Yoga is one of the most important of the five techniques contained in Ayush. Yoga is not a fitness technique. It is a lifestyle. It is disheartening to see Yoga as a multi-billion dollar business today. Yoga, today is misinterpreted as sitting in difficult postures and performing difficult exercises. Yoga is much more than that.
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, which means to unite or to control. Yoga has eight stages, and attainment of each stage should happen in the right order. The eight stages, in their order of attainment, are-
1. Yama: refers to the five stages of self-denial. These are the same as the five vows of Jainism-
- Ahimsa: non-violence, causing no injury or harm to others or even to self. It goes as far as nonviolence in thought, word and deed.
- Satya: truth in word & thought.
- Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is not his own.
- Brahmacharya: abstain from sexual desires.
- Aparigraha: non-possessiveness.
2. Niyama: refers to the five actions-
- Shaucha: cleanliness of body & mind.
- Santosha: satisfaction.
- Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline & thereby mental control.
- Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures and oneself.
- Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to God.
3. Asana: a shloka on asana says- Sthira Sukha Asana. This means sit in a posture that you are firm comfortable. Asana is not the horrible things babas of today teach and make money out of!
4. Pranayama: control of breath. Beneficial to health, steadies the body and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind.
5. Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses from their external objects.
The last three levels are called internal aids to Yoga (antaranga sadhana)
6. Dharana: a collection of mind joined with retention of breath. Here object of meditation, meditator and act of meditation remain separate.
7. Dhyana: separation of maya from reality to attain self-knowledge.
8. Samadhi: oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation. This is the highest form of meditation.
Yoga has several stages. Yoga, unlike popular belief is not sitting in difficult postures and breathing hard. Yoga, when followed, should be started from the beginning. It essentially makes a person much more disciplined and focussed and helps him stay healthy.