We have all heard this before: “Yoga is a way of life”. But how many of us understand the true meaning of the phrase?
Most of us don’t!
This is because the spiritual purpose of Yoga is greatly different from what’s promoted on the mainstream culture. Yoga is popularly tagged as something that focuses on the physical realm of asanas to promote concepts such as flexibility and strength. For this reason, most people turn to Yoga for various reasons from stress relief to physical fitness, improving posture, enhancing stamina, and treating specific health issues.
But the truth is – Yoga helps people use their body and mind as instruments to achieve their highest potential. It allows us to develop and maintain optimal health and peace.
So, what’s the true meaning of Yoga?
The word ‘yoga‘ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which has three essential meanings – to join, to use, or to concentrate. What’s more, the term ‘Yog’ itself has over 32 meanings of which the two most important definitions are – Yoga as a process (Padhati) and Yoga as a state of being (Sthiti).
Yoga was structured as a way of life, and eight prominent steps/limbs constitute the path of Yoga:
- Yama (Social Discipline)
- Niyama (Self Discipline)
- Asana (Physical Postures)
- Pranayama (Breath Control)
- Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the Senses)
- Dharana (Sense of Concentration)
- Dhyana (One Pointed Concentration/ Meditation)
- Samadhi (Complete Integration/ Self Actualization)
Reaching Samadhi marks your entry into the complete ‘state of Yog’. During this phase, you become completely integrated with the object of your meditation.
So, these eight steps/limbs form the very basis of Yoga and aim to help us turn ourselves into instruments to maximize our potential and determine who we truly are. Therefore, understanding the vast theoretical Yogic literature and putting it to practice in our everyday life is essential to unlocking the science of the self.
What’s the Root Essence of Yoga? How does it differ from the way we understand it today?
The yogic culture dates back to 3000 BCE. Thus, it comes as no surprise the yogic books are written in Sanskrit. Since only a few people speak and read Sanskrit, only they can decipher the exact meaning behind these texts. Moreover, we live in an era where people prefer bite-sized knowledge pills over lengthier explanatory pieces which has resulted in oversimplification of complex concepts. As a result, watered-down versions of Yoga is often projected through popular culture of which one is largely focused on the musculoskeletal system and the perfection of the final posture rather than the state of mind in which the yogi adopts the posture.
What happens when you do asanas?
As mentioned earlier, Yoga comprises of several limbs and processes you can ascend to. But asanas are particularly important because they prepare you to reach the higher limbs of Yoga. An asana’s primary purpose is to keep your body in a meditative state for an extended period of time. The more you practice asanas, the more agile and flexible your body becomes. Eventually, it helps you sit in a meditative posture for longer, and you start experiencing yourself and the object of meditation becoming one.
The key is to move from one step to another smoothly and ultimately attain inner peace.
Here are a few life lessons we can all learn from Yoga:
- Be in the moment: In Yoga, an uncomfortable pose in the beginning slowly eases into a relaxed one depicting tough situations in life will similarly pass. Therefore, you have to focus on the present and go with the flow.
- I am important: Every time you practice Yoga – you nurture your mind, body, and soul. Giving yoga space in your life is a reminder that you matter.
- Practice makes perfect: Though it sounds cliché, after a certain point, you will find comfort in familiar poses. While you also get better, you most importantly realize the importance of repetition and routine.
- Be patient: When you start practising Yoga, you might feel that your body isn’t ready for many poses. But as you try and slowly learn each pose, it teaches you to be patient.
- Failing is fine: Yoga helps you realize what you can and cannot do. It also helps you recognize even if you stumble and fall, you can always get back up and try again. If not today, then tomorrow or the day after you’ll undoubtedly win. Always remember that things take time.
- Breathe: Breathing is a major part of Yoga and helps you through many troublesome and unpleasant situations.
Practising Yoga under an expert who understands the essence of Yoga is always a great idea. You will ultimately be able to make the most from Yoga and lead a peaceful life.
So, are you ready to unlock your hidden potential?
-Written by Anvita Pant