What is Yoga?

Yoga is an adopted name originally from the word yog which is still in use by languages derived from Sanskrit. Yog simply means a way, a method, a process. Some say it comes from the word Yoke but I can't find any reference to this.

Yoga as it is practiced in our neighborhoods today is just one (asanas) or may be two (pranayama) of the eight limbs of Ashtanga as taught by Patanjali in his book of sutras which is the most esteemed reference book used by yoga schools.

The eight limbs of yoga are Yama, niyama, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.

The first four of these are practice of yoga but normally we find asanas (often in Hatha yoga)and  pranayama taught in most studios. The first two, Yama and niyama are codes of living as recommended by Patanajali and also by Buddha in vipassana. Practices like vegetarianism, noble silence are part of Yama and niyama practice.

Pratyahara is withdrawal from five senses which is a result of yoga practice of the first four.

DHARANA is concentration upon senses like breath, vision or hearing or objects like treka on candle light or bindu on a wall etc. Dharana leads to dhyana or meditation (on the mind) and is often an integral part of yoga. Attaining an equilibrium or samyama of Dharana, dhyana and samadhi is the ultimate intention of yoga. Results can range from sidhis or unusual powers to complete liberation and enlightenment.

Mindfulness which simply means paying attention is an integral part of all yoga. Simply put if you pay keen attention on (or be mindful of) your practice of Yama, niyama, asanas and pranayama, pratyahara results which leads to a samyama of dharana, dhyana and samadhi (or meditation). When realized, as a minimum it leads the body to a blissful state such as raising kundalini or harnessing chi and as the ultimate buddhahood.


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