What is Yoga?
Normally known in the west in various popular "keep fit" varieties, yoga is in fact a rigorous spiritual discipline, a genuine science of the human being, a complete system controlling all aspects of life.
Beyond the obvious benefits like eliminating stress, healing various illnesses, improving memory and concentration, balancing our emotions, yoga is also about searching answers to existential questions which have been in peoples mind since time began: "For what reason was I born ?" "What is my life for?" "What will happen after death?", "Who am I ?".
The original purpose of YOGA is therefore to teach us how to ask correctly and meaningfully the above mentioned questions and how to discover the ultimate truth about the human being, life and universe. The oldest systematic description of the YOGA system is to be found in the YOGA-SUTRA of Patanjali (2nd century b.c.). It is a very brief guide which was used together with secret teachings. This is the reason why for the one who never practiced yoga it is still a text shrouded in mystery.
However YOGA-SUTRA is still the most precise and scientific text ever written on YOGA. It describes the eight stages in YOGA:
YAMA and NIYAMA - inner and outer attitudes, whose aim is to harmonize our interactions with the outer world and with ourselves
ASANA - motionless physical postures for balancing the body’s subtle energies
PRANAYAMA - the accumulation of cosmic energy (PRANA) through rhythmic breathing.
PRATYAHARA - the withdrawal of the senses’ energy from their objects, with the purpose of focusing it towards our inner universe.
DHARANA - focusing the mind upon an unique object.
DHYANA - the unidirectional and continuous flow of mental processes around an object.
SAMADHI - telepathic identification of the object of meditation with the practitioner’s being. SAMADHI is the highest state of expanded consciousness and a complete participation of the human being to the Cosmic Life. SAMADHI is the ultimate goal in YOGA, leading eventually to the state of spiritual enlightenment and total wisdom.
MUKTI or ultimate spiritual freedom, does not mean deliverance from the manifested world, but a close and permanent identity with the Supreme Consciousness, which is the true nature of one’s own self. Ultimate freedom is therefore possible only by realizing one’s own identity with the Universe. This ultimate spiritual state is NOT to be attained after death or in another dimension of Reality, but HERE and NOW - "Only liberation in this life (JIVANMUKTI) is authentic liberation" SPANDA PRADIPIKA. Why Yoga?
Why should we practice Yoga? There are many answers to this question. The simplest one is because through yoga we can become happy.
All humans are searching for happiness but usually externally. Yoga helps us understand that true happiness is to be found inside us, because it is actually given by the harmony of our body, mind and soul. The practice of yoga postures, breathing exercises and meditation bring inside us that balance at all levels (physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) which is the source of all happiness.
These are some of the ADVANTAGES of yoga practice:
removes the stress of everyday life.
helps the healing of various physical illnesses, has a beneficial effect in the case of emotional tensions, depression and various other nervous ailments.
memory improves and the mind functions better at all levels
improved immune system
state of deep calm and inner peace
opens the way to wisdom
one becomes free from prejudices, inhibitions and various other limitations
improved communication ability
harmonious sexual life
strong will power
increase in self-confidence
the ability to succeed
harmonious body by regaining one’s ideal weight
improved attention and concentration
awakens and amplifies the capacity to love
opens one’s being towards a real spiritual communication with the Universe, with God. There are no DISADVANTAGES.
We all want true and lasting happiness. We find this happiness in many ways, depending on the level of spiritual development we have attained at any given time. It is important to reach true happiness. A genuine and efficient spiritual path will offer ways and modalities to develop all aspects of our being so we can reach true happiness by fulfilling all aspects of our personality, physical, emotional, intellectual as well as spiritual.
In yoga, the body, the emotions, the mind and the intellect need to be developed optimally, so that they can function in perfect harmony with one another. When this happens one can live happy in a real sense. Then the body, the emotions, the mind, the intellect can be used as tools to transcend one’s limits and to experience the Divine.
All of the world spiritual traditions agree that lasting happiness can be reached only by the knowing of what is permanent, eternal, in other words of the DIVINE, who is the Supreme essence of all beings and the source of Life. In time, people found names for this Reality like ’Self’, ’Ultimate Nature’, ’Brahman’, Cosmic Consciousness, ’Infinity’, ’Nirvana’, etc.
The Integral Yoga is an intelligent combination of various traditional methods used for the harmonious development of one’s entire being in all its aspects: physical, emotional, mental, intellectual and spiritual. The Integral Yoga is a scientific system that combines different types of yoga in order to fulfill one’s potential in the widest sense. This finally leads to self-knowledge or self-revelation, in which one has the revelation of the ultimate reality.
The main aims in Integral Yoga are:
a strong and healthy body
a mind which is clear, powerful, calm and in control
a refined intellect, which is also awake and sharp
a powerful will
a heart full of love and compassion able to experience empathically the elevated states of other people.
a life lead by the permanent aspiration towards the realization of the inner eternal Self. A life in which one is devoted to the welfare and the happiness of other people.
As we have already said, Integral Yoga is a synthesis of all other forms of yoga, which go back thousands of years. All have a the same essential aim - to reach the Absolute, the perfecting of the human being.
Amongst those we shall mention:
Hatha Yoga - the most popular form of Yoga in the West, is based upon the balancing of the fundamental polarities of the human being, the solar energy (ha, +) and the lunar energy (tha, -). In Hatha Yoga one aims a perfect control upon the physical body, regaining and maintaining good health and full control of the life (vital) energies.
Karma Yoga - the yoga of being in tune with the Supreme Absolute through activity, where the results of one’s actions are consecrated totally to the Divine.
Bhakti Yoga - the yoga of universal love and unconditional devotion towards God
Raja Yoga - the yoga of fusion with the cosmic mind, where one’s mind power is amplified in order to control the mental unrest and the opening of the third eye (Ajna Chakra)
Jnana Yoga - the yoga of complete fusion with certain spheres of force in the Universe.
Mantra Yoga - the yoga of putting oneself in resonance with certain subtle energies in the Universe by means of different sounds.
Tantra Yoga - This yoga integrates a variety of practices and techniques, it is inclusive of the sexual activity in order to speed-up one’s spiritual evolution, through transmutation and sublimation of the sexual creative potential both for a woman and a man. The field of consciousness becomes tremendously expanded.
Kundalini Yoga - There is huge dormant energy called Kundalini Shakti situated at the base of the spinal column. This form of yoga aims to awaken this energy and to direct this colossal power upwards. Yantra Yoga - uses special geometrical drawings in order to experience certain energies of spheres of force in the Universe. These special drawings have been especially conceived and revealed for this spiritual purpose
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