This month the world will celebrate International Yoga Day on 21st June. Yoga though originated in India have become popular the world over during last few decades. Yet there is limited knowledge about the Yoga and its impact on the physical, mental and spiritual well being. People have assumed it to be a health-promoting practice like any other form of exercise.
Origin of Yoga:
Ministry of External Affairs of Govt of India states; the practice of Yoga is believed to have started with the very dawn of civilization. The science of yoga has its origin thousands of years ago, long before the first religions or belief systems were born. In the yogic lore, Shiva is seen as the first yogi or Adiyogi, and the first Guru or Adi Guru.
About the exact years in the foreseeable past it states; Historical evidence of the existence of Yoga was seen in the pre-Vedic period (2700 B.C.), and thereafter till Patanjali’s period. The main sources, from which we get the information about Yoga practices and the related literature during this period, are available in Vedas (4), Upanishads(108), Smritis, teachings of Buddhism, Jainism, Panini, Epics (2), Puranas (18) etc
What is Yoga?
Yoga is popularly known by Asana i.e. physical movements and Prayanama, breathing exercise performed by practitioners. Asana and Prayanama are what the Yoga means, is the belief of most practitioners when most think about the Yoga.
Now, since Yoga has gained international acceptance and popularity, it is pertinent to know what Yoga means.
Yoga is a way of life and not limited to Asana and Prayanama. Sage Patanjali had about 2200 years ago, prescribed Yoga in sutras in his treatises known as Patanjali Yoga Sutras. Even before Patanjali Yoga was practiced and considered a way of life in India. However the oldest Sutras, we have in written format is by Sage Patanjali.
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Yuj’ which means ‘to join, to unite’. Joining or union of the self with the supreme.
Yoga has eight limbs and is known as Ashtanga-yoga (Ashtanga = Eight Limbs). Asana and Prayanama are only two of them. This is considered a way of life to achieve the highest objective of human life. The highest objective is known as Samadhi, union with the object of meditation or enlightenment. Therefore, in broader sense Yoga is a roadmap to attain enlightenment.
In order to achieve this higher state, we need a moral code of conduct and self-purification. These are known as Yama and Niyama, two of the limbs.
Yama means a moral code of conduct. There are five Yamas.
- Satya = Truthfulness
- Ahimsa = Non Violence
- Asteya = Non Stealing
- Aparigraha = Non Hoarding
- Bhramhacharya = Chastity.
Niyama means acts of self-purification. There are five Niyamas.
- Saucha = Purity of Mind, body, and thoughts
- Santosh = Containment
- Tapa = Penance
- Swadhyay = Study of self, self-reflection, a study of religious texts
- Ishwarparidharna = Surrendering the self to God
Next two limbs are what have commonly known Yoga with; Asana and Prayanama.
Asana is physical movements designed to keep the body functioning in proper order. There are various such movements and practices covering the entire body and all body parts/systems.
Unless the body is fit the person can’t focus on the higher purpose. Therefore, fit body is necessary for higher pursuit and Asana helps in achieving and maintaining a healthy body.
Pranayama is about breathing exercise. Prana means life force i.e. our breath. Controlling the breath is what Pranayama is. But why do we need to control the breath?
There is a sutra in Yoga Sutras which says;
‘Chale vate chale chitta, nishacle nishal bhavatu’ which means;
Our mind is wavering as our breath is not under our control so in order to keep the mind fixated and concentrate on one thing, controlling the breath is necessary. Pranayama helps us with that.
All these four limbs i.e. Yama, Niyama, Asana & Prayanama are known as Bahirang i.e. external limbs of Yoga. These prepare us for the higher pursuit which the next level of limbs aims to take us.
The next four limbs are known as Antarang i.e. Internal.
These are Pratyahara, Dharna, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Pratyahara means moving inward from our senses to our internal world. This is the withdrawal of senses. We experience the external world through our senses; our senses are our doors to the external world. Now we are moving inward so the withdrawal of the senses in order to experience the internal non-physical world. Just closing of eyes and ignoring all the signals of the senses can help us focus inward.
The next is Dharana. That is focussing on just one thing i.e. concentration on one thing.
The meditation has become very famous and popular the world over. This meditation is known as Dhyana and this is the 7th limb of Yoga. Continues to focus on one thing for a longer period is known as Dhyana. Continues Dharana is Dhyana. We focus on breath once is Dharana and continues focus for a long time is Dhyana or Meditation.
One can realize why Asana and Pranayama are important and precedes internal limbs? If the body is not healthy and fit one can’t sit in meditation for a long time and if our breath is not under our control our mind wavers during Dhyana. Asana and Prayanama prepare us to practice Dhyana.
One sitting for a longer period in Dhyana, focussing only on one object or even not on any object but absorption with the self, achieves Samadhi i.e. enlightenment. The ultimate objective of the human being i.e. to become one with the self i.e. Soul.
