Let’s yoga! | Daily News


Let’s yoga!

Life does not come with a handbook on living. Every one of us evolves our own script, lives our own lives. In this journey, personal experience and knowledge existing around us both play important roles.

For individual health and happiness as well as for peace and harmony in our societies and the world, our physical well-being is as important as calmness and focus of mind.

‘Yoga’ is an ancient system to achieve individual health, internal peace and societal harmony. It is based on deep knowledge about the functioning of the human body, human psychology and our interaction with the environment.

The practice of yoga is completely individual, as are its immediate objectives. And yet it is a prayer and an action for ‘sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta’ (May all beings be happy).

Rooted in thousands of years of antiquity, but contemporary in its application, yoga is the heritage of the entire world. No matter which civilization, culture, religion, nation, gender or age we belong to, yoga’s tools and its achievements reside deep in all of us.

The word ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word yuj. Itmeans ‘to join or unite’. Thus, yoga embodies the unity of body, mind and spirit, of our thoughts and actions.

Which one of us can say that they have not felt the need to be one with their body, with their mind, to experience the calmness which comes with this harmony?

Yoga is not just a collection of exercises – called asanas - but a practice to make the physical, mental and emotional parts of one strong being.

Though the practice of yoga is believed to have existed for more than two and a half thousand years, its earliest mention is in the Rigveda – the oldest of the four sacred canonical texts (śruti) of Hinduism that have been orally transmitted for thousands of years. The great sage Maharishi Patanjali systemised this knowledge base into a text, the Yoga Sutra – a classic guide to yoga’s philosophy and practice, translated from original Sanskrit into major languages of the world.

Patanjali is believed to have combined many existing traditions. He outlined eight components of yoga: yama (abstinences), niyama (observances), asana (yoga postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the five senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption). The levels of samādhi taught in the Yoga Sutra resemble dhyana or jhanas in Buddhism.

While the first two – yama and niyama – are to discipline the body and the mind, asana – the most popular of yoga’s eight parts – are to prepare the body by making it strong, supple, flexible and resistant to diseases.

Yoga is not just bending or twisting of the body or holding your breath. It is a way to get us to a state where we experience reality just the way it is.

The real purpose of yoga starts after the practice of asana, when we observe our breath and control it, and gradually progress to master our wandering mind.

At the beginning of the Yoga Sutra, Maharashi Patanjali defines a yogic state as CittaVritti Nirodh, meaning cessation of the fluctuations of mind.

Whether we are students, artists, authors, scientists, doctors, engineers, craftsmen, sculptors, musicians, singers or dancers – we all realise the power of a focussed mind. Such a mind is a tremendous tool for concentration, which is the key to success and enlightenment.

A fragmented mind, on the other hand, is the cause of suffering. It is only through a mind which is calm and has equanimity about success and failure, joy and sorrow, happiness and pain, can we banish suffering and embrace happiness.

Patanjali’s principle was not new either then or now. It holds eternal relevance.

As we know, at the heart of the Buddha’s teachings are the four noble truths, expounded in his very first sermon following his Enlightenment. The first noble truth proclaimed is Dukkha: Life is suffering. The second truth, Samudya, is that the cause of suffering originates in our mind. The third, Nirodha, offers hope: liberation from suffering is possible. The fourth noble truth Magga, gives us the method to attain liberation.

Lord Krishna too teaches in the Bhagvad Gita the importance of equanimity of mind and the value of detachment – working for our goals without getting worried or anxious for results, or trapped in the delusion of the feelings of attraction and aversion. Yoga helps in shattering these delusions; it makes one aware, aware of his or her true self, free from fragmentation and suffering.

What stands in our way of living this experience every day?

Swami Vivekananda remarked, “As the reflection of moon on the sea is broken by waves, so the reflection of Atman - the true Self - is broken by waves in our mind. Only when the sea is calm, can the reflection of the moon be seen. Only when the mind is calm, can you be established in your own essential self.”

Yoga provides within us all that we need and seek for living with happiness.

Recognising this true treasure of human heritage, the United Nations adopted a resolution in December 2014 to commemorate June 21 as the International Day of Yoga.

In his address to the UN General Assembly proposing the idea of an International Day of Yoga, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “We are at a historic moment. Every age is defined by its character; and each generation is remembered for how it rose together to meet its challenges. We have that responsibility to rise to our challenges now.”

This message rings true today, as the whole world fights the COVID19 pandemic. People all over the world have lost friends, lost loved ones, lost livelihoods, and are suffering from increased isolation and fear.

Yoga helps us build immunity, stay healthy and see positivity.

It is also imperative now that we recognise the universality of our consciousness, our inter-connectedness and rise together for each and every one of us.

Yoga’s ultimate objective at a collective level is ‘union’ – or harmony with nature and peace among ourselves.

The individual and society will always complement each other. We must strive for good health of our own, of others and of our society.

We must invest ourselves in building a healthier, peaceful and harmonious world.

Let us all enjoy the fruits of yoga.

Let’s yoga! Today and every day.

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