The Power of Yoga
Yoga literally means “union.” This union can be understood on different levels:
- philosophically, as that of the relative, limited self with the absolute self
- religiously, as that of the individual soul with the infinite spirit
- psychologically, as the integration of personality — a state of no longer living at cross-purposes with oneself
- emotionally, as if stilling the waves of likes and dislikes, permitted to remain in all circumstances complete in oneself
Yoga was developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in northern India over 5,000 years ago. The word “yoga” was first mentioned in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda. The Vedas were a collection of texts containing songs, mantras and rituals used by Brahmans, the Vedic priests. Yoga was slowly refined and developed by the Brahmans and Rishis (mystic seers) who documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures.
The most renowned of the yogic scriptures is the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, composed around 500 BCE. The Upanishads took the idea of ritual sacrifice from the Vedas and internalized it, teaching the sacrifice of the ego through self-knowledge, action (karma yoga) and wisdom (jnana yoga).
What makes yoga so powerful?
What makes this ancient practice so powerful is its positive impact on all aspects of a person: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Yoga cleanses the body through Asana (postures) and Pranayama (conscious breathing). It clears the mind through a mindful practice of yoga philosophy as the five yamas and niyamas (see sidebar)..
Yoga makes us aware of our emotions at their deepest root, therefore clearing our veil of mental illusions. Practitioners have the power to feel and then act, instead of reacting unconsciously based on past traumas.
Last but not least, a disciplined yoga practice makes us realize we are connected with a universal source of pure positive energy. We awaken to the knowledge that we can co-create with this universal source and make it part of our daily life.
Yamas and Niyamas
These five self-regulating behaviors involve our interactions with other people and the world at large:
Ahimsa — non-violence
Satya — truthfulness
Asteya — not stealing
Brahmacharya — non-excess (often interpreted as celibacy)
Aparigraha — non-possessiveness, non-greed
These five personal practices relate to our inner world:
Saucha — purity
Santosha — contentment
Tapas — self-discipline, training your senses
Svadhyaya — self-study, inner exploration
Ishvara Pranidhana — surrender (to God)