“Yoga” comes from the ancient Sanskrit root “yuj” which literally means union. Yoga creates balance and union between the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga connects our soul to the universal consciousness which many of us call God. But when we think of Yoga we normally associate it with the physical practice (asana) and breathing exercises (prana). In truth asana and prana are just part of the paths to reach awareness and enlightenment. The highest joy can be achieved through Yoga of silent reflection or by following the philosophy and practice of the Yoga Sutras. The Western world is now realizing the holistic benefits of Yoga and what it can bring on man’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
The Yoga of Silent Reflection
Yoga is a 3,000-year-old tradition that brings about a meditative state on people that practice it. Yoga Sutras is the acknowledged authoritative text on Yoga which is credited to the ancient sage Patanjali. He formulated the Eight Limbs of Yoga. Ashtanga or “eight limbs” is the eightfold path to awareness and enlightenment. These are the ethical principles to follow to live a meaningful and purposeful life.
- Yama (Ethical standards)
- Niyama (Self-discipline)
- Asanas (Postures)
- Pranayama (Breath control)
- Pratyahara (Sense Withdrawal)
- Dharana (Concentration)
- Dhyana (Meditation)
- Samadhi (Spiritual Ecstasy).
Many different yogic disciplines have been developed based on Yoga Sutras like Yoga Nidra and Hatha yoga. Each discipline has its own techniques but all of them are geared to attain the state of yoga or the union of the body and mind.
The unification of our body and mind using series of body postures (asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama) enhances the capacity of our physical body. Performing the asanas and pranayama releases the blockages in the energy channels of our body. Clearing the energy system creates balance on our body and mind. Even the medical community recognises Yoga as a form of mind-body medicine because it integrates the individual’s mental, physical and spiritual components to improve all aspects of health.
The National Institutes of Health classified Yoga as a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Yoga is a holistic mind-body fitness. The therapeutic effects of Yoga include reduction or alleviation of physiological, emotional and spiritual pains. There are four basic principles that make Yoga a complete healing system. Our body is composed of various interrelated dimension (body, mind, and soul), this is the first principle. Each dimension is inseparable from one another; the health of one dimension affects the other dimensions. Good health can only be attained through the union (Yoga) of all the dimensions. The second principle states that every individual is unique. Yoga is self-empowering, this is the third principle. The fourth principle states that a positive mind is crucial to healing. You must play an active role in your own healing because healing comes from within.
Breathing exercises and physical postures get our body and mind ready to reach the state of meditation and enlightenment. If we follow the philosophy and practice of Yoga we will cultivate a sense of calmness and well-being. Stress is implicated in numerous diseases like heart disease and cancer. Medical evidence shows that Yoga improves all aspects of health by reducing stress. Let us make Yoga a part of our stress management. By living the Yoga philosophy and practice we will change our life’s perspective and improve our life force enabling us to live our life in spiritual bliss.