Yoga is now known and practiced throughout the world as a means of exercise, improving the flexibility of the body, strengthening muscles and moreover relaxing the mind and body. It is the best way to take a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life and spend some on reflection.

But the scope of Yoga is much more extensive. It is based on a profound philosophy, if which followed with discipline, could make a person not only healthy but also free him from earthly pain and suffering, and lead the way to enlightenment and contentment.

Yoga was practiced in India centuries before ‘Yoga Darshana’, the treatise by the Sage Patanjali in which he laid down the basic principles of Yoga. It is one of the six philosophies followed in Hinduism. Ancient texts points out that God is omnipresent, that is, He exists everywhere, be it in a living being or a non-living thing. Also, He reigns supreme and is not affected by life or its changes. Patanjali says in his treatise that, by practicing Yoga, one could attain spiritual enlightenment and be one with God, the Supreme power or Ishwara.

The religious text of ‘Bhagavath Gita’ explains that there are four ways of achieving enlightenment namely:

  • Raja Yoga 
  • Karma Yoga 
  • Bhakthi Yoga 
  • Jnana Yoga

Raja Yoga: Also known as the royal path or Ashtanga Yoga, the eight-fold path of Raja Yoga which requires observance of restraints, postures, energy control, withdrawal of senses, concentration and meditation. 

  • Yama : Five restraints- Non-violence, Truthfulness, Non-stealing, Moderation of senses, Non-possessiveness
  • Niyama : Five observances- Cleanliness, Contentment, Self-discipline, Self-study, Self-surrender 
  • Asana : Discipline of the physical body 
  • Pranayama : Control over bio energy through respiratory action 
  • Prathyahara : Withdrawal of the senses inwards through abstraction
  • Dharana : Concentration 
  • Dhyana : Meditation 
  • Samadhi : Trans-consciousness

Karma Yoga: It involves the attainment of trans-consciousness by discharging one’s duties and responsibilities earnestly and sincerely without any selfish intentions.

Bhakthi Yoga: It is the path of devotion, faith and love. By constant devotion to God, a person can become one with Him.

Jnana Yoga: Jnana means knowledge or wisdom. Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge, self-realization and understanding the meaning of life.

In addition to the four classic Yogas, there are other forms of Yoga as well such as Mantra Yoga, Tantra Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga etc.

Even though the various forms of Yoga seem distinct and different and one could follow any of them, the ultimate goal is to reach the Divine Entity. In depth knowledge, will-power and discipline are necessary for achieving this goal. A well-experienced Yoga master can guide you through the various steps.

Ayurveda and Yoga are sister sciences. While Ayurveda deals chiefly with the health of the body and mind, Yoga deals with spiritual health. Yogic exercises with its preventive and curative values help bring natural order and balance to neuro-hormones and to the body’s metabolism. These practices naturally treat stress and stress-related disorders.

Some well-known Yoga postures or Asanas are :

  • Bhujangasana- Cobra Pose 
  • Dhanurasana- Bow Pose 
  • Padmasana- Lotus Pose 
  • Sarvangasana- Shoulder Stand 
  • Savasana- Corpse Pose 
  • Sirsasana- Head stand 
  • Vajrasana-Thunderbolt Pose