Therefore, Yoga is a complete roadmap until one achieves enlightenment. All the preceding limbs prepare the practitioners to practice the successive limbs.
However, most of us are using this rich and elaborate roadmap for merely achieving a very low aim of physical fitness by practicing Asana and Pranayama. Yes, this is a starting point, but we should not stop at this.
On this International Yoga Day, we should expand our understanding to know more about these aspects of Yoga and pursue it as and when time permits or the time is right.
For those who are only practicing Yoga for healthy living, there are a few cautions:
Hathapradapika, one of the texts on Yoga which was written between 14 to 16th century says;
Yoga fails by six causes: Over-eating, overexertion, talkativeness, undisciplined life, promiscuous company, and unsteadiness.
Gherandsahita says; the one who practices Yoga without control on diet will attract many diseases and will not get success in Yoga.
The point is Diet plays a very important role in our health and even Yoga i.e. Asana and Prayanama practitioners will not get success if one is not disciplined about the diet.
For more curious readers the book on Yoga Light on Patanjali Yogasutras by BKS Iyengar is quite in detail about Sutras
PS: The right pronunciation of ‘Yoga’ is ‘Yog’ and not ‘Yo ga‘. But as Krishan has become Krishna and Ram as Rama, Yog has become Yoga.
Effects of Yogic Practices:
We all practice Yoga-Asana and Pranayama. Some have learned from trained Yoga Guru, others from an untrained trainer and most have seen on TV and started practicing. We all know however that learning from a trained Yoga Guru has its own advantage.
Be that as it may, today my focus is to explain HOW Yoga-Abhyas (Practice) actually help us. Yoga-Abhyas has an effect on the whole personality of the practitioner. These practice impacts psycho-somatic structure (mind & Body) of the person.
Effects of Yoga-abhyas is classified into three categories.
- Local Effects: A specific practice has a predominant impact on the specific part of the body.
- Associated Effects: Along with the predominant effects, there is an impact on some associated parts too.
- Central Effects: Due to the regular Yoga practice there is a positive impact on the mind of the practitioner. This positivity impacts the behavior and brings positive change in the person. This is called central effects.
The local benefits of Vajrasana are better blood circulation in the lower abdominal area and removal of spinal column defects. But Vajrasana also impacts knee and ankle joints and these parts are also benefited by doing Vajrasana. This is called an associated effect. & practitioners’ feeling of positivity by doing Yoga practice is the central effect benefit.
Now let’s understand how these practices impact our body system.
Nerves are stimulated which helps in better harmony between the mind and the body. Various endocrine glands function better with the improved health of the nervous system.
All the endocrine glands function better with these practices. These glands include Thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, pituitary, thymus, pineal, pancreas.
Discipline the respiration and increase lung capacity.
Improves gastric fire, improves digestion and health of the digestive organs.
Improves the functioning of the excretory system and body cleansing proves is enhanced.
Blood congestion is removed, and circulation is improved, arteries and veins become elastic.
Muscular fibers become strong and elastic, muscle tone is improved.
Blood circulation between the joints improves which makes them healthy, it also makes joints flexible and reduces the bone degeneration.
Practicing Yoga is beneficial for the overall health of mind and body. Yogic practices are the only practices which positively impact mind and body both. All other physical activities practiced for health only impact the body. This is why Yogic practices are vital for the overall health of an individual.
“In the practice of Yoga one can emphasize the body, the mind or the self and hence the effort can never be fruitless.” T. Krishnamacharya (Yoga scholar of 19thcentury)
When Yoga Fails?
The title is an awakening call for us, isn’t it? We all believe we did our Yoga Asana and Pranayama for the day in the morning and that’s it. We did our bit of remaining fit. Now it is the responsibility of the body to remain fit irrespective of whatever I do.
However, Yoga can fail by six indulgences. These are;
- Over (Needless and Unsuitable) discipline
- Over Socialising/ Promiscuous (Immoral) Company
- Unsteadiness’ / Restlessness
Many of the practitioners are not aware of this small asterisk mark (*) which says terms and conditions apply.
Most of the practitioners are effortlessly indulging in one or more such excesses without knowing the implication.
Another ancient text Gherand Samhita, adds one more important condition for the Yoga to succeed.
It says, the one who practices Yoga without control on diet (moderation of diet) will attract many diseases and will not get the benefits.
Practicing Yoga is a kind of Sadhana i.e. disciplined and dedicated practice. It will succeed and give its fruits only by observing some rules i.e. dos and don’ts.
We have seen the don’ts above now let’s see what Hathapradapika says about the dos.
The text says; Yoga succeeds by the following six observances.
