what is all that fuss about yoga?

idy.pngWith the International Yoga Day round the corner, posters pop out from every street corners and there is a buzz in the air, even the unlikeliest people suddenly joining the discussion to break a few myths associated with yoga. Of course,  there will be controversies galore as yoga may seem threatening to the perceived identities of certain belief systems. But how much do we really understand the various concepts and ideas associated with yoga?

Contrary to the often propagated concept that yoga is all about creating contorted body postures and holding on to them, it has a broader connotation encompassing all areas of life.

While Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras expounds the basic philosophy of yoga, each chapter name of the Bhagavat Gita ends with yoga, Arjuna Bishada Yoga, Gyana Yoga and so on. Interestingly these two popular scriptures do not give any description about the body postures which are so passionately propagated as yoga. Sri Krishna – the Lord of yoga did not teach even a single asana to his foremost disciple Arjuna during the entire length and breadth of the Bhagavat Gita. Nor did Arjuna had to do a Sirsashana (head stand) on a yoga mat amid the battle cries of Kurukshetra to a get a distorted view of the prevailing state affairs so as to fall into such depression that Sri Krishna took eighteen chapters with 700  verses to bring him to his senses.

By the way, references to various body postures and other physical yogic techniques can be found in Hathayoga Pradipika. However, Many of the asanas have been handed over to us in master-disciple tradition, some of them refined and  some distorted, in their long passage through 5000 years of the yogic history.

The meaning the word yoga is to join, to connect. So purpose of yoga is to connect all the loose ends of life. At a basic level it is to connect with oneself. Surprisingly, the first chapter of the Bhagavat Gita is Arjunabishada yoga – the yoga of Arjuna falling into depression and the last chapter is Mokshasannyas Yoga- the yoga of enlightenment . When one is happy, one spreads out and forgets oneself. But it is during the times of misery and depression that one starts to remember oneself. But that is only the starting point. As it happened in Bhagavat Gita, through the guidance of a master of yoga like Lord Sri Krishna, Arjun was led from the state of depression and dismay to the state of ultimate awareness- from Arjunabishada Yoga to Mokshasannyas Yoga. In the Gita, Lord Sri Krishna is referred as Yogeshwara – the lord of yoga. At one place He says – Samatwam Yoga uchyate – to be in a state of equanimity is yoga. So, the scripture is full of description of the yogic state and how to attain that state.

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, yoga is defined as yogaschttabritih nirodhah. Even though different authors translate it in different ways, keeping in view the spirit of the book, I feel the nearest would be – Yoga is all about mastery over the modes of consciousness. Unlike Bhagavat Gita, the Yoga Sutras start with Samadhi pada – the state of ultimate bliss and equanimity. With scientific precision it describes,  explores and categorises the inner world of a human being.

Different religions and scriptures use different symbols and techniques. When one goes beyond those symbols or when one tries to decipher the real indications of those symbols, I feel, one may find those things touching upon some concept of yoga, even though they may  not be using the word.

Anything that you do, whether it is religious activity or secular activity, whether it is dictated by tradition or something new, if it gives you a glimpse into your real nature, if it brings you bliss, peace calmness and contentment, that is your yogic path.

If at the basic level yoga joins you with yourself, in a larger context yoga is being in harmony with your surroundings and the humanity at large. Thus, it starts with the well being of oneself but, ultimately it must spread to the society.

Do not all religions claim it to be their basic purpose in spite of the disagreements as to the methods to be followed to do this?

31 thoughts on “what is all that fuss about yoga?

  1. Krishna preached the bhakti yoga in Bhagvad Gita. He says,”bhaktya mam abhijanati Only through the process of bhakti can one understand God.” All the other processes gyana and yoga are only means to reach the pure devotional stage.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Shaloo madam, Krishna talked about all three – Karma, Jnana and Bhakti, and also Rajayoga in the Gita. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras outlines Rajayoga.

      Dash Sir, Hathayoga Pradipika is by Swatmarama


      Liked by 2 people

  2. One thing which makes this fuss debatable is the Sanskrit names given to the various postures. For example, suryanamaskar might be inferred as bowing down to sun, whereas some religions forbid the practice of seeking blessings from anyone but one almighty.

