Yoga & Meditation

Yoga is a pragmatic science, evolved over thousands of years in India which deals with the physical , moral , mental and spiritual well-being of man. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root 'yuj' which means ' to join or to attach '. It also means union or communion .

Therefore the word ' Yoga' means the union of an individual with the Supreme Universal Spirit In Indian thoughts, everything is permeated by the Supreme Universal Spirit (Paramatma) of which the individual human spirit (Atma) is a part. The system of yoga teaches the means by which the Atma can be united to or be in communion with the Paramatma and thus secure liberation or emancipation (Moksha) .

Yoga is one of the most orthodox systems of Indian philosophy . It was systematised and explained by Patanjali in his classical work , the yoga sutras , which consists of 185 aphorisms . One who follows the path of yoga is a yogi or a Yogini. The stages of Yoga Patanaji defines Yoga , in the second aphorism of the first chapter of the yoga sutras , as 'Chitta Vrutti Nirodha ' .

This may be translated as the restraint of mental states or as suppression of the fluctuation of consciousness . Thus, Yoga is the method by which the restless mind is calmed and disciplined so that the mental energy can be directed into constructive channels . Patanjali describes this stages of yoga .Therefore, his system is also called ' Ashtang Yoga ' or ' Eight-fold path ' .

These eight stages are :-
1) Yama - Yama summarizes the commandments for ethical discipline . They are - Ahinsa (Non-Voilence), Satya (truth) , Asteya (Non-stealing), Brahmacharya (confidence) , Aparigraha (Non-coveting).

2) Niyama - Niyama are the rules of conduct which every individual yogi follows. They are Saucha (Cleanliness and Purity ) , Santosha (Contentment), Tapes (Austerity) , Svadhaya (Study of the self ) , Ishvara Pranidhana
(Dedication of God ) .

3) Asana - This is the most widely known part of yoga .Asanas are the postures or the physical exercises which bring steadiness , health and harmony to the body and mind . Asana develop agility , balance and endurance in the body and also create mental equilibrium . A yogi conquers the body by the practice of asanas and makes it a fit vehicle for the spirit Thus he prepares his body for the higher-level practice to follow.

4) Pranayama - 'Prana' means the life-force energy . It means life ,vitality and energy , but also means breath or respiration . Pranayama thus connotes the control of one's breath . Pranayama is thus the science of breath . It consists of a number of different exercise for the development and control of one's breathing.

Yoga believes that one can control and quieten one's mind by regulating one's breathing .Thus the practice of Pranayama is necessary for the preparation of

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the next two stages which follow.

5) Pratyahara - The fifth stage of yoga teaches one to bring one's senses under control . If a man succumbs to the pull of his senses, he will go astray . But if he learns to turn his senses inward and instead of running after external objects or sensual pleasure , if he learns to use them the practice of withdrawal and emancipation of the mind from the domination of the senses and external objects.

6) Dharana - When the body has been prepared with asanas , when the mind and the senses have been brought under control by prayahara , the yogi reaches the sixth stage of Dharana . Dharana literally means to hold or to fix one's mind .Dharana therefore means concentration . Here the yogi is taught to concentrate wholly on single point or on a task in which he is completely engrossed . The mind has to be stilled in order to achieve this state of complete absorption .

7) Dhyana Dhyana means awareness and is sometimes translated as meditation . Dhyana or the state of meditation is achieved when the flow of concentration is uninterrupted , all distractions are eliminated and the stream of thoughts are in a single direction without interruption towards a definite subject . Thus , in this stage they are all integrated in the object of contemplation-the Universal spirit .

He remains in a state of pure consciousness . There is no other feeling except a state of supreme bliss . In this state , he sees the light which shines in his own heart . He becomes a light unto himself and others.

8) Samadhi- Samadhi is the 8th and the last stage and it signifies the end of the yogi's quest . At the peak of his meditation , he passes into the state of samadhi. In this state , his body and senses are at rest as if he is asleep , and his faculties of mind and reasons are alert as if he is awake . Different System of Yoga.

It is generally believed that there are two different systems of yoga; Hatha Yoga ,Raja Yoga. Hatha Yoga lays emphasis on the physical aspect of yoga and contains rigorous disciplines and physical exercises . Swatmarama describes this system of yoga in Hatha Yoga Pradipika .

Raja Yoga lays stress on the mental discipline and gives importance to controlling and conquering one's mind Actually , Patanjali does not call his system Raja yoga. He calls it ' Ashtanga Yoga ' i.e. the eight-fold path . But since it implies complete mastery of one's self , one may call it Raja yoga .

Different Paths The Indian culture recognised the fact that there are different paths by which an individual may travel and may approach the ultimate reality . An active person may find self realisation through ' Karam Yoga ' i.e. by dissolving himself in his own work and duty .

A person who is emotional by nature may find it through faith and devotion , i.e. through ' Bhakti Marg'. An intellectual person may pursue ' Jnana Marg ' where realisation may be achieved through knowledge . All these system and all these paths ultimately complement each other. And help an individual towards liberation . Thus,ultimately all these paths merge into one .


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