- Enthusiasm (not practicing by force, external compulsion or inner motivation)
- Courage /Valour
- Adherence /Devotion
- Discriminative Knowledge (It means using razor-like attention to separate the seer and the seen)
- Solitude (Not in the company of Promiscuous (Immoral) person
These texts also suggest its practitioners’ parameters of success of Yoga.
The text says; the first signs of entering Yoga are the lightness of the body, good health, thirst-less-ness of mind, clearness of complexion, a beautiful voice, good odor, and scantiness of excretion.
Similarly, Hathaprdapika says, the signs of success of Hatha Yoga are; slim body, serene appearance, sonorous sound, very clear eyes, freedom from disease, control over vital fluids in the body, stimulation of the digestive fire and complete purification of the Nadis (nerves).
This makes it aptly clear for Yoga practitioners, what works, what doesn’t and how to gauge the benefits of Yogic practices.
Yoga and Surya Namaskar
There is nothing religious about Surya Namaskar. This is a form of exercise dedicated to the sun. This consists of 10 body postures, disciplined breathing, and rhythmic movements with an alert mind. This is also practiced as warm up before practicing Asana.
Wear loose clothes, do some warm-up exercise of the body, select open and spacious place.
- A person suffering from acute disease, weakness should avoid Surya Namaskar
- A person suffering from a backache, spinal injury, and neck pain also should Surya Namaskar
- A person suffering from any other disease should practice under the able guidance and under a doctor’s advice.
According to Yoga guru Sadashiv Nimbalkar, the practice of Surya Namaskar can have immense benefits. In his book titled Surya Namaskar, he narrates the following benefits:
- Improves the tone of the muscles
- Makes spine healthy and elastic, augment the efficiency of the organs
- Increase the flexibility of joints
- The waist, back, and neck become healthy
- Blood circulation, respiration, digestion, excretion improves
- Endocrine gland secretion improves
- Helps in maintaining proper body and mind coordination
- Gives emotional stability and improves intellectual capacity
- Enthusiasm and work efficiency improves
- Increases resistance power
- It is a secondary treatment for various diseases.
“Sun salutation can energise and warm you even on the darkest, coldest winter day.”Carol Krucoff
Now the important question is how to practice Surya Namaskar. Following two videos will guide you. The instructions in one video are in English and in Hindi in another.
Yoga & Peace of Mind
Before doing Asana or any Yogic practices for the peace of mind the following quote must be digested fully.
“Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani” Bhagavad Gita, Chapter II, Verse 47
Which means, “You have a right to perform your prescribed duty, but you are not entitled to the fruits of action. Never consider yourself to be the cause of the results of your activities, and never be attached to not doing your duty.”
Most of our mental disturbances are due to a situation not under our control or things not happened as expected. Mental peace will come only with mental adjustment and change of frame of mind.
Relax and believe in what is stated in the Bhagavad Gita. With this new belief, most of the mental stress/disturbance will disappear. Now for the remaining little stress following Yogic practices will be of immense help.
What we have believed as Yogic practices are doing Asana and Pranayama. We have to suspend our belief of doing something physical for a while. What really is needed is practicing of the 2nd limb of Yoga i.e. Niyama.
There are five Niyama everyone needs to practice. These are;
1) Cleanliness (Shaucha)
Cleanliness is very basic and important. Cleanliness is of body and mind, both. Our mind is occupied with many unwanted thoughts. Get rid of unwanted acquired thoughts consciously. You may read a good book or listen to pleasing and shooting music to clean your mind of unwanted thoughts. Cleanliness of mind and body is a prerequisite for Yogic practices.
2) Contentment (Santosha)
Not following this concept is another major contributor to our mental disturbance. Our desire is the root of all evil. This is said by the Buddha and in Ramayana and all ancient scriptures. But we not only have desires, but we have insatiable desires.
Contentment refers to a deep sense of acceptance and gratitude for one’s situation in life no matter what it is.
Contentment is not laziness but believing in what is stated in Gita in the above shloka.
3) Penance/Austerity (Tapa)
Tapa means self-discipline. Jainism defines 12 types of Tapas. Six internal and six external. Self-discipline or Tapas burns away all impurities, physical, mental and karmic. Yes, Tapas can burn Karma attached to the soul. Read here: Law of Karma – Getting rid of Karma
4) Self-study (Swadhyaya)
“Know thyself” is the most famous of the Greek Delphic maxims, and this is what Patanjali was also advocating.
We are firmly rooted in the ego and a sense of separateness from everything and everybody else. This “I” consciousness is so strongly rooted that we never even question it.
This constant reflection about the self and who am I? is known as Swadhyaya.
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5) Surrender (Isvara Pranidhana)
Since most of our desire remains unfulfilled and most of the things happen never as per our expectations, we need to surrender everything to the God. In this way, we can remove I from everything we do. We can practice detachment by practicing Surrender.
