Q- In one of your recent talks I heard you say that meaning of yoga is not just limited to physical exercise but is much more divine. Can you please throw light on this aspect of yoga?
Legend has it that Lord Shiva, hailed as the Adi yogi, is the first and foremost Guru who imparted the highest knowledge of yoga for the benefit of humanity. The word ‘yoga’ means ‘union’ or to ‘yoke’ having the lofty purpose of uniting the individual self (jiva) with the cosmic consciousness (Ishwar). In the days of yore, such was the enormity of the intellectual prowess of disciples that this knowledge was handed over by oral transmission by the sages and rishis. Much later, an organised system of writing the scriptures was developed for generations to come, however this science was known to sages tens of thousands of years before! Thus, deeming it essential to document the principles for posterity, the vast literature pertaining to Yoga was finally compiled and presented in a brilliantly comprehensive manner by Rishi Patanjali over 2500 years ago.
Human body is an important vehicle, a tool for spiritual growth. It is imperative to keep the body healthy to be able to accomplish any endeavour- be it worldly or spiritual. Yoga does not view body and mind as separate entities. The gross form of the mind is the body and the subtle form of the body is the mind. As the body and mind are intricately interconnected, yoga works at disciplining the mind through the route of disciplining the body and therein comes the relevance of yogasanas.
Twisting and turning body erratically is not asana as is being largely misunderstood today - there is a complete science behind it. The very word asana means ‘kaya sthiram’ that which steadies the body (kaya) and in which one experiences comfort. Research and studies show that persistent, regular practice increases flexibility, boosts immunity, enhances strength, improves functioning of all the bodily systems, helps get rid of ailments, ignificantly improves the quality of sleep, yet asanas do not provide health benefits alone; physiological benefits are merely a by-product.
These days, yoga is touted as the instant coffee remedy to cure this or that ailment, however the fact is that the wonderful holistic science of asana, if done with the right attitude, mindset and dedication works wonders to heal and balance both body and mind. The unparalleled significance of yoga is such that it has been extolled in various venerated scriptures such as Bhagawad Gita, Hathyoga Pradipika, Yoga Darshan and the like. However,in modern times yoga has become synonymous with merely physical postures, under-rating its fundamental purpose, whereas it is a practical, methodical and systematic discipline which aims to help the aspirant realise true nature.