What You Should Know Before You Start Practising Yoga
संयोगो योग इत्युक्तो जीवात्मपरमात्मनोः॥
YOGA IS UNION OF THE INDIVIDUAL SELF (JIVĀTMA) WITH THE SUPREME SELF (PARAMĀTMA)
With Yoga gaining global acceptance, this ancient practice has found its way into the fitness routines of millions across the world. However, Yoga is far from just another fitness fad that builds flexibility and strengthens muscles. The ultimate purpose of Yoga is to help one attain a state of true consciousness and wellbeing. It is the pursuit of a state of mind when we are truly aware of our surroundings and are able to just be. The crowd-puller Yoga moves, popularly followed today, are more of preparatory steps that help us attain control of our body. To realize absolutely true benefits of Yoga, not just the body, but also one’s breathing, mind and inner self need to be in harmony. Understanding the philosophy and intrinsic values of the practice are essential to incorporating Yoga into our lives.
According to Vedic scriptures, the Yogic path to attaining a oneness with the universe consists of the following eight spiritual practices. And before we set on the path to even enroll ourselves for a Yoga session, its good to soak in this knowledge of wellness :
‘Yama’ - The first practice is of incorporating essential moral codes into our lives. The five moral codes that guide us to a true state of peaceful self-existence are ‘Ahimsa’ (Non-violence), ‘Satya’ (Truthfulness), ‘Asteya’ (Not stealing), ‘Brahmacharya’ (Celibacy) and ‘Aparagriha’ (Non-possessiveness). Practising these virtues is our first step towards detoxifying our lives and opening our minds to a higher truth. Because if we can control our behaviour and thinking, we can bring a healthy change in our lives through Yoga Asanas.
‘Niyama’ - This is a step where we start to discover ourselves and hence we awaken to our shortcomings. In fact, before we strive to achieve perfectness in our Surya Namaskar, this is what we need to master. The five codes to follow are ‘Sauca’ (Purity of mind), ‘Santosha’ (Contentment), ‘Tapas’ (Perseverance), ‘Svādhyāya’(Self-reflection) and ‘Ishvara-Pranidhana’ (Search for the Supreme Being).
‘Asana’ - Asana is explained as the perfect posture. It literally means seat and is explained as a seated position used for meditation. It is recommended that the Asanas we practice during Yoga, should always be firm but relaxed. Asana is as much the power to control your mind as it is the test of your physical strength. This is also where your journey to your deepest inner you starts. This is where you conquer your weaknesses and push yourself to the brim.
‘Pranayama’ - In Bhagwad Gita, Pranayama is literally translated to ‘Trance induced by stopping all breathing’. And that is the ultimate goal of controlling our breathing. In Sanskrit, Prana means breath or life force and Yama denotes control. This helps us both in filling our body with positive energy and forcing the negative energy out of our system and immediate environment. It is the Yogic way to happiness.
‘Pratyahara’ - This is where we learn to control our five senses. Essentially we learn to gain better control of the senses of touch, smell, sound, taste and sight. Through this we learn to conquer our senses and forbid them to send any signals to the brain for that moment or period. Hence laying the foundation of both ‘Dharana’ and ‘Samadh’.
‘Dharana’ - To fix the centre of our being on a single object externally or an imaginary dot in our minds is an act of sheer perseverance. And Dharana is all about elevating our inner consciousness.
‘Samadhi’ – This is the state where the mind becomes absolutely still. Samadhi is not just for sages but rather the moment of true peace and harmony within. Also considered to be when you truly become a Yogi after practicing Yoga in its true avatar.
Whether you are just starting out with Yoga or an active practitioner, the principles of Yoga hold great significance for not just our physical fitness, but also the state of our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. As we inexorably march on towards progress, it is good to remember that by investing one’s time and patience in the practice of Yoga, the overall quality of life is much improved. All you need is a knowledgeable Yoga teacher and the intent to stay on this wonderfully fulfilling path.