These are the five Yogic practices to achieve mental peace. We don’t need a Yoga mat or any place to practice. It’s all in our mind. Practicing these five Niyama can gradually bring mental peace to our lives forever.
“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.” Helen Keller.
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Yoga & Constipation
“I wish that being famous helped prevent me from being constipated.” Marvin Gaye
Constipation is everyone’s problem. It may strike anyone, if not today, maybe tomorrow. Our faulty food habits and irregular lifestyle are an open invitation to constipation.
The practice of Yoga offers immense health benefits. Yogic kriyas are a very important aspect of Yoga. It helps in expelling accumulated toxins from the system. Continues cleaning and maintenance are necessary for all the body parts like any other machines. Kriyas also prepare one for the Yogic practices like Asana and Pranayama.
Some of the prominent Kriyas are:
- Nauli (Baba Ramdev is known for doing this the right way)
Shankhprakshalana is a Kriya very useful for the cleaning of the body. It can be of immense help to all those suffering from chronic constipation. This is a part of “Dhouti” kriyas.
The word Shankhaprakshalana comes from two words. Shankha meaning “conch” and Prakshalana meaning to wash completely. The word Shankha is used to represent the entire alimentary canal from mouth to anus. This practice is also known as “varisar dhouti”.
Shankhaprakshalana is the process to clean the intestinal tract by removing the impurities with salty water.
Pre-preparation: Plenty of clean (At least 8-10 glasses), warm water should be available, add 1 teaspoon of rock salt.
The place to practice: The best place to practice Shankhapkshalana is a garden or in an open area where there’s fresh air on an empty stomach. Make sure that adequate toilet facilities are nearby.
Procedure: Start the process early in the morning.
- Drink 2 glasses of the water preparation as quickly as possible, in a sitting position.
- Perform the following 5 sets of Asana as shown in the video
- Tadasana (10 times)
- Tiryaka Tadasana (5 times each side)
- Kati Chakrasana (5 times each side)
- Triyaka Bhujangasana (5 times each side)
- Udarakashasana (5 times each side)
- Drink 2 more glasses of water
- Perform 5 sets of Asana as shown in the video (As per 2 above)
- Last round of water, drink 2 more glasses of water
- Perform 5 sets of Asana as shown in the video (As per 2 above)
- It’s done. Wait for a while. It’s the time for a clear bowel movement.
Restriction: People suffering from gastric or duodenal ulcers, ulcerative colitis should not perform this. People suffering from high blood pressure should not use salt.
Frequency: Perform for 3 to 5 days every quarter.
Benefits: Very good for people suffering from chronic constipation, gas, acidity, and other digestive disorders. It is also good for kidney and urinary health.
Caution: It should be practiced under expert Yoga teacher guidance.
“Mostly you eat for eating’s sake, you eat for the taste. But whatever you eat, it should not sit in your stomach and then not come out. Food must clear your stomach in two hours, and your body in eighteen hours. Otherwise, you are asking for a problem.”
-Beads of Truth Winter 1992
Delhi pollution is in the news. Other cities are not far behind. Air pollution is rampant not only in India but all over the world. School can remain closed for a week, office goers and daily wagers don’t have that luxury. They have to travel in heavy pollution at the cost of the health of their lungs i.e. life. By the time Govt do anything our lungs will bear the brunt.
Aren’t we paying a heavy cost for living in the cities?
Aren’t we paying a heavy cost of electing non-performing leaders?
The Govt is worried about NPAs with the banks, but the biggest problem we are facing is of NPLs i.e. Non Performing Leaders.
Be that as it may, let’s take control of our health in our hand.
Why lungs are important: Oxygen enters our lungs as part of the air that we breathe. It goes to the blood vessels deep in our lungs and then on to all parts of our body. As our body uses oxygen, it makes a waste product called carbon dioxide. We get rid of carbon dioxide when we breathe out. Our lungs are as important for us as Oxygen is for us.
As per the report by Physicians for Social responsibility, air pollution can trigger;
- New cases of Asthma
- Worsen existing Asthma conditions
- Lung Cancer
- Chronic Obstructive pulmonary disease
- Emphysema, a condition in which the air sacs of the lungs are damaged and enlarged, causes breathlessness.
- Risk future lung disease
There are certain Asana and Pranayama which can strengthen the health of our lungs.
First, of all Surya Namashkar is very good for the respiratory system. Other effective asana postures are:
- Supta Vajrasana
- Kapalbhati Kriya
- Anulom Vilom Pranayama
Are very effective in improving the health of the lungs and respiratory system.
Do not practice if you have a spine, neck or back problems. Practice these postures under proper guidance.
- Lung capacity is improved
- Breathlessness is reduced
- Breathing capacity is increased
- Thoracic cage becomes flexible
- The respiratory passage is cleaned
- Breathing becomes easy and regulated
Be ready to deal with the air pollution attack. The daily practice of the above practices can help you minimise the impact of heavy air pollution.
