Yoga is not just a physical exercise, but also a practice to attain the state of mental and spiritual peace. Although highly practised in Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, Yoga is majorly accepted by people of all cultures. This practice of yogic act dates back to as long ago as the pre-Vedic Indian times, as mentioned in the auspicious Rig Veda, but there have been speculations that it was developed somewhere between the fifth and the sixth century BCE. Moreover, it is also one out of the six orthodox schools that deal with the traditions of the Hindu philosophy.
The reason behind yoga’s vast success outside India was that several experts or “gurus” took it with them and introduces the practice in the west. Even though the yoga in the west only majorly concerns with different postures, or “asanas”, which is collectively known as “Hatha Yoga”, the amount of asanas is more than one can think of. This started with the success of the famous monk, Swami Vivekananda, in either late nineteenth century or early twentieth century with him adapting yogic techniques. The practice grew highly in the 1980s, with what can be addressed to as modern yoga, where the practice got a little different, the asanas increased and even new practices got introduced.
It is also believed to work as a catalyst in curing and a corresponding intercession to several diseases including asthma, many heart diseases, mental health illness like schizophrenia, and even something like cancer. Although it is not something that has been completely proven due to varying results in studies, many claim it to be true.
According to Epic Sanskrit, connects to the spiritual sense and was first arisen in the late first millennium, BCE. Correlating to the famous Sutras of Patanjali, it aimed for the connecting of the human soul and Ishwara or the almighty. It is also said to have derived from yuj samadhau, which roughly translates to “to concentrate”, and the Sutras of Patanjali stand by it as well. Anyone practising or studying it can be referred to as a “yogi” (for men), or “yogini” (for women).
Yoga, believe it or not, have quite a few definitions. According to the holy Hindu scripture, Bhagavad Gita, from around second century BCE, it has been stated, “Yoga is a skill in action”, “It is said to be equanimity”, and that “Know that which is called yoga to be separation from contact with suffering”. According to the Katha Upanishad, fifth century BCE, “When the five senses, along with the mind, remain still and the intellect is not active, that is known as the highest state. They consider it to be firm restraint of the senses. Then one becomes un-distracted for this practice is the arising and the passing away”. The definition of it that comes from the third century BCE Brahmasutra bhasya of Adhi Shankara, states that “It is said in the treatises on yoga: ‘Yoga is the means of perceiving reality’ (atha tattvadarsanabhyupāyo yogah)”, and the one that comes from Śaradatilaka of Lakshmanadesikendra, a Shakta Tantra work, dating back to the eleventh century BCE, stated “Yogic experts state that yogic acts are the oneness of the individual soul (jiva) with the atman. Others understand it to be the ascertainment of Siva and the soul as non-different. The scholars of the Agamas say that it is a Knowledge which is of the nature of Siva’s Power. Other scholars say it is the knowledge of the primordial soul”. These are just a few of the many perceptions of yoga that were brought up in different eras of the BCE.
Be it any perception, the ultimate aim is to gain “moksha” or liberation. Whether yoga is considered to be a disciplined method for achieving an aim, ways controlling your mind as well as body, a meditative method of sorts, or even a way of entering different bodies or generating multiple bodies as well as an achievement of other supernatural undertakings, it still aims for the moksha attainment.
The connection of this practice is to Buddhism comes from the second urbanization period, or the 6th century BCE and 5th century BCE. First to used several sorts of psychophysical methods called “dhyanas” and “tapas”, a spiritual practice, according to Mallinson and Singleton. During this period, not just Buddhism, but Jainism and Ajivikas prevailed too, and they all practised the art of yoga, through different ways. The goal to attain the nirvana or moksha was mainly to move ahead to the next round of reincarnation, also known as “samsara”.
It is also believed that while Gautama Buddha was the originator of the practice of yoga, he admittedly himself had learnt and gained experiences of the technique from several yoga teachers during his time. While several yoga practices were, and still are similar to those taught in other cultures, probably the courtesy of the yoga teachers of Buddha, yoga was also highly focused around meditative practices.
As far as the yoga in Jainism is concerned, it was believed that the practice was sort of dated before the Buddhist yoga, but whatever sources have been found revolving the same date post yoga in Buddhism. It is hard to decipher about it now, as most of the resources were lost with time. These also included other sources that mentioned yoga like Upanishads and several Buddhist texts as well.
In the modern day, yoga was brought up to the attention of the western public in the around the mid-nineteenth century, as well as several other philosophical knowledgeable subjects from India. The first teacher to spread the knowledge of yoga among other things in the west was supposedly Swami Vivekananda and he took a tour of Europe and the United States of America in the 1890s. Madame Blavatsky, who was a theosophist, also was a huge influencer in terms of yoga in the west at that time. There have been several revolutions and interpretations of yoga, especially in the west, since then.
Yoga consists of several asanas, and many people visit India especially to indulge in the practice of yoga. These asanas may include different body postures, sounds and breathing exercises as well as meditations. Modern yoga was also influenced by different western practices like gymnastics, during what was called the Yoga Renaissance. For example, a twelve posture aasana called the Surya Namaskar is something that is widely practised, even by people who may not do other Yoga asanas.
This practice is today standing above a multi-billion dollar business platform that involves classes, books, teachings, schools, certificates and even clothes. It is surprising to know that the asanas in yoga have increased from eighty-four to a whopping 200 asanas and finally to 900 between the years 1830 and 1984.
In 2015, 21st June was declared as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations General Assembly. This day has since been celebrated not just in India, but all over the world, annually. The particular day was declared as the International Day of Yoga due to the fact that 21st June is the longest day in the year, in the Northern Hemisphere, and holds a special significance around the globe. The day was actually proposed by the current Prime Minister of India, Mr Narendra Modi, back in September 2014, and the idea was critically acclaimed by all yoga enthusiasts. By December 2015, it was accepted and declared as such, with the first official International Day of Yoga celebrated in 2015.
In fact this year, the International Yoga Day’s main event is supposed to be held in the city of Ranchi and is expecting no less than fifty thousand participants. The theme has been decided to be “Yoga for the Heart” and is surely going to be a success.
People from all over the world come to the city of Rishikesh, located in Uttarakhand, India, especially during the International Day of Yoga, to learn more about this practice that holds their interest. There are several ashrams that are solely dedicated to teaching about yogic positions and teaching the many asanas to anyone and everyone who sparks an interest in it.
Moreover, several gurus and other people have established countless schools, for people who want to see their future in and want to indulge in it as much as possible, and even make a career out of it.
You can easily learn yoga, from different institutes, instructors, yogis and even something like the internet. Yoga has been highly recommended even by medical professionals, as the asanas are usually pretty helpful in achieving relaxation and getting some exercise done.
Why not try something that will benefit you for sure, right?