|June 21st is announced as International Day of Yoga by United Nations. Lot of us think and understand Yoga as physical exercise which constitute of stretches. As part of this blog, I will try to explain about Yoga a bit in detail using Patanjali as reference. We will start with few details about the day then we will explore the concept of Yoga in detail.|
Origin – 27th September 2014
The idea of an International Day of Yoga was the first proposed by the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi during his speech at the UNGA, on 27 September 2014. He stated:
Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help in well being. Let us work towards adopting an International Yoga Day.— Narendra Modi, UN General Assembly
Following this initial proposal, the UNGA held informal consultations on the draft resolution entitled “International Day of Yoga”, on 14 October 2014. The consultations were convened by the delegation of India.
The compiler of the Yoga sūtras, a text on Yoga theory and practice, and a notable scholar of Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy.He is variously estimated to have lived between 5th century BCE to 4th century CE, with more scholars accepting dates between 2nd and 4th century CE. The Yogasutras is one of the most important texts in the Hindu tradition and the foundation of classical Yoga. It is the Indian Yoga text that was most translated in its medieval era into forty Indian languages.
Pathanjali have categorized Yog Sutras into 8 limbs and hence it is called as Ashta-anga
- Yama – rules
- Niyama – rules
- Asana – physical exercise
- Pranayama – Breathing techniques
- Dhyana – Meditation
- Dhaarana – Focus
- Pratyahaara – Controlling senses
- Samaadhi – I am not sure about this
Yama and Niyama
It primarily constitute of rules to deal with rest of the world. The whole purpose of Pravachans and Satsangs by Masters is to communicate Yama and Niyama to their followers. Every individual come with different mind set and his understanding capabilities are relative and contextual. Hence as part of these Sathsangs or Pravachans the Masters try to convey the message in the form of stories. Stories might be originated from their life experiences, mythology etc.
Asana and Pranayama
Both Asanas and Pranayamas are physical in nature. They make body healthy – both internal as well as external. While Asanas help you gain strength and maintain fitness of bones and muscles; Pranayams are designed to make lungs healthy, efficient usage of inhaled oxygen, flushing out unnecessary toxins from the body etc which will indirectly keep your internal organs healthy and efficient. Asanas are physical exercises and Pranayamas are breathing techniques.
Many times Asanas and Pranayamas go hand in hand. Most of the contemporary Yoga ends with Asanas, unfortunately this itself is claimed to be Yoga. Asanas are typically designed by physical attributes of different creations such as animals. That is why many Asanas such an Bhujanga-asana (snake) refer to animals.
- Parvatha-asana (refers to Mountain)
- Bhujanga-asana (refers to Snake)
- Sashtanga-asana (touching 8 parts of the body to earth)
- Aswasanchalana-asana (referring to horse)
- many more
- and more
Set of Asanas are also created as Kriyas – example Surya Namaskara in which we mix several Asanas in proper composition with basic pranaayama to focus on breathing.
Dhyana and Dhaarana
Dhyana refers to Meditation and Dhaarana is focus. They are almost inseparable. Unless we focus on some thing, we will not be able to meditate at physical level. While Asanas and Pranayamas are related to physical, Dhyana and Dhaarana are related to mind. Most of the Buddhist schools focus on Dhyana.
Examples of Dhaarana – as a child many of the Indian would have heard about story of Arjuna and hitting the bird eye on a distant tree. When his master sets a challenge with his disciples to hit a bird eye, each of his students fail except Arjuna. Arjuna say that he could not see any thing other than the eye. Another example, when Mike Arthurton ex-English Captain is going through patchy life and not performing well in Cricket, then Sachin told him when you go on to the ground – your body, mind every thing should be focused on cricket. Many a times scientists work with utmost focus to invent things to make this world better place.
There are many masters who try to make our lives better just on the name of Dhyana and Dhaarana. Vipaasana is one of the very famous program which primarily focus on Dhyana and Dhaarana
We experience this world through five sensual organs – eyes, ears, skin, nose and mouth.
- We see the world through eyes
- We hear or listen through ears
- Skin is used to touch and feel
- Nose for smelling
- Mouth to taste, eat, talk etc
All these 5 organs feed tons of data to mind. Most of the data convert into emotions such as fear, joy, sad etc. Pratyahaara is nothing but flushing out all this junk data and making body and mind to start experiencing the world beyond these emotions. Those who understand the pratyahaara will handle both success and failure more gracefully. They will not get overwhelmed.
As per my knowledge one need to attain Samaadhi to experience it. It cannot be put in words, hence I am not sure about Samaadhi.
While kriyas like Surya Namaskara focus on Asanas, there are many kriyas focus on Pranayams, Meditation etc. But many time we hear terms like Sudharshan Kriya of Art of Living, Shambavi Maha Mudra or Inner Engineering of Isha Foundation – these are nothing but coming up with daily practice which cover most of the things. I am initiated by Sadhguru for Shambavi and even though he explicitly does not mention about Pathanjali sutras and Ashta-anga, I see there is Yama and Niyama in the form of Sathsang, couple of Asanas, couple of Pranayam, Dhyaana and Dhaarana. I heard Sudarshana Kriya or Transcedential Meditations etc are similar.
Healthy body and healthy mind build healthy society!!!
Disclaimer: I am neither expert in Yoga nor read Pathanjali Yog Sutras. This article is purely my opinion based on my experience. Intention is primarily make you think about Yoga beyond Asanas.