What is good Yoga?
Yoga (योग) is the physical, mental, and spiritual practices. Yoga originated in ancient India to attain a state of permanent peace. The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali defines yoga as “the stilling of the changing states of the mind”. Yoga has also been popularly defined as “union with the divine”. Various traditions of yoga are found in Hinduism,
Indian monks, beginning with Swami Vivekananda, brought yoga to the West in the late 19th century. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world. This form of yoga is often called Hatha yoga. Many studies have tried to determine the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma and heart disease. In a national survey, long-term yoga practitioners in the United States reported musculo–skeletal and mental health improvements.
Meaning of the Sanskrit word yoga which is “to add”, “to join”, “to unite”, or “to attach” from the root yuj. Same compound is also given a technical meaning in the Yoga Sutras, designating the “practical” aspects of the philosophy, i.e. the “union with the Supreme” due to performance of duties in everyday life. Someone who practices yoga or follows the yoga philosophy with a high level of commitment is called a yogi or yogini.
The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation) though the exact definition of what form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated. In Shaiva theology, yoga is used to unite kundalini with Shiva. Mahabharata defines the purpose of yoga as the experience of Brahman or Ātman pervading all things.
In the specific sense of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, yoga is defined as citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (the cessation of the perturbations of the mind). This is described by Patanjali as the necessary condition for transcending discursive knowledge and to be one with the divinely understood “spirit” (“purusha”): “Absolute freedom occurs when the lucidity of material nature and spirit are in pure equilibrium.” In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali indicates that the ultimate goal of yoga is a state of permanent peace or Kaivalya.
Apart from the spiritual goals, the physical postures of yoga are used to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple in contemporary times. Yoga is also used as a complete exercise program and physical therapy routine.
Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for a system referred to as “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-Limbed Yoga”). The Eight Limbs are:
1. Yama (The five “abstentions”): Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (Truth, non-lying), Asteya (non-covetousness), Brahmacharya (non-sensuality, celibacy), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
2. Niyama (The five “observances”): Shaucha (purity), Santosha (contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God).
3. Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
4. Pranayama (“Suspending Breath”): Prāna, breath, “āyāma”, to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
5. Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
6. Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
7. Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
8. Samadhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.