Remember: Stop active and passive smoking. Govt can’t do anything here.
“Spread solution not pollution!” Unknown
Yoga Best Practices
There is a difference between Yoga and Exercise. Yes. There are exercises like sports, wrestling, athletics, judo, karate, gymnastics, gymnasium, etc. All have different purposes like strength, speed, skill, agility, cardiovascular health etc.
But Yoga practices have different objectives and benefits. Yogic practice results in an improvement of the tone of the vital organs and important muscles. It also increases neuromuscular coordination.
Many of us practice Yoga. But before we practice proper care should be taken about the practices. Here are some tips.
- Place and Surrounding should be quiet, airy, insects free and clean. It should be cheerful. Better and pleasant place and surrounding improve the enthusiasm and we can participate more actively in the Yoga practices.
- Time: As a general rule, the best time to perform Yoga is on an empty or light stomach. Early morning or in the evening is the ideal time. Ideally, Yoga practices should be performed after 4/5 hours after the full meal and 2/3 hours after a light meal. I have observed Yoga practices in the morning after the bath and in the evening can be practiced with more flexibility.
- Dress: Minimum, light and loose dress are recommended for proper practices.
- Seat: Have Yoga carpet on the ground in which you practice Yoga. The base ground should not be too soft or too hard.
- Between two practices: Have adequate rest in between the two practices by relaxing the body for a few seconds. It shouldn’t be practiced nonstop.
- Yogic practices should be performed with ease and comfort without force or strain.
- All Yogic movements should be slow, steady, continues, rhythmic and graceful. Do not hurry.
- Avoid competitive spirit, do according to your capacity.
- Prayatna Saithilyata (Less effort): It should be practiced with minimum physical and mental effort.
- Bhedatmak Sithilta (Differential relaxation): This means only those parts which are involved in the practice should be used and other parts should be relaxed consciously. Usually, unconsciously we stress other parts too. This should be consciously avoided.
- Eyes: While going in the posture and coming out, keep your eyes open. Close the eyes in the final posture.
- Breathing: During the practice keep breathing with the nose from start to finish. Unless in some postures, breathing regulation is advised.
- Pranadharna (Focus on the breath): During the final posture and maintaining the posture, keep your focus on your breath. Count your breath while you are in the posture. This will help the practitioners avoid wandering the mind.
- The way of life: Keep practicing daily. It is a way of life.
Make your Yogic practices pleasurable and do it right for the maximum benefits.
“To perform every action artfully is yoga.” – Swami Kripaivananda
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Yoga & Virat Kohli:
Yes, Indian Cricket Captain is known for his aggression also knows how to calm down when required. He tweets;
“I love this book. A must-read for all those who are brave enough to let their thoughts and ideologies be challenged.”
‘He is referring to a book is a famous Yoga book by an Indian Yogi Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda.
The goodreads.com profiled this book as:
This acclaimed autobiography presents a fascinating portrait of one of the great spiritual figures of our time.
With engaging candor, eloquence, and wit, Paramahansa Yogananda narrates the inspiring chronicle of his life: the experiences of his remarkable childhood, encounters with many saints and sages during his youthful search throughout India for an illumined teacher, ten years of training in the hermitage of a revered yoga master, and the thirty years that he lived and taught in America.
Also recorded here are his meetings with Mahatma Gandhi, Rabindranath Tagore, Luther Burbank, the Catholic stigmatist Therese Neumann, and other celebrated spiritual personalities of East and West.
Autobiography of a Yogi is at once a beautifully written account of an exceptional life and a profound introduction to the ancient science of Yoga and its time-honored tradition of meditation.
The author clearly explains the subtle but definite laws behind both the ordinary events of everyday life and the extraordinary events commonly termed miracles. His absorbing life story thus becomes the background for a penetrating and unforgettable look at the ultimate mysteries of human existence.
Considered a modern spiritual classic, the book has been translated into more than twenty languages and is widely used as a text and reference work in colleges and universities.
A perennial bestseller since it was first published sixty years ago, Autobiography of a Yogi has found its way into the hearts of millions of readers around the world.
Interesting to know is even Steve Jobs recommended this book to all. It is believed that this was the only e-book found on Jobs’s personal iPad 2.
Here is one of the finest quotes from the book;
“You may control a mad elephant; You may shut the mouth of the bear and the tiger;
Ride the lion and play with the cobra; By alchemy, you may learn your livelihood;
You may wander through the universe incognito; Make vassals of the gods; be ever youthful;
You may walk in the water and live in fire, But control of the mind is better and more difficult.”
Here is a brief about the Swami who is inspiring Virat Kohli and the likes of Steve Jobs.
Paramhansa Yogananda (sometimes spelled Paramahansa Yogananda), 1893 – 1952, was the first yoga master of India to take up permanent residence in the West. Yogananda arrived in America in 1920, and proceeded to travel throughout the United States on what he called his “spiritual campaigns.”
