“Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self” – The Bhagwad Gita
Yoga is one of six schools of orthodox Hindu philosophy. It is a spiritual discipline as well as a science. It is the heritage of India. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yug which means ‘to add’, ‘to join’, ‘to unite’ or to attach’. Thus, Yoga is union of mind, body and soul. It involves physical, mental and spiritual practices.
The history of Yoga dates back to around 5000 years. The Indus Valley Civilisation is the suggested origin of Yoga as many seals, including the Pashupati seal, depict figures sitting in Yoga positions. The word Yoga finds mention in the Rigveda for the first time. Yoga, however, developed in 5th and 6th century BCE.
Initially Yoga lessons and teachings were transferred orally. They were compiled by Patanjali in 1st century CE in the name of ‘Yoga Sutras’. ‘Yoga Sutras’ is the most credited source of Yoga; therefore Patanjali is known as the Father of Yoga.
There are various types of Yoga: Hatha Yoga, Asthanga Yoga, Classical Yoga, Bikraw Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Power Yoga, Kundalini Yoga etc. Yoga has been evolving, therefore many more types of Yoga are available today as compared to the past.
Yoga today forms an essential part of millions of peoples’ lives. It is practised to keep oneself fit, for meditation and for good living. Yoga has been part of the lives of Indians since ages. Today Yoga is one of the most practised forms of exercise (both physical and mental) even in the West.
The West was introduced to Yoga by Swami Vivekanand during his Chicago visit in 1893, when he talked of Raja Yoga. After this, many Yoga gurus contributed to the spread of Yoga in the West. Today the popularity of Yoga in the West is such that about 75% of the fitness centres of America offer Yoga in their courses. The credit for increasing the popularity of Yoga in India and of making the teachings of Yoga available to every person goes to Baba Ramdev. Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev used the medium of television and newspapers to reach out to the general public and made his lessons available to them.
The dissemination of teachings of Yoga to the world was done by Yoga gurus and the spread of the message of Yoga to the world was done by our Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Modi proposed the idea of Yoga Day in his speech during an address to the United Nations General Assembly in 2014, which was accepted by the assembly. The proposal of India for International Yoga Day got a huge support of 177 UN members out of 193. 21st June was chosen as the day as it is the longest day in the Northern hemisphere, and holds special significance for many countries. Mythologically, summer solstice (21st June) holds importance in the field of Yoga as it is the day when Adi Yoga (Lord Shiva, the first Yogi) taught Yoga for the first time. Baba Ramdev has made significant strides in rejuvenating traditional education in India by establishing University of Patanjali located at Haridwar, Uttarakhand in 2006. The university aims at innovating teaching-learning and research to produce professionally competent, personally elevated and socially empathetic alumni.
Yoga is considered a sadhana i.e. a disciplined and dedicated practice. It is a science with many benefits for humanity. It is not related to any particular religion. Yoga can be very useful to people who practise it. Yoga is seen as a complete workout. It purifies both the mind and body. Yoga through Pranayam and meditation provides many psychological benefits. It helps in stress management, better concentration and focus, besides increasing self-awareness, thus helping in bringing inner peace. Yoga is not a form of physical exercise only as commonly understood today. Yoga is a way of life. It is not a course to be completed within a specific period; it is a journey of self-development.
Today many of us are under the threat of lifestyle diseases. Such diseases can be cured by following a good lifestyle. Yoga helps in this. It also helps in emotion management by people, provides a proper routine for life and enhances awareness about the body. Yoga heightens mindfulness in people which is essential for controlling lifestyle diseases.
Yoga includes Pranayam and Kapal Bhati which are one of the best and effective breathing exercises. Yoga is a therapy which helps getting rid of illnesses slowly if practised on regular basis. It makes some positive changes to the internal body and regularise the body organs functioning. There is specific yoga for different purposes so only required ones can be practiced.
Yoga brings holistic development. It helps people to engage in life purposefully, reduce sufferings and bring joy for living. It helps us in maintaining a harmonious life. It gives us a good lifestyle. It can reduce our health expenses with least investment. It can today act as both preventer and controller of disease and hence improves the quality of life. Citing the importance of Yoga, UNESCO in 2016 also listed Yoga as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.