas, especially meditative asanas reduce obesity. Research studies have shown that mental tension and stress can be the reason for obesity. Yoga helps us in reducing stress, so obesity can be reduced by yoga.
10. Improve Health: Yoga helps in maintaining and improving health by making our muscles strong and regulating other systems of our body such as respiratory, excretory, circulatory, nervous, and glandular systems. It increases the efficiency of these systems of the body and thus improves health.
11. Enhances Moral and Ethical Values: Nowadays there is a declining trend in moral and ethical values. By following the first two steps of Astanga yoga, moral and ethical values can be enhanced. In fact, the practice of Yama and niyama such as non- violence, truthfulness, aparigraha, non-stealing, Swadhyaya, Santosh, etc. make and individual more moral and ethical. In a nutshell, it can be concluded that yoga is very significant for a human being specially in present-day life. An individual can attain perfect health and he can lead a happy, contented, exhilarated, and fruitful life, if he performs yogic exercises regularly.
Elements of Yoga
Patanjali described eight elements of yoga in Yogasutras. These are called eightfold paths or eight steps through which the ultimate goal of yoga can be achieved, i.e., the union of our soal to the supreme soal. These elements of Yoga are :
Yama is the first element of Astanga yoga. Through the practice of Yama, one can abstain from doing things that keep one’s mind involved in the indiscriminate struggle for survival. One can remain away from violence. Yama consists of five moral codes of conduct. According to Maharishi Patanjali, there are five Yama i.e., Ahimsa or Non- violence, Satya or truthfulness, Asteya or non- stealing, Brahmacharya, and Aparigraha.
Niyamas are related to an individual’s bodies and senses. Niyamas are also ethical practices as yamas. There are five Niyamas such as Saucha, Santosh, Tapa, Swadhyaya, and Ishvara pranidhana.
Asana means ‘position or posture of the body’. It also means to sit in easy postures. It is highly popular among the people that’s why most people think that yoga is nothing but asana. They are not aware that asana is a step towards yoga. By doing various asanas we can keep our body flexible, agile, and young.
Pranayama is the control of the process of breathing. It defines the proper way of inhalation, exhalation, and controlling it. Pranayama helps in metabolic activities and enhances the function of the heart and lungs. It also provides longevity to life.
Pratyahara is a process of self- control in which an individual becomes able to control his senses. Indeed, to an introvert, the mind and senses are called pratyahara. In pratyahara, we are able to control our minds and senses and they are no longer get distracted from the external environment. The attachment of various senses such as words, beauty, touch, taste, and smell, etc. diverts the individual from the way of self – welfare.
Dharana is the concentration of mind. Concentration means doing work without getting distracted from external activities. If we are able to control our mind from distracting by external activities it means the concentration is to be achieved. Dharana is the first step towards samadhi. In fact, Dharana is a mental exercise that enables a yogi to go ahead towards dhyana and samadhi.
Dhyana is a process of complete constancy of mind. It is a stage before samadhi. Generally, dhyana remains attached to our life at every moment. Whenever we are asked to do some important work, we are also told to do it with ‘dhyana’. In fact, dhyana is a complete concentration of mind over a period of time without any divergence.
The union of the individual’s soul with the supreme soul is called samadhi. Samadhi is also called the checking or destruction of all the impulses of the mind. When the disappearance of self – awareness takes place, the yogi attains the stage of samadhi, and it happens in the stage of Dhyana. He begins to experience a divine pleasure.
Yoga Across the Globe
In 2014 the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) passed a resolution proposed by India declaring 21st June as “ International day of yoga” endorsed by record 175 member states. Since then every year the 21st of June is celebrated as “ International Yoga Day”. Now the whole world is embracing yoga and making it their daily habit. It is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition to the world. It is high time that we understand the importance of yoga in our life and include it in our daily life. Yoga is very important for a healthy life.