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
On Top of the Page
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 .
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 .