By: Ashwini Surpur, Executive Director, Yoga Bharati, and Visiting Faculty, HUA
Among the priceless treasures that India has offered to the world, yoga has captured the attention of millions across the world. As with all other systems of indigenous wisdom, yoga recognizes the inherent connectedness of the microcosmos with the microcosmic human system and strives for a balance and harmony between the inner and outer realms.
Yoga is derived from the ancient system of sankhya. One of the key founding theory behind all of the eastern schools of thoughts, sankhya propounds the concept of dualism consisting of purusha, the sentient principle and prakriti the manifested material world. Prakriti is nothing but nature with its evolutes such as mahat or cosmic intelligence; tanmatras, the attributes such as sound, sight, etc; and the basic elements of Satva (illumination), Rajas (activity), and Tamas (inertia) as the attributes of both cosmic intelligence as well as of the mind. Yoga builds on Sankhya and helps one look into the constituents of mind. Patanjali, the father of yoga, along with the sages such as Vyasa, Katyayana, and others have systematically explained mind and its states; the disturbances of the mind; the factors responsible for mind’s disturbances; the techniques and ideas to calm down the mind; and how to raise oneself to the higher states of consciousness.
Yoga at its core also explains the concept of five sheaths called Pancha Kosha. These are the five interconnected dimensions that make up the human system — annamaya kosha (the physical body that is nourished by food), pranamaya kosha (the vital body nourished by prana), the manomaya kosha (the emotional mind), the vijnanamaya kosha (intellect sheath) and anandamaya kosha (the pure consciousness). It also explains the five prana-s, the vital forces responsible for carrying out every aspect of the physical and mental functions. When there is some imbalance or distress in any part of the body, it naturally influences the mind and conversely, any agitation or distress in the mind somatises to affect the body. It is for this reason that Patanjali, in his Yoga Sutra, emphasizes that illness or vyadhi can be a significant deterrent in our quest for clarity and discernment, and has to be addressed if one has to gain freedom from the cycles of pleasure and pain.
Yoga, in its therapeutic application, offers a wide range of strategies and interventions that are suitable for individuals of different ages, abilities, professions, and backgrounds. At the heart of yoga is the awareness that good health is not merely the absence of disease but a positive state of well being at all the five sheaths, the Pancha Kosha-s. It further states that chronic disease —Adhija Vyadhi — is the condition that results when one goes through persistent stress for long periods. Stress is the result of one’s reaction to external circumstances. Hence, per yoga, stress is not necessarily a helpless condition that everyone must suffer. With proper education and practice, one can learn to react in a way that inner stress can be minimal, in spite of the stressful situations. As Adi Shankara puts it “kartum akartum anyatha kartum samarthah’ — we have the freedom to react, not to react, and to react in a third way. Yoga helps in cultivation of a strong and stable mind that is able to think and reason with clarity, without being influenced by the klesa-s (impurities) that obscure judgment and the ability to have a pleasant and stable mental disposition while also having the resilience to face up to the multiple challenges presented by life.
The practices of asanas (postures), bandhas (yogic locks), kriyas (cleansing techniques), and mudras (hand gestures) help at the physical level; pranayama helps bring vitality and harmony; the concept of love and devotion which is termed Bhakti yoga helps bring peace at the emotional level and the yogic contemplation and meditation helps bring harmony at the intellectual level. Yoga is a holistic healing system that enables and empowers the individual to bring healing from within.
Yoga Bharati is a non-profit, 501 c(3) organization with a vision of enhancing Health, Happiness, Knowledge, & Peace in life through a holistic approach to yoga. We are a yoga education institution offering Yoga Teacher’s Training and Yoga Therapy courses. We are affiliated with the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation (SVYASA), Bangalore, India, since our inception and have recently established an affiliate relationship with the Hindu University of America. SVYASA is one of the premier Yoga Universities and yoga research institutes in India with its rich background in research on yoga’s healing effects for various ailments and has published over 500 research papers in scientific journals.
For details visit: yogabharati.org