The word yoga means "union" in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where yoga originated. We can think of yoga as the union occurring between the mind, body and spirit.
Elaborating on yoga can run into volumes. It is more than just a physical treatment of the body. It is a path to spiritual ecstasy. It is a way to reach your identity independent of religion and belief. It is a science, which aims at the harmonious development of the body, the mind and the soul. Yoga aims at controlling the mind and its modifications. It is consists of ancient theories observations and principles about the mind and body connection, which is now being proven by modern Science.
Today mostly, what is known of yoga is Asana (Postures), Pranayam (breathing techniques), Kriya (cleansing activities) Bandha (neuromuscular locks), and Mudra (hand movements).
Originally, Yoga had eight ladders. Yam, Niyam, Asana, Pranayam, Prathyhar, Dharna, Dhyaan, and Samadhi
- Yam : This consists of ethical guidelines regarding moral behavior towards others
- Niyam : This consists of ethical guidelines regarding moral behavior towards oneself
- Asana : Is the practice of yoga Postures
- Pranayam : Is the practice of breathing exercises
- Prathyahar : Withdrawal of senses from the body, meaning the exterior world is not a distraction to the interior world within oneself.
- Dharna : Concentration, meaning the ability to focus on something uninterrupted
- Dhyaan : Meditation
- Samadhi : Is the highest know how in Yoga. This is a state of bliss
The first four ladders, namely, Yam, Niyam, Asana and Pranayam form what is called 'Bahiranga Yoga'(external yoga) and the other four ladders namely Prathyahaar, Dharna, Dhyaan and Samadhi form 'Antaranga Yoga' (internal yoga). To practice Antaranga Yoga one would need a Master, who has traveled well till Samadhi. Without this, practicing Antaranga Yoga will not be possible.
Patanjali divided yoga postures into three:
- Cultural Postures: This has 840,000 asanas
- Relaxing Postures: Shavasana, Makarasana, Sithilasana
- Meditative Postures: Siddhasana, Padmasana, Vajrasana, Sukhasana
Yoga regards the body as a vehicle for the soul on its journey towards perfection. It develops not only the body, but also broadens the mental faculties and spiritual capacities.
Ayurveda and Yoga are ancient Indian sciences dating back to the Upanishads, written between 1000-5000 BC. They have been practiced for thousands of years in the land for the healing of body, mind, and consciousness. However, while Ayurveda deals more with the health of the body, yoga deals with purifying the mind and consciousness, but in actual practice, they complement one other.
The ancient rishis (seers) were the original masters of Indian sciences. They considered good health as an essential asset on the path toward self-realization and god-realization.
- Both Ayurveda and Yoga offer many ways to prevent and heal various disorders as well as to cleanse and rejuvenate the body.
- Besides sharing a philosophical foundation, both systems have many similarities in relation to attitude, nutrition, diet, hygiene, exercise, cleansing practices, as well as spiritual practices.
- Both recognize that keeping the body healthy is vital for fulfilling the four aims of life: Dharma (duty), Artha (wealth), Kama (desire), and Moksha (liberation).
- Both recognize that the balance of doshas (humors), dhatus (tissues), and malas (waste products) is essential for maintaining good health.
- Both share virtually the same metaphysical anatomy and physiology, which consists of 72,000 nadis (subtle channels), 7 main chakras (energy centers), 5 bodily sheaths, and the Kundalini Shakti (energy).
- Both advocate the use of diet, herbs, asana, pranayama, meditation, mantra, astrology, prayer, puja, and rituals for healing the entire being.
- Both encourage physical health as a good foundation for mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
The list does not end here. There are a number of other similarities between the two practices.
Alternative lifestyles and stressful schedules are contributing to reduced health. The inability of modern medicines to allay all sicknesses and diseases has led an increasing number of people to Ayurveda and Yoga. Ayurveda alone with Yoga is proving the ancient practitioners of India to be correct in their assessment of human body.