In modern times, stress and poor lifestyle choices have taken its toll on the physical and mental health of humanity. Yoga has emerged as a savior in these difficult times. It provides an opportunity to improve our health and relax our mind. This combination of dual benefits i.e. physical and mental health has attracted many people to start practicing yoga.
For the uninitiated, Yoga may look like a collection of complicated poses to improve the flexibility of the body. This is only partially true. Yoga is as much of a physical science as much an exercise of the mind. Yoga is not only for achieving flexibility, but it also helps develop strength and endurance. Yoga is a holistic approach to the overall health of the body including spirituality. Before diving into the clear aspects of Yoga, this article is meant to share a brief history of yoga and build a foundation for further practice.
The great sage Patanjali wrote Patanjali Yoga Sutras around two thousand years ago. Yoga as a discipline is cited in a multitude of texts from Vedas to Mahabharata. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is the essence of all the philosophies of Yoga combined. Patanjali compiled these philosophies into four chapters and one hundred and ninety-six sutras.
The Sanskrit word Sutra translates into a formula or an aphorism also has a more physical meaning – a thread. Patanjali has beautifully stringed the pearls of Yoga from ancient texts and practices into the thread of his writing. Thus, he has blessed the coming generations with a profound and logical system of the discipline of yoga in his timeless classic Yoga Sutras.
The first chapter of Yoga Sutras is Samadhi Pada. Here Pada means chapter and Samadhi means – settlement or completion. One who attains Samadhi has started walking the path to the knowledge of the self. Samadhi is a technique by which a person dives deep into one’s true self and brings out the pearls of knowledge and wisdom.
The first sutra of yoga, ‘atha yoga-anushasanam’ which translates to ‘Now, the discipline of yoga is explained’. In the first sutra of the first chapter, Patanjali invites you to take part in the discipline of yoga. Patanjali knows that the practice of Yoga needs a full concentration of one’s mind. Thus, he does not start the chapter with the definition of Yoga but with an invitation.
Importance of Pause
He starts his first chapter with a pause which is crucial to the study of Yoga. A pause – you will need this pause after reading every individual sutra, after reading every word of the sutra. Yoga is nothing if for a pause. A pause makes you mindful to the present and what you are studying.
Patanjali wants you to become active and focused because now is the time when he starts explaining the discipline of yoga. He wants you to calm down the crashing waves of the ocean of your mind and settle still like water in a pond. Patanjali wants you to live in the present and be ready to take the benefits of Yoga Sutras.
Living in the Present
The first sutra starts with the Sanskrit word atha – means now. Now is the time when you start your practice of the discipline of Yoga. With the first sutra, Patanjali also wants the student to understand the importance of Yoga as a discipline. Yoga means union – a union of the practitioner with the truth.
Yoga can be successfully practiced by the one who has dedication, focus, concentration, patience and time. Yoga needs your time. It is not just about finding an hour from your twenty-four-hour busy schedule but also to be in the present moment during that one hour. Do not spend that one hour for yoga on dreaming about future or lamenting about the past. Dedicate that one hour to the present moment.
The field of yoga is wide and deep. The philosophy has survived millenniums. Many sages and philosophers have contributed to the development of yoga. Around five thousand years ago, Krishna spoke ‘Bhagavad -Geeta’ to the great archer-warrior Arjuna in the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Bhagavad-Geeta means ‘The Song of God’. Here, Krishna talks about various kinds of yoga performed by yogis like bhakti-yoga, Gyan-yoga, and karma-yoga. The great tradition of yoga must spread all over the world for the happiness and healthiness of the people and the benefit of humanity.