What is Yoga –
Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice which originated in India.
The word Yoga means “union” (from the Sanskrit root word “Yug” which means to connect, join or unite) . But, it is union with what exactly? It can essentially be summarised in my view as the union of body, mind and spirit.
A coming together of these forces through Yoga can lead to greater levels of concentration, feeling more positive, connecting back to yourself and a better sense of serenity, tranquility, harmony, peace, and health, whilst opening new opportunities to dwell on our existence and improve our relations with divinity.
Yoga is very beneficial in many aspects. For those engaged in the Ancient Art it is always a new and constant journey filled with much to learn.
Yoga is important as it helps the self to centre or recentre by ensuring the energy points that are found across different points within the body (known as “Chakras”) are connected; and working in a state of pure energy flowing through different postures and positions such as the “Surya Namaskar” translated into English this means the “SUN greeting.”
International Yoga Day:
Celebrated on the 21st June each year and as set out on the United Nations website: “International Day of Yoga has been celebrated annually on 21 June since 2015, following its inception in the United Nations General Assembly in 2014”.
The Prime Minister of India – Narendra Modi, was the one to suggest to the United Nations that 21st June should be recognised as International Yoga Day as it was this year in 2020 too.
PM Modi – in his speech to the UN, outlined many aspects of Yoga, whilst recognising that the Art is ancient and derives its heritage directly from India:
“Yoga is an invaluable gift from our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action … a holistic approach [that] is valuable to our health and our well-being. Yoga is not just about exercise; it is a way to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”
The purpose of International Day of Yoga is to raise awareness worldwide of the many benefits of practicing yoga.
The theme of this year’s International Day of Yoga was “Yoga for Health – Yoga at Home”.
ANCIENT ART OF EXCERCISE and Consciousness
Classical Yoga foundations include an understanding of the works of Patanjali (an Ancient sage who wrote the Yoga Sutras (India has an oral tradition of passing down knowledge from Guru (religious teacher/enlightened soul) to (student).
The Sage Patanajali categorised various aspects of Yoga, into the 8 limbs of Yoga. These “limbs” of Yoga are a preparation of the body for Raja Yoga (the King of Yoga) which is meditation, controlling aspects of the body in order to be able to focus and control the mind so as to have union with the ultimate divine consciousness.
John Tunney in his article: Why do Yoga (Yoga site.com) states the following:
The original yogis were reacting, in part, to India’s ancient Vedic religion, which emphasized rituals. The yogis wanted a direct spiritual experience — one on one — not symbolic ritual. So they developed yoga.
“Yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, the classical language of India. According to the yogis, true happiness, liberation and enlightenment comes from union with the divine consciousness known as Brahman, or with Atman, the transcendent Self. The various yoga practices are a methodology for reaching that goal.
Among yogis or those who practice yoga, it is often the physical aspects of Yoga which are most commonly known in the West. For example, exercise postures on the body (asanas) a Hatha yoga practice is widely practiced (with a focus on postures as opposed to meditation or mantra for example).
No one really knows how old the ancient practice of Yoga is, some say 3000 years others 5000 years old. What is clear that certain poses of Yoga can be seen carved in stone in old Indian temples for example or referenced in the ancient Rig Vedas which are some say over 5,000 years old (it can’t be accurately dated due to India’s oral tradition of handing down knowledge from teacher to student).
YOGA from Ancient to Mainstream :
Everyone comes to Yoga for their own reasons and it can be argued that Yoga has now gone mainstream. A quick search on google states that the value of the Yoga industry is growing and on the increase.
Statistics state that there are 36 million Americans practicing yoga and there are thought to be over 300 million yoga practitioners in the world (https://disturbmenot.co/yoga-statistics/). In the UK there are around 10,000 yoga instructors and around 30,000 classes being taken every week, which means approximately 460,000 people are doing Yoga weekly (pre covid19). In 2018 the Yoga and Pilates industry had a revenue of over £875 million. (https://www.finder.com/uk/yoga-statistics)
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga benefits have been studied and continue to be studied and there appear to many varies benefits, including healthier and stronger body, a calmer and more focused mind, reduction in stress and anxiety, and help for those with arthritis and back pain for example.
It is also common knowledge that in the West, there is an ageing population which means as we are now living longer than ever before in history people want to continue to live healthy and active lives as far as possible and Yoga may provide a way to do this.
One of the eight limbs of Yoga called Ahimsa which is translated as “non violence” or another more literal translation of the Sanskrit word: “The absence of injury” can be useful in uncertain times of CO-VID and lockdowns – it helps one to recognise the importance of health and well being and also taking care of others through an elevated level of Consciousness. The practices of Yoga such as doing no harm, and vegetarianism is gaining popularity.
People do Yoga for many different reasons, for example to focus and care for their bodies, their minds (as a means of stress relief) or their souls (through mantra and meditation) or may be all three.
DIVERSE YOGA & Goat Yoga!
Those interested in Yoga will be able to find a suitable Yoga practice for their needs. Yoga styles and approaches are exceptionally diverse today.
Goat Yoga is a type of Yoga that involves the therapeutic side of nature and animals; it is a modern take on Yoga which is meant to help people through Yoga postures whilst being around nature yet feeling comfortable and at one with nature, the use of baby goats is definately unconventional however it is a new outlook and fresh concept of enhancing YOGA;
There are options available for many types of traditional Yoga classes too.
In the meantime why not start your Yoga search lightheartedly with terms like Yoga and spirituality.
JP Sears on his YouTube channel has a video on how to be Ultra Spiritual, which is very funny and he is able to spread his message in such a charming and yet effective way.
Discovering the Force:
Are you going to embark on a journey of self discovery through YOGA?
Here are some Yoga Links to help you begin to understand your spiritual side:
1. F**k Yeah Yoga – Tumblr – popular Yoga poses/photo website
2. Yoga Journal.com