Ancient India has gifted the world a great treasure in the ideology and technology of yoga. This art science of healthy living physically, emotionally, morally, intellectually and spiritually has been handed down to us from time immemorial. Hiranyagarbha of the earliest vedic period is said to be the first being to reveal yoga. Yoga is the sum and substance of a conceptual science to aid the progress of evolution and therefore it is eternal. Even gods could not have achieved their divinity without the knowledge of yoga. Such is the unique place that yoga enjoys in the cultural history of India.
The Rigveda reveals what yoga is like when it refers to it as a vehicle a means by which a deity and through him the object in view can be achieved. It suggests yoga as a communication link or a bond between the individual and the universe and between microcosm and macrocosm. In this context the popular definition of yoga as an instrument for achieving all objects of life is significant. The unique process of knowing and achieving which is yoga is obviously different from the material science and therefore to many yoga is something extra-mundane, metaphysical miraculous or mystical. Yoga is for all living beings. We are however concerned with the human being especially the modern man at the present stage of evolution, let us then approach man as we see him in his day-to-day life and then answer why yoga?
Man, as we see him is confronted with wants, needs and problem from birth to death. Civilization culture and religion have not been able to meet all the needs of man or in solving all his problems. Mankind has thus been offered numberless panaceas to cure human ills economic, physical and spiritual. But despite all efforts human ills have not been abated. Science and technology are described as both creative and destructive. Thus, while showing material progress for man, they are unable to enter the Inner man the man himself. So the needs and problems are not solved. For example, science and technology can help produce more foods, but not digestion. They can also provide man with deadly weapons but cannot free him from fear. Yoga believes that the problem of man is man. By practice and experience we all have realized this. It was accepted in Ancient India that man is the cause of his own bondage and freedom. According to Patanjali, the father of Yoga Ideology and technology, the activities of the mind need discipline. So long as these activities chittavrittis continue, man is open to affections at various levels of his consciousness. At his existential level, his needs and problems relate to the body, good health and longevity. But since these are inter-related the problem becomes complex and dependent on many other factors. Similar is the case with the needs, and problems related to the emotional moral mental, physical, intellectual and spiritual life. Yoga, therefore suggests an integrated approach to man with personality-complex as the basic and treats man as a body-mind complex.
Today, no branch of yoga is more popular that the Hatha Yoga. Its popularity is due to its insistence on health. Ha represents the sun and the syllable Tha represents the moon and the conjunction of the sun and the moon is therefore Hatha Yoga. Patanjali, the father of modern yoga has given eight limbs called Asthang Yoga in Hatha Yoga which are :
- Yama (Social Discipline) Yama means self-restraint. It is the first stage of yoga. Yama suggests five normal practices mentioned below :
- Non-Violence: Non-violence means not to cause injury or not to hurt any physically, through, word or action.
- Truthfulness: Satya or Truthfulness means saying exactly what one sees with one own eyes, hears with one own ears and understands through one own brain. It suggest both Internal and external truthfulnees.
- Non-Stealing : It means not to be greedy and acquire other wealth or possession physically, or mentally or by speech.
- Celibacy : It means to keep one sense organs under control and not to be tempted by the sensual or lustful enjoyments through word, through and action. Brahmcharya also suggests moderation in sex between married persons.
- Non-Greed : Hoarding of wealth and means of sensual pleasures and other materials of enjoyment is Parigraha while the absence of these is Aparigraha.
- Niyama ( Individual Discipline) :The second aspect of Asthang yoga is Niyama is of five kinds :
- Shaucha : It means both internal and external purity. The body can be kept clean and pure by sattvik foods and six types of yogic purifications i.e Neti, Dhauti, Basti, Nanli, Trataka, and Kapalbhati, mind can be kept pure by abandoning six enemies: lust, anger, avarice,
temptation, pride and vanity
- Santosha : It implies that one should be satisfied with whatever one gets while doing one duty truth fully.
- Tapa : It implies conquest of all desires and sensual pleasures by maintaining purity in thought, word and deed. It also means keeping the mind detached and under control to bear pain and pleasure, heat and cold with equanimity.
- Swadhyaya : It means self-introspection and study of scriptrues and sacred books to gain real knowledge. It also suggests spending of one time in the company of spiritual teachers and exchanging Ideas with them.
- Ishwar Pranidhana : It suggests pure and complete dedication to God. It is the total surrender of self to God.
- Asana : The first physical aspect and third stage in Ashtang yoga is Asana. Any posture that is performed steadily and with ease is called Asana. Asanas are for the control of body and mind, veins and nerves and promotion of general health. Asanas tone up the internal and external organs of the body and give energy, vigour and vitality.
- Pranayama : Prana is the vital force which pervades the whole cosmos. It is in all things whether animate or inanimate. Prana is more subtle than air and can be defined as energy that is within everything in the universe. Pranayama is series of techniques which control the normal breathing cycle and which stimulates and increase the vital energy. The prana in the body is divided into five elementary parts collectively known as Pancha Pranas. They are Prana, Apana, Samana, Udana and Vyana. Pranayama activates the entire nervous system and develops latent powers of man.