Yogananda’s initial impact on western culture was truly impressive. But his lasting spiritual legacy has been even greater. His book Autobiography of a Yogi, first published in 1946, helped launch a spiritual revolution in the West. Translated into more than a dozen languages, it remains a best-selling spiritual classic to this day.
The lasting contribution brought by Yogananda to the West is the non-sectarian, universal spiritual path of Self-Realization.
Yogananda gave this definition to the term Self-Realization:
Self-Realization is the knowing in all parts of body, mind, and soul that you are now in possession of the kingdom of God; that you do not have to pray that it come to you; that God’s omnipresence is your omnipresence; and that all that you need to do is improve your knowledge.
As the means of attaining this exalted spiritual state Yogananda initiated his followers into the ancient technique of Kriya Yoga, which he called the “jet-airplane route to God.”
The path of Kriya Yoga, which combines the practice of advanced yogic techniques with spirituality in daily life.
This is Swami Yogananda for you. Celebrate International Yoga Day with life-changing reading about Yoga and Yogis. Performing Asana and Pranayama are important but practitioners should climb the Ashtanga ladder day by day, every day.
Yoga, Yogis, Ashrams, and their Wisdom:
When the world will be celebrating International Yoga Day on 21st June 2018, it is important to know about Yoga beyond just Asana and Pranayama.
We will now from their wisdom how Yoga can become life-changing engagement for the practitioners. Though Yoga history goes beyond Sage Patanjali, the Ashtanga Yoga, the Yoga we know today was written by Sage Patanjali as Yoga Sutras. He is known as the father of Yoga.
Let’s begin our journey of knowing about prominent Yogis and their wisdom with Sage Patanjali.
Sage Patanjali is the ‘father of Yoga’ who compiled 195 Yoga Sutras that became the foundation of Yoga philosophy. The commentary on these sutras is called Bhasya. The core essence of Patanjali is the eightfold path of Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga) that focuses upon healthy living through Yoga.
His famous quotes:
- There is always a light within us that is free from all sorrow and grief, no matter how much we may be experiencing suffering.
- Be happy for those who are happy, have compassion towards the unhappy, and maintain equanimity towards the wicked.
Born in Calcutta in 1863, Swami Vivekananda showed a desire to unravel the spiritual and realize God even when he was a child. This is why he chose Ramakrishna as his Guru because he was sure that Ramakrishna would be able to demonstrate for him the reality of God.
Ramakrishna introduced him to Advaita Vedanta and also told him that all religions are true. However, the best form of worship is service to man.
The credit of introducing Vedanta and Yoga to Europe and America goes to Swami Vivekananda. He founded the Ramakrishna Mission and Math.
His famous quotes:
- In a conflict between the heart and the brain, follow your heart.
- Seek no praise, no reward, for anything you do.
Sri Aurobindo was one of the brilliant prolific spiritual personalities of India. Sri Aurobindo Ghose was a great yogi, philosopher, and poet. Sri Aurobindo penned down a total 68 books on different domains of spirituality.
His best publication is ‘The Life Divine’, which focuses on theoretical aspects of Yoga, another one is ‘Synthesis of Yoga’ that throws light on practical facets of Yoga. Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry is a great seat of spiritual practice, which is known as Integral Yoga.
Auroville or Aurobindo Ashram spread the spirit of universal brotherhood. He was born in Kolkata on 15th August 1872 and sent to London for study at the age of seven.
His famous quotes:
- True knowledge is not attained by thinking. It is what you are; it is what you become.
- Detachment is the beginning of mastery.
Born in 1883, Swami Kuvalayananda saw the renaissance of the national movement and became a freedom fighter. He was influenced by Sri Aurobindo when at college and by Paramahansa Madhavdasji at a later date.
Madhavdasji by far had the greater influence on Kuvalayananda as he encouraged his students to approach yoga scientifically. Kuvalayananda studied the effects that yoga had on the human body and the health benefits that accrue from yoga practice.
The experiments carried out at the laboratory at Baroda Hospital in 1920-21 convinced Kuvalayananda that yoga could propagate health and bring about spiritual motivation that could illuminate change in human society.
He wished now to use yoga systematically to bring about health and healing to humanity. With this mission in mind, he established the Kaivalyadhama Institute of Yoga at Lonavala, Pune.
Swami Sivananda Saraswati
Born in 1887 at Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu in 1887 Swami Sivananda was a Doctor in Malaysia, but he renounced his medical practice in 1924 when Swami Vishwananda Saraswati initiated him into Dashnami Sannyasa. He practiced intense Sadhana, yoga and learned the scriptures.
He became a wandering monk and toured the length and breadth of India. Wherever Sivananda went, he tried to awaken the moral and spiritual consciousness of people.
