In ancient times, Indian sages meditated for decades and developed a psycho-physical discipline known as Yoga. The word yoga, in ancient Sanskrit stands for "union," refers to the merging of:
Traditionally, the goal of yoga is union with the soul, known as Brahman. However, these days it can be explained as the science of positive mental health. The focus from soul or spirituality is shifted on the more common benefits of Yoga, including improved
- Physical fitness
- Mental clarity
- Developing self-control
- General well-being
The beauty of yoga is in its versatility, allowing practitioners to focus on the physical, psychological, spiritual, or a combination of all the three aspects.
By definition, yoga is “a scientific system designed to bring the health, happiness, and a greater sense of true self”. In yoga, the body and the mind are linked emotionally, verbally and actionably to create a state of internal peacefulness and integration. It utilizes stretching postures, breathing and meditation techniques to calm down the emotional state and the mind. It is very vital to control the mind. In famous epic Bhagwad Gita, Shri Krishna told Arjun, “Mind is as difficult as controlling the wind, mind is fickle, agitated, strong and obstinate, by practice and detachment, mind can be controlled”. Yoga is difficult to attain, if the mind is restrained. But, by controlling the mind, and endeavor through proper means, it is attainable. Any attempt and progress made in yoga never go waste. It gives the technique of working with the breath that makes it so special and unique. The practitioner needs a peaceful place where, he / she can concentrate, where there is silence, there is bliss.
The state of bliss can be achieved when the entire process of yoga is followed sincerely. Yoga aspirants need to bring change in their
thus, changing their entire lifestyle. It creates a new routine as the practitioner rises up early in the morning, takes meal for sustenance and not for taste and maintains a balanced life. This is the process of yoga. In Bhagwad Gita, yoga is described as a lifestyle that helps cleanse the body as well as the soul. This is the essence of yoga. It works on the principle of natural balance. By practicing the different postures and techniques of yoga, a balanced and controlled mind is attained that ensures co-ordination within the remaining body forces.
Patanjali, the father of Yogic philosophy, who is said to have documented and started the practice of controlling one’s mind and body through a series of physical and mental disciplines, way back in the third century BC. These are the techniques of yoga that exercise the body and calm the mind. These can broadly be classified into eight paths. All the four paths have one thing in common and that is, they all aim towards the attainment of perfection. These are eight paths of Yoga:
1. Jnana Yoga - the path of knowledge or wisdom: Jnana Yoga is the yoga of the philosopher and thinker who wants to go beyond the visible, material reality. These people are triggered by reading. Jnana yogi finds God through knowledge. Jnana yoga is summed up in the Upanishads by the following statement: "In the method of reintegration through knowledge, the mind is ever bound to the ultimate end of existence which is liberation this method leads to all attainments and is ever auspicious. Jnana yoga is also called as gyan (knowledge) yoga.
The method of this path is to remove maya (wealth). Maya is the inscrutable power that obstructs the understanding of the truth, and reality. The only goal here is the absorption in the final state of Nirvikalpa samadhi, into the absolute truth, the soul. This is can be attained through following the path of knowledge and wisdom.
2. Bhakti Yoga - the path of devotion or love: It is scientific and systematic procedure to gain realization. It teaches the art of attaining perfection through purification of ego and directing the emotions solely to God This yoga minimizes individual ego to almost negligible state. People practicing this path are completely devoted to the Almighty. The follower of Bhakti Yoga attempts that each of his action makes God happy.
3. Raja Yoga - the path of self control: the path of self control: Raja yoga teaches absolute control over the psychological modifications of the mind that develops the ability to control inner nature. This is the method of developing discipline, concentration and meditation to calm all the agitations and leads to self control of mind and body.
4. Karma Yoga - the path of action or self less work: This path directs the practitioner towards attaining the perfection through action or work Action is inherent in the nature of living beings. It cannot and should not be avoided. Work is must and it is the only means to reach perfection, to express potential perfection.
Karma binds when it is done with a selfish motive, with the expectation of desired results. But, when action is done without the expectation of results, it is liberating and karma will not bind the performer. Karma then becomes Karma Yoga. In Bhagwad Gita, Lord Krishna says, “Work incessantly. Your duty is to work but not to expect the fruits thereof”. The central teaching of the Gita is non-attachment to work. God sees all your actions and would reward suitably at appropriate time for your growth and success.
5. Prana Yoga – the path of Control: Prana is the vital force that acts as a catalyst to sustain life and Yama, to practice and control is the essence of the word. It is a subtle catalyst that holds the atomic and lifetronic energies together. It is this force which can be used in raising the level of consciousness from the physical to the ethereal level. Breath and mind are indelibly bound together, as you can experience yourself when you are in a state of emotional shock, fear or repose. By controlling the breath you begin to control the mind, and although the body itself is very difficult to control, the mind known as the 'great deceiver' refuses to be absolutely still. There are rhythm breaths, mantra breaths, expletive ones, alternating current breaths and finally what they all lead up to, the famous Puraka, Khumbaka, Rechaka breath which finally leads one to the ability to sustain Khumbaka (retention) at any point in the breathing chain. The first stage of Samadhi (salvation) can be attained by this method.
6. Mudra Yoga – the path of balance: Mudra Yoga – the path of balance: This path is best described as an aid to uniting with God through signs and symbols. Mudra Yoga is associated with the Ajna center, or Spiritual Eye, which is situated in the middle of the forehead at the root of the nose.
There are all sorts of sciences associated with Mudra Yoga but the most precise of all is Yantra Yoga, a sub study of Samkhya Yoga. These two studies represent the art of reducing all characteristics of one's inner and outer nature to a mathematical formula (Yantra). Samkhya equates the entire Cosmos to mathematical formulae.
There are other numerous studies in Mudra Yoga, such as Astrology, Phrenology, and the famous mudric hand postures. Depending upon your Guru's choice in this matter, he will direct you accordingly.
7. Laya Yoga- the path of practice: : Laya Yoga is one facet of the Art of Yoga. It is regarded as the highest form of yoga. It is the peak of one’s quest for inner peace and dialogue with one’s soul and tuning with universal energy. Laya yoga concentrates on the mind’s capabilities and potentialities.
Laya yoga combines specific exercises from Hatha, Laya, Kundalini Yoga and Pranayama to raise inner energy. This style of Yoga combines the beauty of meditation with the practice of sound.
8. Kriya Yoga – the path of sadhana: Kriya yoga is defined as: disciplined regulation of mental and sensory impulses, self analysis, study of metaphysics, meditation, and surrender of self consciousness (egoism) in favor of God-realization. The purpose of Kriya yoga practice is to restore the practitioner's awareness to wholeness. This is accomplished by acquiring knowledge of one's true nature as a spiritual being; cultivating rational thinking, emotional balance, and physical health; purposeful living; and meditation.
Yoga is unique and extremely potent. The whole process of the yoga is to purify oneself. It generates a deep curiosity to know more and more about all the above given paths. The objective of this book is to study methods of self control through yoga and this can be achieved by understanding the path of yoga in detail. So our journey towards the objective begins here!!!