- Pratyahara : It means withdrawal of senses from outside objects and projecting them inwards. The practice of pratyahara brings the senses under control, purifies the mind and develops austerity and concentration.
- Dharana It means focusing of the mind on an internal or external object. The pure and peaceful mind can be focused on any object or one personal deity or on the Individual self.
- Dhyana When one succeeds in maintaining focus of attention, it becomes Dhyana. Dhyana purifies the mind of Rajas and Tamas gunas and light the mind with sattwa gunas.
- Samadhi The last stage of Ashtanga yoga is samadhi. At this stage one attains the state of superconsciousness and perfect calm. In Samadhi the mind loses the sense of duality with the object of concentration. At this stage one identity merges in meditation, the act of meditation, and the object meditated upon. All the three merge with one single vision of the entire cosmos. The Dharna, Dhyana and Samadhi are called samyams If all the steps of Ashtang yoga are performed one gets all round progress in life- physical, intellectual and spiritual. Another great discovery made by the ancient Rishis and Yogis, was that the pace of the wonderful manifestation and unfoldment can be accelerated by certain mental exercises and methods of discipline which make men go within their own selves instead of going outside towards the sense objects. Tests were applied to the efficacy of these disciplines, principles and practices in the form of different kinds of yogas. Namely, Karam yoga, Bhakti yoga and Gyana yoga. Although all yogas have a common aim, namely internal peace and harmony. The path of Karam yoga is the path of work, action, activity and enterprise. One has to work in the living present and carry out the duties. In Karam yoga, there are four-fold attainments of
- Dharma (fulfilment of duty)
- Artha (attainment of wealth)
- Kama (Satisfaction of desires)
- Moksha (liberation)
To attain these aims. the span of life is divided into four stages :
Adoration and self abnegation. Bhakti is said to be of nine types knows as Navadha, Bhakti. These kinds are :
- Sravan ( Hearing of Divine glory )
- Kirtan ( Singing or Praise to him )
- Smaran ( Remembering his name)
- Padasevna ( Service and presence at the feet of the lord )
- Archana ( Worship )
- Vadhana ( Prostration to god )
- Dasyana (Cultivating Bhagwan of a servant )
- Sakhyan ( Cultivating Bhagwan of a friend )
- Atma Nivedana ( Complete self-surrender )
The greatness of bhakti has been expounded in The Gita. The sunlight falls equally in all things, good and bad. But its effect and utilization vary according to the nature of those things. Though the all pervading Lord is in the hearts of all. His presence is patent only in the pure heart of the devotee. As one gives one self to god, one gets purified and god presence in that one becomes evident.
The yoga of knowledge is the Jnana yoga. The Raja yoga or Patanjali yoga sutra is based on the theory of Sankhya sastra which expounds jnanayoga. Jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge. It is the intellectual path based on the approach to divinity through study, learning, thought, and meditation. Raja yoga, a close associate of jnana yoga is a study of consciousness, Intuition, sleep, dream, conditions and other signs pertaining to subconscious. The movements of the mind are the cause of man bondage. The action of his intellect is the instrument of his freedom. That particular mode of action by which the intellect skills the movements of the mind is known as the Royal way to reintegration. This is the highest form of yoga.
But yoga therapy has its own limitations. In certain condition yoga therapy can not be used as the first line of action. They are all like threatening medical surgical emergencies like accidents, burns and fractures, acute infections and hypersensitive inflamating conditions, acute attack of Asthma and certain genetic orders. The conditions where yogic therapy can be given as the first line of action without any medication are purely functional disorders or imbalance at the neuro-muscular level e.g spinal disorders, constipation, diabetes, hyper-acidity, anxiety, migraine and depression.
In yoga human sufferings are divided into two classes.
- Agautuka Vyaadhis: suffering due to extraneous factors :
- Neeja Vyaadhis : suffering because of intrinsic factors.
It is because of the psychophysioligical nature of many of the yoga techniques they can be easily employed in the management of psychosomatic disease and stress disorders. Originally yoga was not developed as a system of therapy in the strict sense of the term as it is understood today. Ayurveda was dealing with this aspect. Yoga claims to be the best form of treatment for bhawataapas that is suffering of the being because of becoming. These have been classified as :
- Adhidaivik Vyaadhis : suffering because of One desting
- Adhibhautik Vyaadhis : suffering because of the disturbances in body constituents.
- Adhyaatmik Vgaadhis : suffering because of the disturbances in the consciousness itself, stress disorders or maladaptation syndromes can be understood as a kind of bhawatapasi. Even though there are many different disease on record which could be broadly classified as :
- Those predominatly related with hyper functioning or hypofunctioning of the nervous system which is responsible for neuromuscular and neuroglandulor activities in the body.
- Those related with the emotions, intellect and ego of the individual which are again based on the functioning of the neroendocrinal system. In yoga, this kind of suffering could be named as chitta Vikshepa i.e. disturbed consciousness.
- In yogic therapy certain types of endocrinal and metabolic disorders are called the Kaaya avyaadhis. They are suffering of the physical body. It is to be noted that regarding disorders due to nutritional, infectional, accidental, organic, structural and ecological factors as well as life of threatening emergencies yoga is silent.