Principles of Yoga

Original Editor - Ashmita Patrao Top Contributors - Rucha Gadgil and Kim Jackson

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Yoga is a generic term for physical, mental and spiritual disciplines, originated from ancient India. It is a spiritual and aesthetic discipline including breath control, simple meditation and adoption of specific body postures, practiced for health and relaxation.

The Sanskrit term 'Yuj' means to Unite/Integrate a persons own consciousness with the universal consciousness. It is a harmonious blend between the body, mind and the spirit, wherein the body controls the actions, the mind controls intelligence and the spirit controls emotion.

Body Controls action Involves exercising
Mind Controls intelligence Imcludes breathing techniques
Spirit Controls emotion Includes meditation

Thus, yoga teaches that the jeevatmaa (human spirit) can be united with paramatmaa (God) to secure moksha (liberation).

According to modern scientists, everything in the universe is just a manifestation of the same quantum firmament. One who experiences this oneness of existence is said to be in harmony with the universe and can be called a 'yogi'.

History of Yoga[edit | edit source]

Traced back over 5,000-10,000 years, the early writings on yoga were transcribed on fragile palm leaves that were easily damaged, destroyed or lost. Some texts state that Yoga has existed since the beginning of time and consider Lord Shiva as the 'ADIYOGI' i.e the first Yogi[1].

Yoga has continued to evolve with time and can roughly be divided into:

Pre-Classical Yoga: originated in the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India over 5,000 years ago with scriptures present in Rig veda and Upanishads. This form of yoga modified 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).

Classical Yoga: Defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Patanjali is considered the father of Yoga and still influences many practices of modern Yoga.

Post-Classical Yoga: rejected the teachings of the ancient Vedas and embraced the physical body as the means to achieve enlightenment. This exploration of physical-spiritual connections and body centered practices led to the creation of what we primarily think of yoga in the West: Hatha Yoga.

Modern Period: Swamy Vivekananda presented hatha yoga to the western world and laid the foundation for the growth and innovations that we see today.

Yoga is not merely restricted to performing asanas. It can be divided into[1]:

Hatha yoga: This branch uses physical poses or asanas, breathing techniques of pranayamas and meditation to achieve better health as well as spirituality. Different styles in this path include Iyengar style, integral style, the astanga style etc.

Bhakti yoga: This is the yoga of devotion and paves the path of the heart to devotion.  Enables one to see “the divine” in everyone and everything.

Raja yoga: This is the yoga of the mind. This is considered the king of yoga. It focusses on a mans intelligence.

Karma yoga: This is the yoga of service. It is the path of selfless service that one treads.

Jnana yoga: It is the yoga of rituals . These rituals are a scared experience.

Principles of Yoga[edit | edit source]

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Patanjali's classification of classical yoga, as set out in his Yoga Sutras explained 8 limbs of yoga as Yama (universal moral codes), niyama (self purification by discipline), asana (postures), pranayama (rhythmic control of breath), pratyahara (withdrawing of mind from senses), dharana (Concentration), dhayana (deep meditation) and samadhi (union with the object of meditation). He underlined these eight limbs as the core principles to be followed to attain Moksha.

Under the commandments of Yama and Niyama, he put forth five principles to guide the way of living and five inner observances to lead a peaceful life. These include ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, aparigraha, shoucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya, ishvara pranidhana.

Ahimsa: Ahimsa is non-violence, has a wider positive meaning of love. The prerequisites for ahimsa include abhaya (being free from fear) and akrodha (being free from anger).

Satya: Satya means truthfulness in thought, word and deed. Just how Mahatma Gandhi stated "Truth is God and God is truth”, the mind must think the truth, tongue must speak the truth and the actions must reflect the truth. There must be control of speech, which facilitates charity to others and roots out malice, and this helps them gain respect from all.

Asteya: asteya indicates not stealing. A desire to possess what the others have creates a need to steak, which results in a breach of trust, misappropriation and misuse.

Brachmacharya: This indicates a life of celibacy, religious study and self restrain. In modern times, it is the art of consistency, sustaining energy and not depleting vitality. It measures divinity in all. In case of a bachelor, a married man and a householder as each of them are called to carry out their noble cause in life, brahmacharya can be practiced in all. Brahmacharya is fund of energy and vitality. It can fight injustice, use forces wisely, battery that sparks the sparks of wisdom and attain peace beyond this world filled with misery.

Aparigraha: aparigraha means “not grasping things,” or non-possessiveness. This practice helps us achieve a balanced relationship with the things that we each call “mine.”

A yogic maxim says, “All the things of the world are yours to use, but not to own.”

