Yoga A unique experience

R C Kotwal

Yoga in Vedic Sanskrit means To Add, To Join, To Unite or To attach from the word Yuj. Yoga is a physical mental and spiritual practice or disciplines which originated in ancient India. As per Yogic scriptures, the practice of yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the universal consciousness indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, mass and nature. The practice of Yoga is believed to have started with the very dawn of the civilization. The science of Yoga has its origin thousands of years ago, long before the first belief systems were born. Lord Shiva is seen as the first Yogi or Adiyogi. Number of seals in Indus Valley civilization shows Yogic postures in ancient India. Yoga was practiced under the direct guidance of a guru and its spiritual value was given special importance. The practice of surya namaskar was invented during vedic period because Sun was given highest importance during Vedic period.
The great Sage Maharishi Patanjali systematized and codified the existing practices of Yoga, its meaning and its related knowledge through his Yoga sutras. After Patanjali many sages and yoga masters contributed greatly for the preservation and development of the field through their well documented practices and literature.
Historical evidences of the existence of Yoga were seen in pre-vedic period (3000 BC) and thereafter till Patanjali’s period. The main sources, from which we get the information about yoga practices and related literature during this period, are available in Vedas and Upanishads.
Roughly, the period between 500 BC-800 AD is considered as the classical period which is also considered most fertile and prominent period in the history and development of Yoga. During this period two great religious teachers taught about the Yoga- Buddha and Mahavira concept of Gyan Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga. These three types of Yoga are still the highest examples of human wisdom and even today people find peace by following the methods as shown in Bhagavad Gita. The very important commentary on Yoga Sutra by sage Vyasa was also written.
The word Yoga has its first mention in Rig Veda (chapter No. 5.81.1 Hymn). It is also mentioned in Athravaveda. It is mentioned in Upanishads also. Most famous proponent of the Samkhya world view was an enigmatic philosopher/ writer known as Patanjali. He gave first systematic presentation of Yoga and reveres its author as father of modern Yoga. Patanjali clearly succeeded in codifying the concepts of ancient, oral tradition. His collection of 195 sutras compiled most probably in 200-400 BC. Patanjali is an author of unspecified work of ayurveda. Patanjali is called a man from Gonarda. Gonarda is the ancient name of Gonda – a District. of UP about 50 km from Ayodhya. Greek chronicles mention about Patanjali when they laid a siege on saket i.e. Ayodhya in 200 BC. This implies that Patanjali most probably was from Gonda, a district of immense importance where Buddha and Mahavira resides.
Patanjali is known as modern Yoga guru. He did not invent Yoga. Yoga was already there in various forms which he assimilated into a system. He gave Yoga sutra and he gave yogic traditions proper shape and direction. He wrote Sanskrit grammar and about Ayurveda also. Due to the influence of Swami Vivekananda, the yoga sultras of Patanjali are now-a-days considered as the foundational scripture of classical Yoga, a status which it only acquired in 20th century. Most common are Ashtanga Yoga (Raja Yoga) and Hatha Yoga. Ashtanga Yoga incorporates epistemology, metaphysics, ethical practices, systematic exercises and self development techniques for body, mind and spirit.
The history of Yoga can be broadly divided into the following categories of different eras.
i)     Vedic Yoga
Vedic Age
ii)    Pre-classical Yoga
Indus -Saraswati  civilization
iii)    Classical Yoga Patanjali Yoga Sutras
iv)    Post- classical Yoga Modern Era of Yoga
Classical period of Yoga
Patanjali’s Yoga sutras form the defining text, here, outlining the 8-fold paths of Yoga, what to do and what not to do, how to relate with ourselves and others, how to sit, breathe, withdraw focus, concentrate, mediate and of course, enlighten. It’s worth noting that there is only a single mention of physical activity here, as preparation for sitting where as during vedic period and pre-classical, yoga was more physical hardship by sharpening their minds.
Patanjali’s writings also became the basic for a system referred to “Ashtanga”(8-limed) Yoga”.  It is derived from the 29th sutra of Book-2 of Yoga sutra.
Now recently UNO declared 21st June as “International Yoga Day” supported by more than 170 countries just confirms the significance and spiritual and physical and importance of Yoga. The first international Yoga day was observed on June 21,2015 in which about 35000 people including Prime Minister Narender Modi also participated and performed 21 Yoga Asanas for 35 minutes at Raj path New Delhi. The day was observed by millions across the world.  Yoga is an ultimate gift of physical, mental and spiritual awareness to the universe by great Rishis of ancient India. Baba Ramdev in recent years is contributing a lot in Yoga field.

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