    All the names should be changed to some scientific classifications like spinebending exercise 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Actually Sanskrit language and names themselves are scientific. Unfortunately, these days many western scholars are taking more interest in Sanskrit than our Indian intellectuals.

      Namaskar is a combination of two words namah and kar. Namah (which literally means not me) is opposite of man (mind), where there is no mind or no ego. It corresponds with the budhhist concept of a-man. Buddhists say a-man. we say na-man.

      Even many modern psychologists study Budhha to understand the inner working of man.

      Sanskrit words do not denote concepts steeped in blind belief. Many of our prejudices towards ancient Indian concepts arise because of our lack of understanding of our ancient philosophy.

      It maybe noted that in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, God (Iswara) is mentioned only once and that to as one of the means to attain Samadhi. It is a secular text.

      As one of the prominent western vedic scholars, Dr. David Frawly says in his recent tweet: “India’s Yoga tradition is the driving force behind world spiritual culture,
      placing direct experience through meditation over any beliefs.”

      Yoga itself is not a belief system. Guided by a trained master you do certain techniques and have the experience. Belief in any supernatural power is not a pre-requisite for the yogic path.

      Coming to surya namaskar it is a set of twelve postures. One can do these postures without taking the names. The health benefit will be the same. One can do these postures without thinking these as tribute to the sun god, though there is nothing wrong in showing one’s reverence to a force of the nature.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Though there are some points I agree with your reply, I would still not call patanjali’s sutras as secular. I do practice pranayama and vipassana meditation and would vouch for its effectiveness in calming the mind and easing it towards equanimity but I still would not call the explanation to its working entirely scientific.
        Yoga and ayurveda might be effective in certain cases, but claiming them as the panacea of all the diseases is not at all scientific and I would term it as a blind belief.
        The explanation of the concept of prana as some sort of mystic energy different than normal air flow is not at all scientific. Similarly you will tend to find many scientists and doctors disproving the vatt pitt kaf theory of yoga and ayurveda.
        Do you believe in homeopathy? I have hard time believing in aurveda as well for all sorts of diseases.
        At most one can say that Yoga can be taken as a way of living with an open mind and a pinch of salt to its theory part which have things like soul, rebirth, prana, three balancing elements and more of such things.
        But I digressed. I would not call everything in Sanskrit scientific as well. I would not believe anything of any source be it secular or religious without being skeptical.
        Thanks for giving an opportunity to have discussion. I have met two bloggers today, whose replies are perhaps equally interesting and thought provoking as their blog posts.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I had a flexible body since childhood so was able to do even the most complicated poses. The teacher simply loved me. In the yoga class, which I joined much later, one colleague — a doctor — advised me,”My son-in-law is in Australia, he earns a lot… is a yoga instructor…you should also try…”.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. There are many misconceptions associated with yoga and my article attempts to clear some of those misconceptions and myths.

      It is good that people like Baba Ramdev are rekindling our interest in ancient Indian practices like yoga and ayurveda.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In all this noise, I hear only two voices — those who advocate it in the name of culture, and those who recommend it for health purposes. Among these advocates, I haven’t heard anyone talking about Moksha, Nirvana or Salvation. In fact, if one tells the people practising yoga that they might attain Moksha this way, I am sure a number of them would run away!

    Sir, you have made a good attempt at presenting a difficult subject. The word ‘Ashtanga’ is somehow missing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely people will run away when you use words like moksha etc. 😀 😀

      But, doing yoga regularly definitely makes the present life more healthy and interesting. Yoga is a vast subject. In this article I have attempted to touch upon a few aspects. I will cover more aspects in subsequent posts.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes some refer to Shiva as Adiyogi and the originator of yoga. Even Krishna is called Yogeshwara in Bhagavat Gita.

      “Yatra yogeshwara krishna…. ” thus goes the last stanza of The Gita.

      Thanks Sonya ji for stopping by.
      your poems are a delight to read.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It is good that people like Baba Ramdev are rekindling our interest in ancient Indian practices like yoga and ayurveda. Thanks for your kind words Definitely people will run away when you use words like moksha etc.

    Liked by 1 person

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