The science of Yoga has its origin thousands of years ago, long before the first religion or belief systems were born. The seers and sages carried this powerful Yogic science to different parts of the world including Asia, the Middle East, northern Africa and South America. Interestingly, modern scholars have noted and marvelled at the close parallels found between ancient cultures across the globe. However, it was in India that the Yogic system found its fullest expression. Agastya, the saptarishi, who travelled across the Indian subcontinent, crafted this culture around a core Yogic way of life.
Though Yoga was being practiced in the pre-Vedic period, the great sage Maharishi Patanjali systematised and codified the then existing Yogic practices, its meaning and its related knowledge through Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
After Patanjali, many sages and Yoga masters contributed greatly for the preservation and development of the field through well documented practices and literature. Yoga has spread all over the world by the teachings of eminent Yoga masters from ancient times to the present date. Today, everybody has conviction about Yoga practices towards prevention of diseases, and promotion of health. Millions of people across the globe have benefitted by the practice of Yoga and the practice of Yoga is blossoming and growing more vibrant with each passing day.
The widely practiced Yoga sadhanas are: Yama, Niyama, Āsana, Prānāyāma, Pratyāhāra, Dhārana, Dhyāna, Samādhi, Bandhās and Mudras, Shatkarmas,Yuktāhāra, Mantra-japa,Yukta-karma etc.
Yamas are restraints and Niyamas are observances. These are considered to be pre-requisites for further Yoga practice. Āsanas, capable of bringing about stability of body and mind, “kuryat- tadasanam- sthairyam”, involve adopting various psycho- physical body patterns and giving one an ability to maintain a body position (a stable awareness of one’s structural existence) for a considerable length of time.
Prānāyāma consists of developing awareness of one’s breathing followed by willful regulation of respiration as the functional or vital basis of one’s existence. It helps in developing awareness of one’s mind and helps to establish control over the mind. In the initial stages, this is done by developing awareness of the “flow of in-breath and out-breath” (svāsa-prasvāsa) through nostrils, mouth and other body openings, its internal and external pathways and destinations. Later, this phenomenon is modified, through regulated, controlled and monitored inhalation (svāsa) leading to the awareness of the body space getting filled (puraka), the space(s) remaining in a filled state (kumbhaka), and it getting emptied (rechaka) during regulated, controlled and monitored exhalation(prasvāsa).
Pratyāhāra indicates dissociation of one’s consciousness (withdrawal) from the sense organs which connect with the external objects.Dhārana indicates broad based field of attention (inside the body and mind) which is usually understood as concentration. Dhyāna(meditation) is contemplation (focussed attention inside the body and mind) and Samādhi (integration).
Bandhas and Mudras are practices associated with Prānāyāma. They are viewed as the higher yogic practices that mainly adopt certain physical gestures along with control over respiration. This further facilitates control over mind and paves the way for a higher Yogic attainment. However, practice of dhyāna, which moves one towards self-realisation and leads one to transcendence, is considered the essence of Yoga Sādhana.
Śatkarmas are detoxification procedures that are clinical in nature and help to remove the toxins accumulated in the body. Yuktāhāraadvocates appropriate food and food habits for healthy living.
Mantra Japa: Japa is the meditative repetitions of a mantra or a divine consciousness. Mantra Japa produce positive mental tracts, helping us to gradually overcome stress.