Calming the mind is yoga. Not just standing on the head. Swami Satchidananda
As it is generally understood by most of the people that Yoga is set of physical & breathing exercise, actually it is far beyond that. It is a complete system or better a Science or a way of life. Yoga being a way of life can be applied irrespective of age, gender, profession, state, conditions, problems and sufferings. Yoga can be applied in any/every human endeavor – personal, professional, social, family and spiritual. The basis of Yoga is search for happiness. But we search for happiness out there in the objects of senses. The happiness is right within us. It is in silencing the mind. It is the state devoid of thoughts. It is a state of Bliss, Freedom, Knowledge and Creativity. Yoga is the proven way to achieve all this.
There are six branches of Yoga the practitioner must be familiar with:
Raja Yoga [Union by Will] – this form involves control of the conscious mind and the mental processes by Selective meditation.
Hatha Yoga [Union by Courage] – this form involves maintaining the health, control and stability of the body through physical exercise and training.
Gnana Yoga [Union by Knowledge] – this form commences with a study of the impermanent wisdom of the world, and ends with the knowledge of the permanent wisdom of the soul.
Bhakti Yoga [Union by Love] – this form requires complete and total devotion to a god until the initiate becomes one with their chosen deity.
Mantra Yoga [Union through Speech] – this form consists of repeating a name, word, chant, sentence or verse over and over to purity, through the elimination of distraction from the mind.
Karma Yoga [Union through Work] – this form concentrates on exercises for control so that, as an end result, the mind will command the body.
Yoga for a common person contains the practices of yama (ethics), niyama (values), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses) , kriya (action / exercise for detoxifying), mudra (generally hand postures), bandha(body locks) and meditation (concentration) which are helpful to keep oneself physically fit, mentally alert and emotionally balanced.
Yama and Niyama
These are initial sets of principles that are concerned with our conduct in personal and social life. These are related to ethics and values.
The term asana means sitting in a particular posture, which is comfortable and which could be maintained steadily for long time.
Asana gives stability and comfort, both at physical and mental level. There may be variations in the techniques of some of the asanas depending upon the following yoga institutions.
Asana may broadly be classified into three categories:
(a) Cultural or Corrective asana
(b) Meditative asana
(c) Relaxative asana
Cultural asanas can further be classified into two groups, depending on the effects produced:
(i) asana that work through and on the spine and visceral organs.
(ii) asanas that work through the skeletal muscles, ligaments and joints.
Meditative asanas are those asanas which are aimed at quiet sitting and are used for higher practices in yoga. padmasana, swastikasana, sukhasana and siddhasana can be put in this category.
Relaxative asanas are those which remove tension and bring about physical as well as mental relaxation. The important asanas in this category are shavasana and makarasana.
Pranayama consists of the breathing techniques which are related to the control of breath or respiratory process. Pranayama popularly known as ‘yogic breathing’, involves a conscious manipulation of our breathing pattern.
The health of the respiratory system depends upon the quality as well as the quantity of air inhaled by the person. It also depends on the rhythm and completeness of the breathing. Through pranayama, a practitioner advantageously works with her/his respiratory, cardiovascular and the nervous system which bring about emotional stability and peace of mind.
Pranayama has three phases known as puraka, rechaka and kumbhaka. Puraka is controlled inhalation; rechaka is controlled exhalation and kumbhaka is controlled retention of breath.
Initially, the exhalation (Rechaka) may be a little more prolonged in comparison to inhalation (Puraka). Insistence on 1:2 ratio in the beginning may prove counterproductive. As we practice, 1:2 ratio is reached in natural manner.
Yogic practice of Pratyahara means withdrawal of senses from sense organs to control mind. In pratyahara the awareness about the external surrounding is withdrawn and is taken to inside.
Introspection, studying good books are some practices which can help in pratyahara.
Bandha and Mudra
Bandha and Mudra are the practices involving manipulation of certain semi-voluntary and involuntary muscles in the body. These practices bring about voluntary control and tone up the internal organs.
Shatkarma/Kriya (Cleansing Process)
Shatkarma means six karmas or kriyas. The karma/kriya means ‘action’. Shatkarma consists purification processes which cleanse the specific organs of the body by detoxifying them. The purification helps to keep the body and mind healthy.
There are six cleansing processes described in hatha yogic texts. These are Neti, Dhauti, Basti, Trataka, Nauli and Kapalabhati. These are used to clean the internal organs or systems by using water, air or manipulation of certain organs of the body.
Meditation is a practice which helps in concentration of the body and mind. In meditation, concentration is focused for a long time on a single object like tip of the nose, space between eyebrows, etc. It develops a sense of well-being and improves memory and decision-making power in the person.
Understand the Yoga holistically & get maximum benefits out of it.