The first thing which strikes the mind after hearing the word is physical exercises or Asanaas, meditation or maybe for some a step towards enlightenment.
The founder of Yoga is said to be PATANJALI. He defined yoga in eight limbs as Ashtanga Yoga, where moral values and discipline formed the base of study of the subject. He gave his eight fold system of yogic practice for achieving the goal of self-realization as follows:
1. Yamas or restraints or Controls - To avoid unrighteous behavior and to follow good moral values including:
- Ahinsa or non-violence - Not to hurt anyone through thoughts, words or deeds.
- Satya or truthfulness - Not telling lies in any situation/ circumstance to attain freedom.
- Brahamcharya or celibacy - Sublimation of sexual energy by not indulging in it.
- Asteya or non-stealing - No comparison and not stealing anyone’s belonging.
- Aprigraha or non covetousness - Non-possessiveness/ not accepting gifts/ bribes.
2. Niyama or rules and regulations to discipline oneself by observing:
- Cleanliness in body and speech through mediation.
- Contentment and physical, mental and emotional satisfaction.
- Performance of austerities in life.
- Studying religion to purify mind and inner self.
- Surrender to the Creator.
3. Asanas or steady poses or bodily postures to benefit the internal organs and calm the mind.
4. Pranayama or breath control exercises to discipline breath. The word “prana” means life force/ vital energy/ breath and “yama” means controlling or sustaining where we control and store the vital energy by purifying the nerves and astral channels through a particular breath pattern.
5. Pratyahara or detachment of five senses and five organs of action from the material things and fruits of action.
6. Dharana or concentration or unbroken contemplation on any one thing to bring seclusion of thoughts.
7. Dhyana or meditation where “dhee” means mind and “ayan” mean to control or direct the energies of body and mind to experience bliss state of mind.
8. Samadhi or super conscious stage or self realization by elevating oneself beyond material world.
Yoga evolved itself over generations and decades. A layman would think of yoga as a means of being physically fit and some others would quote it for the elderly people. Through the passage of time this science has revealed its benefits not only to those who are physically weak or mentally stressed but also to those who are looking for inner peace and spiritual attainment.
Yoga is now becoming the craze among the youth due to its challenges it throws in the form of attainting certain postures as a means to stay in shape or loose weight. A larger group of society is indebted to it for the benefits they derived from the therapeutic effects of certain postures and breathing patterns.
If rightly performed, yoga leads to physical fitness, mental alertness and thus leading to spiritual advancement.