In 1936, he founded the Divine Life Society at Rishikesh with the main aim of spreading spiritual knowledge and serving mankind. Being a doctor he started the Sivananda Ayurvedic Pharmacy in 1945.
His famous quotes:
- Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.
- The mind is responsible for feelings of pleasure and pain. Control of the mind is the highest Yoga.
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (November 18, 1888 – February 28, 1989) was an Indian yoga teacher, Ayurvedic healer, and scholar. Often referred to as “The Father of Modern Yoga,” Krishnamacharya is widely regarded as one of the most influential yoga teachers of the 20th century and is credited with the revival of hatha yoga.
Krishnamacharya held degrees in all the six Vedic darśanas or Indian philosophies. While under the patronage of the Maharaja of Mysore, Krishna Raja Wadiyar IV, Krishnamacharya travelled around India giving lectures and demonstrations to promote yoga, including such feats as stopping his heartbeat.
He is widely considered as the architect of vinyasa in the sense of combining breathing with movement.
His famous quotes:
- In the practice of Yoga, one can emphasize the body, the mind or the self and hence the effort can never be fruitless.
- No one is wise by birth, for wisdom results from one own’s efforts.
Paramahansa Yogananda is one of the pioneer Indian Yoga masters who introduced meditation and Kriya Yoga to the western world through his book ‘Autography of a Yogi’. In one of his other books, The Self-Realisation Fellowship Lessons, Paramahansa Yogananda stressed upon the realization of God through Yogic practices.
It is pertinent to know Steve Jobs, the famous founder of Apple, had read his book Autography of a Yogi. He also had recommended everyone to read the book. Indian cricket skipper Virat Kohli also is inspired by his book.
His famous quotes:
- It is spiritual poverty, not material lack, that lies at the core of all human suffering.
- Having lots of money while not having inner peace is like dying of thirst while bathing in the ocean.
K Pattabhi Jois
Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois was born on 26th July 1915. Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois is one of the multi-faceted Yoga preachers of India and known worldwide for his Ashtanga Yoga. He established Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore. He was the disciple of S.T. Krishnamacharya and his Yogic philosophy revolve around his Guru.
His famous quotes:
- Yoga is possible for anybody who really wants it. Yoga is universal…. But don’t approach yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain.
- The whole purpose of Hatha yoga is to purify and control our senses. It is the ultimate science of helping us discover what lies behind the apparent reality of body and mind.
Swami Chidananda Saraswati
Born in 1916 at Tamil Nadu, Chidananda Saraswati became interested in the spiritual life right from an early age. He often read books written by Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekanand, and Swami Sivananda and so it was easy for him to know that he wanted sanyas.
At first, he tried detachment in 1936, but his family persuaded him to return home. However, in 1943 he finally joined Swami Sivananda at his ashram in Rishikesh.
With the guidance of Swami Sivananda, he set up the Yoga Museum which housed the entire Vedanta philosophy and also a pictorial Yoga Sadhana process. He became the President of Divine Life Society in 1963 when his predecessor took Mahasamadhi.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was born on 12th January, 918 and is one of the great Indian Yoga Gurus famous across the globe equally.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi was the founder of ‘Transcendental Meditation Techniques’. He trained many teachers in ‘Transcendental Meditation and taught Transcendental Meditation Techniques to more than 5 million people across the globe.
His famous quotes:
- Happiness radiates like the fragrance from a flower and draws all good things towards you.
- What you see you become.
B.K. S. Iyengar is popularly known as Guruji, who genuinely explains the meaning of Yoga Sutras. Born in 1918, he is one of the leading Yoga personalities in the world and popularizes yoga across the globe.
Yogacharya Iyengar’s style of teaching Yoga is unique and termed as ‘Iyengar Yoga’. B. K. S. Iyengar has command over Yogasanas, in fact, has the authority over asanas.
B.K.S Iyengar has written many books on Yoga Philosophy such as ‘Light on Yoga’, ‘Light on Pranayama’, ‘Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali’, ‘Patanjali Yoga Sutra Parichay’, etc. He is the recipient of Padma Shri and Padma Bhushan.
In a survey of Times Magazine, he is named as one of the 100 most Influential People in the World in 2004.
His famous quotes:
- Yoga is like music. The rhythm of the body, the melody of the mind, and the harmony of the soul create the symphony of life.
- Yoga does not just change the way we see things, it transforms the person who sees.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Born in 1923 in Almora, Uttarakhand Swami Satyananda showed a spiritual tendency and heightened awareness right from the age of 6 years. In 1943, he left home and came in contact with Swami Sivananda at Rishikesh and the Swami initiated him into the Dashnami Sannyas.
Satyananda performed such intense nishkam (Selfless) seva (service) that he was able to realize the secrets of spirituality.
