As the readers may be aware, Yoga is a lot more than just physical postures. Yoga is not just for the body; in fact the ultimate aim of Yoga is transcending the limiting body consciousness – our chief hurdle.
WHAT IS YOGA: The name Yoga (actually Yog) is derived from the root words Yujir (to connect) and Yuj (to manage). Unless we connect, we cannot manage. The body,mind,intellect,ego and soul are to be all connected for a better inner organization. Yoga connects these various levels of our being, brings the inner union between the errant ego and intuitive soul and eventually, the final union between the ego-liberated soul and Spirit. Yoga is both the journey and the goal.
David S. Jordan said, there can be no excellence without right living. Ashtanga Raja Yoga, the ultimate blend that makes a scientific path for the final Union, begins with the 10 principles of right living, the Do’s and Don’ts :
Yama : the five Don’ts. Ahimsa, non-violence (in thought, speech and action) ; Satya, no lying or untruth ; Brahmacharya, no irresponsible sensual indulgence (rather than literal abstinence from sex which married couples need for procreation) ; Asteya, no theft or craving for things not yours ; Aparigraha, no hoarding of things more than your actual need.
Similarly, we have the 5 Do’s (Niyama) : Shouch (Cleanliness in body and mind), Santosh (Contentment), Tapa (rigorous self-discipline), Swadhyaya (study of scriptures and self-study) and Ishwar Pranidhan (devotional surrender to God). Together these are like, and very similar to, the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament..
YOGA & BODY : As we said in the beginning, Yoga is not just for the body. Nor do you ignore the body, for that matter. In Yoga, in ‘sadhana’ (spiritual practices), the body does have its own important place but only as a means, not as the end. Yogic exercises score over all other exercises in that they exercise not only the external muscles, but the internal organs also, including the endocrine glands, and pranayama helps re-wire the neural circuits, helping one to change habits ; secondly, Yoga stresses upon relaxation (Vishraam) as much as it emphasizes upon workout (Vyayaam), for ex. through Shavasana, Meditation, etc. This improves sleep, our most natural destressor, which in turn improves focus.
And that’s the central point; we ‘have‘ bodies but we ‘are‘ not them.
The right attitude to the body is like that of a conscientious employer to the employee ; the body is, in the enlightened words of St. Francis of Assisi, the ‘Brother Donkey’, a beast of burden. In “Saints That Moved the World”, it is said that when Saint Francis was building the church at San Damian, he “designated his own body to serve him as beast of burden. He lifted heavy stones, one at a time, and said: ‘Now, Brother Donkey, carry it to San Damian.’ And when Donkey Body broke down at times under the great burden, driver Francis would encourage and calm him and sternly he would add: ‘Brother Donkey, the Father wills it, we must hurry.’ Then Donkey Body would obey.”
So we neither indulge in, nor exploit, neither pamper, nor torture the body. We just take care of it as an aware owner will take care of his vehicle, and go beyond it. If you are attached to the car you have, you won’t be able to leave it at the destination ; nor would you be sure of arriving at it if you did not maintain it, letting it break down on the way !
YOGA & MIND : The next hurdle is the Mind which has been compared by Sw. Vivekananda to “a drunken money, generously fed on liquor, bitten by a scorpion and possessed by a devil’s soul ” , and verily so it is, unless disciplined. What is the best way to discipline it ? Pranayama and right living.
The mind is neither the brain nor all of our Consciousness. The mind rules the brain which is its hardware or the CPU, and itself is that limited part of Consciousness which is defined and bound by Time and Space coordinates.
That part in us who only likes and dislikes, and is driven by sensual pleasure and displeasure, is the lower mind (Manas). It is like the rein in a chariot, supposed to control the wild steeds of the five senses but usually unable, unless firmly in the hands of the charioteer – that part of us which insists that what feels unpleasant may be good for us, or that which is so pleasant in doing (overstuffing the tummy with that big burger or pizza or another drink, for example) may actually be bitter in result. It is the higher mind, the discriminating intellect (Buddhi).
YOGA & FOCUS : All successful people have had great concentration or focus. Pranayama (Life-force management through the agency of breath) and Pratyahara (interiorization), the 4th and 5th steps that follow Yama-Niyama-Asana in Ashtanga Raja Yoga, bring about an incredible control over the distractions of mind – both outer (sensory) and inner (thought-related). As concentration (Dharana, the 6th step) builds up, it can be used on a business problem or a project point, as much as it can be used for focusing on the latent divinity of every soul, which then becomes Dhyan, or Meditation, the 7th step, eventually leading to Samadhi, or Self-Realization.
Read part 2 to understand the true power of Yoga.