The following are the inner observances one must imbibe for a peaceful life.

Shoucha: Purification of self is shoucha. Impurities of body and mind may exist. Impurities of the mind such as hatred, passion, anger, greed, delusion and pride. This consists of Asanas, pranayamas, bhakti, food and place of practice.

Asanas help in toning the body, removing toxins. Pranayama cleanses and aerates lung, promotes better oxygenation in blood and purifies nerves. Bhakti or adoration washes these impurities away. Cleansing brings radiance and joy. Banishes  pain and sorrow. By this they see virtues in others.

Healthy food helps in purification. Each morsel eaten giving praise to god. Vegetarian food is considered good good for this. Must avoid food that is sour, bitter, pungent, burning, stale, tasteless, heavy and unclean. Na dinally one must eat to live and not live to eat.

The place where food is easily procurable, free from insects, pleasing surroundings. For eg: Banks of the river, corner in ones room.

Santosha: Santosha is contentment, it means that there is bliss surpassed. When man is complete he feels his duty to god is performed and he loves god. Individuals will be contend when the spirit does not waver in the wind of desire.

Tapas: A burning effort under all circumstances to achieve a definite goal in life. Leading a disciplined life is the key with 3 aims including for the body, for the mind and through speech.

Savdhyaya: Education or daily reading draws out the best in a person. Changes ones outlook to life by which he realizes all creation is for adoration and not enjoyment. By this the speaker and listener are of one mind. By education or daily reading it draws out the best in a person, changes his outlook to life and he realizes all creation is for adoration and not enjoyment. There is no sermonizing as one heart speaks to another. The knowledge from this is taken into the blood stream and is incorporated as part of ones life.

Isvara pranidhana: Dedication of ones actions and will to God. All creation belongs to God. A yogi must give up all pride, power, selfish purposes, greed and attachment. By this he shows strength in character and adoration towards goals. This also means giving up the feeling of "I".[2]

Modern principles[edit | edit source]

As all beings evolve, so has the practice of Yoga. In recent times, Yoga has grown to encompass newer principles that form the base of its practices. These four basic principles underline the holistic approach of Yoga in modern times.

1st principle: Human body is a holistic entity comprised of various interrelated dimensions inseparable from one another and the health or illness of any one dimension affects the other dimensions.

2nd Principle: Individuals and their needs are unique and therefore must be approached in a way that acknowledges this individuality and their practice must be tailored accordingly.

3rd Principle: Self-empowering; the student is his or her own healer. Yoga engages the student in the healing process; by playing an active role in their journey toward health, the healing comes from within, instead of from an outside source and a greater sense of autonomy is achieved.

4th Principle: The quality and state of an individuals mind is crucial to healing. When the individual has a positive mind-state healing happens more quickly, whereas if the mind-state is negative, healing may be prolonged.[3][4]

Along with being a way of life, it is also considered a practical science with five principles forming its core:

  1. Proper Exercises (Asanas)
  2. Proper Breathing (Pranayama)
  3. Proper Relaxation
  4. Proper Diet and Nutrition
  5. Meditation and Positive thinking.

Read more about it here.

Yoga and Physiotherapy[edit | edit source]

Yoga is an adjunctive therapy which promotes and maintains wellness offering an excellent mind-body connection. It has been suggested that it has diverse clinical and non-clinical applications.

Physiological benefits: There is an increased strength an endurance respiratory muscles increasing the vital capacity. Normalizes blood pressure and improves immunity. This in turn reduce fatigue, improves myocardial perfusion.

Neuropsychological benefits: Stimulate the right brain hemisphere and the motor performance improves with an enhanced ability to process detail and better hand eye coordination.

Musculoskeletal benefits: Creates an auto mobilization of the bones and nerves along with relaxation. Postural education and increased range of motion with strengthening benefits.[5]

Yoga has proved to be an important adjunct to the physiotherapeutic practices practiced world over for a variety of conditions.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Huet, Gérard. "Sanskrit Heritage Dictionary
  2. Yehudi Menuhin. The Illustrated Light on Yoga. HarperCollins India; 2005.
  3. Prado ET, Raso V, Scharlach RC, Kasse CA. Hatha yoga on body balance. Int J Yoga. 2014 Jul;7(2):133-7.
  4. Kaminoff L. Yoga Anatomy: Your Illustrated guide to Potures, Movement and breathing technique; Human Kinetics; 2007.
  5. Posadzki P, Parekh S. Yoga and physiotherapy: a speculative review and conceptual synthesis. Chinese journal of integrative medicine. 2009 Feb;15(1):66-72.