He studied yoga, tantra and Vedanta and kundalini yoga in such a thorough fashion that he founded the new Bihar School of Yoga in 1963 and became the pioneer of this yoga practice.
His famous quotes:
- Becoming aware of the connection between the external and the internal you is the purpose of yoga, as well as the whole life.
- Yoga is not an ancient myth buried in oblivion. It is the most valuable inheritance of the present. It is the essential need of today and the culture of tomorrow.
Born in 1925 in a village called Toli in the Garhwal Himalayas, Swami Rama became the holder of the Sankhya Yoga tradition.
He was encouraged by his Master Madhavananda Saraswati to travel and seek out all the remote monasteries in the Himalayas including Nepal. This way Rama got to study with the various Himalayan sages as also with his Grandmaster who lived in distant Tibet. Swami Rama traveled extensively in America and Europe and took his knowledge of yoga to those continents.
He is the first of the Yogis who was studied scientifically at Menninger Clinic in the USA. Scientists wanted to understand how he was able to control his heartbeat, body temperature, and blood pressure voluntarily as these are involuntary processes.
He is the founder of the Himalayan Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy with headquarters in USA and branches in India and Europe.
His famous quotes:
- Jealousy is an evil which grows in the womb of ego and is nourished by selfishness and attachment.
- To achieve purity of mind, one should cultivate constant awareness by being mindful all the time. one should remain always aware of one’s thoughts.
Sri Sri Ravishankar
Born in South India, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, popularly known as Gurudev could recite the Bhagavad Gita at an early age of four. By combining scientific temper with ancient spiritual wisdom, he has rekindled the traditions of yoga and meditation and has offered them in a form that works in the 21st century.
Sri Sri has offered to the world powerful techniques like Sudarshan Kriya®, Chakra Kriya and Shakti Kriya for personal and social transformation. Through his silence retreats, Gurudev has brought ancient secrets of a spiritual lure and has helped people re-discover themselves.
His teachings have transformed millions of lives in both the mundane and the sublime. He is the founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association of Human Values and his programs and initiatives have touched the lives of over 370 million people in 152 countries.
His famous quotes:
- Withdraw your senses from the object to its source, then the union happens, then the yoga happens.
- Yoga is not just a weight-loss program, it is a science to make you feel lighter. You lose mental stuff of anger, jealousy, hatred, greed, etc.
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Hailing from the glorious tradition of Southern Indian Mysticism, Sadhguru is an accomplished yogi of the highest order and is among the few rare beings known as “Chakreshwara” – one who has complete mastery over the 114 chakras in the human system.
He has initiated millions across the globe into powerful spiritual processes. He developed Isha Yoga, as a scientific method to accelerate the release of physical, mental and emotional blocks, resulting in a life-transforming experience of clarity and boundless energy.
Inner Engineering, Isha’s flagship program, introduces Shambhavi Mahamudra a simple but powerful kriya (inner energy process). Sadhguru is widely sought after by prestigious global forums to address issues as diverse as human rights, business values, and social, environmental and existential issues.
He is the founder of Isha Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the well-being of the individual and the world for the past three decades.
His famous quotes:
- Every day, twice a day if you are reminded that you will also die, then naturally you will move towards knowing higher dimensions of perception.
- If your experience of life transcends the limitations of the physical, only then we can say you are spiritual.
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Baba Ramdev should be credited for his exemplary work of creating awareness about Yoga across commoners around the world. Baba Ramdev specializes in different forms of pranayama which are said to cure many diseases and ailments including facilitating weight loss and lifestyle-related disorders.
Baba Ramdev’s pranayama modules are quite popular as yoga for weight loss. He influences Yoga practice at home by watching Yoga programmes on television, thus, taking the practice to almost every house urban and rural.
Baba Ramdev was born in Haryana in 1965 and established the Patanjali Yogpeeth and Centre of Yoga awareness at Haridwar. This spiritual guru also set up a factory to manufacture various Ayurvedic medicines and products.
Baba Ramdev is said to have been influenced by Aurobindo Ghose’s booklet on Yogic Sadhna, which led to his deep affection for yoga and meditation in the caves of Himalaya.
His famous quotes:
- The remedy for all illnesses lies in yoga and a healthy lifestyle.
- You might be managing big businesses and enterprises. Yoga is important because it teaches you to manage your own self. It brings about a complete balance in your body making it healthy.
These are the real assets of India. Indian Yogis who practiced, mastered, propagated, and achieved higher pursuit through Yoga. Let’s we all dedicate ourselves to Yoga and achieve what a human only can achieve i.e. Samadhi, the final objective of the Ashtanga Yoga.
The International Yoga Day
International Day of Yoga, is celebrated annually on 21 June since its inception in 2015. An international day for yoga was declared unanimously by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his UN address suggested the date of 21 June, as it is the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and shares special significance in many parts of the world.
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