What is Yoga? 瑜伽是什么？
What is Yoga?
The word ‘Yoga’ originated from the Sanskrit term ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to yoke, to combine or to unite’.
The union of mind and body is Yoga.
The word Yoga is also widely used to denote the Hindu tradition of spiritual discipline, comprising different approaches to self-realization and enlightenment.
According to the science of Yoga, a subtle life force called Prana exists and flows inside the body. *This life force can be further divided into the Prana Shakti, and Manas Shakiti (the mental force) — the two fundamental creators. Every object in the universe, however small or large consists of these two energies; when interaction occurs, creations are born as a result. All matter in this creation is alive and conscious. Therefore, everything has potential consciousness and is alive. In yoga, life and consciousness are known as Prakriti and Purusha; in Tantra, they are known as Shakti and Shiva; in Hatha they are known as Ida and Pingala; in Taosim, Yin and Yang; in Physics, Matter and Energy (*from The Hatha Pradipika )
They have different interpretations according to different times and philosophy, but ultimately it is the same. This Prana flows through three Nadis (channels) inside our bodies – the Sushumna channel (centre or in the spine), Ida (left) channel and Pingala (right) channel. The Ida channel represent the negative force which connects the left nostril to the spine, while Pingala channel represent the positive force (the flow of vital energy) which connects the right nostril to the spine. The Sushumna or the middle channel begins at the base of the spine and ends at the crown of the head. When the two nostrils are balanced, the middle channel clears up. This will awaken the Kundalini Shakti (Serpent Power) located at the base of the spine. The union of these three flows will meet in the middle channel, activating all seven charkas (psychoenergetic centres) along the way then finally ending at the Sahasrara Chakra (crown of the head).
Last but not least, Yoga is not a religion. Everyone can practice Yoga regardless of their gender, age, race, culture, religion, education background, physical health condition and so on. It is the nature of Yoga to encourage good conduct and discipline. As a result, sometimes Yoga is misinterpreted of being a religion. You are the freewill individual who choose to practice or believe in anything you wish; everyone has a different interpretation and approach to Yoga, therefore your practice should be tailored to suit your needs (and beliefs).
For those who seek another alternative to common cardiovascular workout and sports, Yoga may be the perfect choice as another form of physical exercise. As for others who seek spiritual guidance and happiness, Yoga offers calming and meditative ways to help distress the body, focusing the mind inwards, eventually leading to enlightenment and contentment. Ultimately it is the choice of the Sadhaka (aspirant or students) to decide how deep he/she intends to go with their practice, and whether they chose to incorporate a spiritual discipline into the practice.
I believe that any form or path of Yoga is always good – physically, mentally and spiritually. I also believe yoga is a physical manifestation of our inner selves. The most challenging aspect of yoga is not about doing seemingly difficult postures; but it is whether we could channel our emotions into positive energy into our practice, thereby detoxifying our bodies and purifying the mind. If the mind is open, the body will be freed, negative energies will be released and transformed into positive ones, the true nature of one’s self will be awaken, contentment and enlightenment will be achieved.
The many benefits of yoga include:
- Bringing awareness to, creates and enhances the body-mind connection
- Providing a mirror in which we could observe our behaviour and attitudes and choose to change it
- Calms the mind and opens the heart by challenging our emotional management
- Cleansing and nourishing the body on every level: physically, mentally, spiritually
- Preparing the body for subtler energy flows, as a vehicle for higher consciousness
- As a tool for healing – physically and mentally
- Maintaining overall good health, vitality and general well-being
- Providing a system of energy patterns that, when fit onto the body, can prescriptively change the body’s existing energy flow
- Balancing the muscles in relationship to each other and relative to their appropriate function
- Maintaining the health and integrity of the spine and joints
- Relaxing, strengthening, stretching and energizing the body
- Increases flexibility both physically and mentally
- Builds strength and endurance
- Toning and nourishing every bodily system: glandular, nervous, cardiovascular and digestive
- Bringing body problems to light and often correcting them (eg: promotes good posture)
- Promotes a positive mind set through learning self acceptance and encourages healthy habits
- Gives the immune system a boost
Pictured above is the monosyllable Aum, pronounced as ‘om’. This symbol is found in many ancient cultures and beliefs especially Hinduism and Buddhism. It has many different interpretations, and one of the more common belief is that it symbolizes the Absolute – the Ultimate Reality where everyone, everything is beyond individualization. It could also mean the universal sound, the most fundamental sound. Another interpretation is the four parts representing the four stages of consciousness: sleeping, dreaming, waking, and the transcendental Self beyond the mind, where the yogi achieves enlightenment. Today it is commonly practiced as a popular mantra* due to its positive psychosomatic* benefits.
*yogi = yoga practitioner
*mantra = a mantra can consist of a single sound/word, or a collection of sounds/words that either have no particular meaning or otherwise
*psychosomatic = involving both mind and body
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