Yoga is a 5000-year-old Indian body of knowledge. Derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj”, Yoga means union of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness. Though many think of Yoga only as a physical exercise, but the science of Yoga imbibes the complete essence of the Way of Life. By practicing Yoga, we come to know of our oneness with the Infinite Intelligence, Power, and Joy which gives life to all and which is the essence of our own Self.
Yoga works primarily with the energy in the body, through the science of pranayama, or energy-control. Prana also means ‘breath.’ Yoga teaches how, through breath-control, we can still the mind and attain higher states of awareness.
International Day of Yoga
Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice that originated in India, but it is not limited to any one country or religion. On December 11 in 2014, the United Nations General Assembly declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga. The declaration came after the call for the adoption of June 21 as International Day of Yoga by Hon’ble Prime Minister, Mr.
Narendra Modi, during his address to UN General Assembly on September 27, 2014 wherein 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.”
Brief History and Development of Yoga
The science of Yoga has its origin thousands of years ago, long before the first religion or belief systems were born. The seers and sages carried this powerful Yogic science to different parts of the world including Asia, the Middle East, northern Africa and South America. Interestingly, modern scholars have noted and marveled at the close parallels found between ancient cultures across the globe. However, it was in India that the Yogic system found its fullest expression. Agastya, the saptarishi, who traveled across the Indian subcontinent, crafted this culture around a core Yogic way of life.
Yoga works on the level of one’s body, mind, emotion and energy. This has given rise to four classifications of yoga: Karma Yoga to utilise the body, Jnana Yoga to utilise the mind, Bhakti Yoga to utilise emotions and Kriya Yoga to utilise the energy. Every individual is a unique combination of these four factors. Only a Guru (teacher) can advocate the appropriate combination of the four fundamental paths as it is necessary for each seeker. All ancient commentaries on Yoga have stressed that it is essential to work under the direction of a Guru.
Traditional Schools of Yoga
The different philosophies, traditions, lineages and Guru-shishya paramparas of Yoga led to the emergence of different traditional schools. These include Jñāna Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Pātañjala Yoga, Kuṇḍalini Yoga, Haṭha Yoga, Dhyāna Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga, Rāja Yoga, Jain Yoga, Bouddha Yoga etc. Each school has its own approach and practices that lead to the ultimate aim and objectives of Yoga.
Common Yoga Protocol
The Common Yoga Protocol document issued by the Ministry of Ayush states some General Guidelines for Yoga Practice that a Yoga practitioner should follow:
Before the Practice:
Śauca means cleanliness – an important prerequisite for Yogic practice. It includes cleanliness of surroundings, body and mind. Yogic practice should be performed in a calm and quiet atmosphere with a relaxed body and mind. Yogic practice should be done on an empty stomach or light stomach. Consume small amount of honey in lukewarm water if you feel weak. Bladder and bowels should be empty before starting Yogic practices. A mattress, Yoga mat, durrie or folded blanket should be used for the practice.
Light and comfortable cotton clothes are preferred to facilitate easy movement of the body. Yoga should not be performed in a state of exhaustion, illness, in a hurry or in acute stress conditions. In case of chronic disease/ pain/ cardiac problems, a physician or a Yoga therapist should be consulted prior to performing Yogic practices. Yoga experts should be consulted before doing Yogic practices during pregnancy and menstruation.
During the Practice:
Practice sessions should start with a prayer or an invocation as it creates a conducive environment to relax the mind. Yogic practices shall be performed slowly, in a relaxed manner, with awareness of the body and breath. Do not hold the breath unless it is specially mentioned to do so during the practice.
Breathing should be always through the nostrils unless instructed otherwise. Do not hold the body tightly, or jerk the body at any point of time. Perform the practices according to one’s capacity. It takes some time to get good results, so persistent and regular practice is very essential.
There are contra-indications/ limitations for each Yoga practice and such contra-indications should always be kept in mind. Yoga session should end with meditation/ deep silence/ Sankalpa Śāntipāṭha.
After the Practice:
Bath may be taken only after 20-30 minutes of practice. Food may be consumed only after 20-30 minutes of practice.
Food for Thought
A few dietary guidelines can ensure that the body and mind are flexible and well-prepared for practice. A vegetarian diet is usually recommended, and for a person over 30 years, two meals a day should suffice, except in cases of illness or very high physical activity or labour.
International Day of Yoga with Speaking Tree
Speaking Tree is celebrating the spirit of Yoga by featuring the best Yoga stories for the entire week. Committed to take the seekers towards self-perfection through the process of Yoga, Speaking Tree aims to deliver a completely unique experience for yoga practitioners at every level.
Making choices from the deepest Self is a part of Yoga. When Sri Aurobindo said, “All life is Yoga”, he meant that all life gives us an opportunity for the practice of Yoga. We can make use of the opportunities that we get every day by making the right choices, choices that emanate from our deepest Self. We may still not reach the goal, but we will become healthier and happier for Yoga brings out the best in us. Look at it this way — just as every stone is a potential statue, Yoga is the chisel by which we can chip ourselves, bit by bit, to manifest the divinity that we hide.
So this International Day of Yoga, learn a few Yoga hacks that will keep you energized and on the move.