Lesson 1: Yoga - its nature and scope

There are many meanings of Yoga around. Some refer to physical postures, some to breathing techniques and some to mental techniques. In this lesson you will learn the meaning of Yoga as described in the ancient Indian Yogic texts.

The word Yoga means union. Union with the God. The God is referred by many names. Some call Him Atman, some Soul, some Bramhan and some others Creator. Whatever you name Him the underlying principal remains the same. In these lessons we will call him as God because it is the most common word than everybody understands and can relate to.

Though the meaning of word Yoga is union it also refers to all the means and processes adopted to achieve this union. These means and processes include many things such as meditation, pranayama, kriyas and many others. If you see the underlying principal of any of these techniques you will realize that they all finally aim at controlling the mind and consciousness. Be it Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Bhakti Yoga or Raja Yoga all aim at Samadhi, the state of union. Thus Yoga means restraining fluctuations or patterns of your mind.

Imagine that you are sitting near a lake. Whenever some external cause such as wind causes ripples in the water you are unable to see its bottom. When the ripples fade away you can see the bottom clearly. The same holds true for God union also. Unless you are able to divert your outward going mind into the deep realms of internal consciousness you will not be able to achieve this union. External world will always cause ripples in your mind.

The little tides riding on the big ocean always feel that they are separate from the ocean. The external factors such as wind and gravitational force gives them a false impression of their existence. When they are made standstill they realize that they and the ocean are the same. There was never a difference between them. Some delusion made them believe on untruth. The same thing has happened to us. We are all identifying us as "I". We have forgotten that we are nothing but the God. We were never different from Him. It is the Maya or cosmic delusion that makes us identify with this body. If we want to return to Him we must learn to dissolve the waves arising in the mind. We must learn to destroy the Maya. Once the Maya is destroyed we understand our true nature. That's why God union is same as self-realization. This is what Yoga proclaims.

The mind is always under the influence of three gunas or qualities - Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. Tamasic qualities represents ignorance, inertia and dullness. Rajasic qualities refers to actions and Sattvic qualities refers to peace, calmness and bliss. If you want to make any progress in Yoga you must learn to destroy Tamasic and Rajasic aspects of your personality and cultivate and nourish Sattvaic aspects. You will find that various Yogic techniques help you to do just that.

Often Yoga is misunderstood as something to do in the morning along with the other physical exercises. Some feel doing Japa or chanting mantras for an hour constitutes Yoga. These all are misconceptions. If you want to become a Yogi then Yoga should flow in your blood. It should become part of your life. Do you ever forget breathing? Do you ever skip food? The way food, clothing and shelter are basic needs of all human beings Yoga is an additional need of a Yogi.

Human beings have four types of personalities - physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual. Yoga shows you how to reduce friction between these personalities and bring harmony in your life. Thus Yoga in not a "once in a day" thing but it is total nourishment on which you feed. It is a way of life. Once you become a Yogi you will realize that without Yoga you will not be able to live. You will find life suffocating and naturally it will become part of your life.

Yoga benefits you in many ways. Good health, peace of mind, stress free life, harmony in relationships are some of them. However, it is important to remember that these all are byproducts of your practice. The final aim is undoubtedly self-realization.

Just to summarize this lesson:

  • The literal meaning of the word Yoga is Union.
  • Yoga refers to all the means and processes adopted to achieve self-realization.
  • Yogic techniques aim at restraining fluctuations or patterns of your mind.
  • Yoga is not "once in a day" thing; it is a way of life.

May the Peace be with you.

Bipin Joshi is an independent software consultant and trainer by profession specializing in Microsoft web development technologies. Having embraced the Yoga way of life he is also a yoga mentor, meditation teacher, and spiritual guide to his students. He is a prolific author and writes regularly about software development and yoga on his websites. He is programming, meditating, writing, and teaching for over 27 years. To read more about him go here. More details about his Kriya and Meditation online course are available here.

Posted On : 01 September 2006

Tags : Yoga Patanjali Raja Yoga Ashtanga Yoga Meditation Courses Spirituality