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International Yoga Day

On the occasion of International Yoga Day, let me discuss the basis of yoga with you. Yoga is often seen as an exercise form known for benefits such as flexibility, figure correction, stress management and disease management. A yogi is seen as someone who can bring his foot to the top of his head. That should make every gymnast in the world a yogi. But it isn’t so.

Yoga is a complete science. In Mathematics two plus two is four, it cannot be five or six or eight. Similarly in yoga, there is a systematic eight fold path. One can know which step he is on while practising yoga unlike other forms of science or spiritual pursuits. Yoga can be practised by anyone no matter what his belief, faith or religion. It is a process oriented science which has been documented by several yogis over the centuries. Scientists experiment and make observations. Similarly yogis have experimented for centuries and documented observations about human potential.

A great scientist, Patanjali has done an excellent job by compressing the entire knowledge of yoga in 195 Yoga Sutras. One can imbibe the whole of yoga by chanting and understanding these yoga sutras.

I spoke about the eight fold path of yoga which includes yama (self-regulation), niyama (observance or discipline), asana (posture), pranayama (breath regulation), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (state of perfected mediation). Asana is only one aspect of yoga. Unfortunately yoga has been made out to be purely physical in nature over the years especially in the west. Yes, yoga helps achieve health and physical well-being. But this is just the beginning, only the preparation to begin the inward journey of yoga.

Psychology has explored consciousness and sub consciousness. Yoga talks about another aspect of the mind which is super consciousness. There are methods and techniques in yoga which can streamline the thought process and coordinate between the various aspects of the human system- mana (mind), buddhi (intellect), ahamkara (ego) and chitta (consciousness).

There is a beautiful way of understanding the mind and the self through pratyahara, dharana and dhyana. As you turn the mind inwards through pratayahara, you begin to witness or observe yourself. You become the observer, the object and the process is observation. With dharana the process starts to disappear and only the object and observer remain. The act of seeing or doing dissipates.

With intense dhyana, the object also disappears. You remain as an observer or a witness to everything within and around you. As you progress further, samadhi happens.

As the wisdom of yoga states, you can begin right where you are, there is better time than now.