The most popular concepts about yoga are – asanas, physical stretches, breathing exercises and techniques to relax and focus the mind. There are many kinds of yoga – Hatha Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Kriya Yoga, Raja Yoga (of Patanjali), Kundalini Yoga, Sankhya Yoga, Tattwa Yoga and many others.
Today yoga is practised mostly to attain physical fitness, stamina and weight-loss. But yoga as a holistic practice was seen as a tool to facilitate inner peace, Self-realisation and mental purification. Yoga isn’t just exercise, it’s a state of mind. All over the world, those who consider yoga to be a set of bodily and breathing exercises aiming at body-mind well-being are more than the number of people who consider yoga to be a spiritual journey.
The health benefits of yoga are manifold. However, all these systems of yoga mentioned above involve physical stretches, postures, bending and flexing of the body which cannot be practised regularly by old, unwell, and those with physical challenges. To be of benefit, it requires plenty of time and motivation to practise regularly.
The word ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit term ‘yuj’ means to connect.
Yoga is a communion of the human soul with the Supreme Soul. Such a spiritual union empowers a human to overcome lust, anger and ego and live a virtuous life with spiritual awareness and compassion.
In the present age of Kali Yuga, most people are leading a bhogi life. A bhogi chases happiness in possessions, roles, status and all outer achievements that gratify his sense of ‘i’ and mine. He engages himself endlessly in competing for space, position and material resources. His actions gradually entangle him in a web of greed, ego and attachment. A bhogi ultimately becomes a rogi – physically, mentally, morally and spiritually unhealthy.
Health is not just absence of disease but is a state of wellness in which a person enjoys physical, mental, social and spiritual health. Most diseases today are psychosomatic, caused by negative emotions. The negative ‘sanskars’ of the soul adversely influences the individual’s attitude, outlook, dietary habits, relationships and behaviour. As a consequence, norms of physical and mental health are violated. When the body’s tolerance limit is crossed by repeated violations, disease sets in.
Yoga is a way of life. It involves satvik diet, positive thinking, spiritual study, healthy relationships, silent meditation and selfless service. A yogic lifestyle does not mean renunciation or shedding family responsibilities. A yogi maintains his mental equilibrium even in adverse situations. He is naturally free from addictions and unhealthy habits. A yogi celebrates the spirit of love through a very deep and authentic spiritual connection with each other.
The basis of Raja Yoga is soul-consciousness which means considering one’s true Self as immortal soul having eternal relationship with the Supreme Soul and the disciplines of a yogic lifestyle, are clearly described in the Gita. The Gita describes the essence of Raja Yoga as mental communion with God: man-mana bhava; sarva-dharman parityajya mam ekam saranam vraja.
Raja Yoga is easy to practice. Everyone in a family including elders and children can practise this.The aim of this union with the Supreme is to become like Him in His qualities. As souls, we have similar attributes as God. As God’s children, we human souls are innately good and pure; peace, truth, love, and bliss are our innate nature.