Yoga is one of six schools of orthodox Hindu philosophy. It is a spiritual discipline as well as a science. It is the heritage of India. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yug’ which means ‘to add’, ‘to join’ , ‘to unite’ or ‘to attach’. Thus, Yoga is union of mind, body and soul. It involves physical, mental and spiritual practices. Yoga is considered beneficial not only for cardiovascular and blood circulation but the practice of it could provide incredible immunity booster for body to fight against COVID-19.
History of Yoga
The practice of Yoga was started during Indus Valley Civilisation in Northern India over 5000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilisation is the suggested origin of Yoga as many seals, including the Pashupati seal, depicted several Yoga positions. It was first mentioned in “Rigveda’. Yoga was slowly developed by Brahmanas who eventually documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads.
Initially, Yoga lessons and teachings were transferred from the teachers to disciple orally. They were complied by Patanjali in 1st century CE in the name of Yoga Sutra! ‘Yoga Sutra’ is the most credited source of Yoga, therefore Patanjali is known as the ‘Father of Yoga’.
In the 3rd century BCE, the word ‘Yoga’ became popular in other religions like Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist writings. In Mahayana Buddhism, the practice of Yoga for both spiritual and meditative use was known as Yogacharya which consisted of eight significant steps of meditation called ‘Insight. In the 5th century, Yoga was meant for meditation and religious use, but not as a form of workout. Yoga later became widely valued because of the Indian Nationalist Movement as a way of building up pride and cultural identity. Today, Yoga is practiced worldwide by millions of people in many forms.
Various Forms of Yoga
There are various forms of Yoga including Hatha Yoga, Asthanga Yoga, Classical Yoga, Bikraw Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Power Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, etc. Yoga has been evolving, therefore, many more types of Yoga are available today as compared to the past.
Yoga today forms an essential part of millions of peoples’ lives. It is practised to keep oneself fit, for meditation and for good living. Yoga has been part of the lives of Indians since ages. Today, Yoga is one of the most practised forms of exercise (both physical and mental) even in the West.
Pranayam: Part of Yoga
Yoga through Pranayam and meditation provides many psychological benefits. It helps in stress management, better concentration and focus, besides increasing self-awareness, thus helping in bringing inner peace. Yoga is not a form of physical exercise only as commonly understood today. Yoga is a way of life. It is not a course to be completed within a specific period, it is a journey of self-development.
Vivekanand’s Contribution to the Spread of Yoga in West .
During famous Chicago speech (in 1893), Swami Vivekanand introduced the whol world about the spiritual superiority of Indian religious traditions. Overtime he realised that Yoga was the best way to introduce spirituality to the West. He travelled throughout the United States and England giving the Western World a taste of Yoga and Vedanta. His first book on yoga meditation was assembled and published as ‘Raja Yoga! It was followed by his collection of books on Jnana Yoga’, ‘Karma Yoga’ and ‘Bhakti Yoga’
As a large number of people in America craved for a personal experience of Indian spiritualism, he went on to establish the Vedanta society in New York in 1895 which continues to thrive till day. Further, Vivekanand drew that Yoga was not an Indian tradition or a Hindu one but it was the concept of humanitarianism that made Yoga popular around the world.
Today, the popularity of Yoga in the West is such that about 75% of the fitness centres of America offer Yoga in their courses. Every year International Yoga Day is also celebrated which has given an international push to Yoga.
International Yoga Day
The idea of an International Day of Yoga was first proposed by the current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, during his speech at the UNGA (United Nations General Assembly), on 25th September, 2014. Following this initial proposal, the UNGA held informal consultations on the draft resolution, titled ‘International Yoga Day’ on 14th October, 2014. The proposal of India for International Day of Yoga got huge support of 177 members out of 193. 21st June was choosen as the day as it is the longest day in the Northen Hemisphere and holds special significance for many countries.
Contribution of Baba Ramdev Towards Yoga
The credit for increasing the popularity of Yoga in India and making the teachings of Yoga available to every person goes to Baba Ramdev Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev used the medium of television and newspapers to reach out to the general public and made his lessons available to them.
Baba Ramdev has made significant step in rejuvenating traditional education in India by establishing University of Patanjali located at Haridwar, Uttarakhand in 2006. The university aims at innovating teaching-learning and research to produce professionally competent, personally elevated and socially empathetic alumni.
Lifestyle Diseases Prevented
Today many of us are under the threat of lifestyle diseases. Such diseases can be cured by following a good lifestyle. Yoga helps in emotion management by people, provides a proper routine for life and enhances awareness about the body. Yoga heightens mindfulness in people which is essential for controlling lifestyle diseases. Yoga includes Pranayam and Kapal Bhati which are one of the best and effective breathing exercises. Yoga is a therapy which helps getting rid of illnesses slowly if practised on regular basis. It makes some positive changes to the internal body and regularise the body organs functioning. It is clinically proven fact that regular breathing exercise of Yoga can successfully strengthen our lungs and prevent Coronavirus disease.
Improves Quality of Life
Yoga brings holistic development. It helps people to engage in life purposefully, reduce sufferings and bring joy for living. It helps us in maintaining a harmonious life. It gives us a good lifestyle. It can reduce our health expenses with least investment.
Today Yoga can act as both preventer and controller of disease and hence improves the quality of life. Citing the importance of Yoga, UNESCO in 2016 also listed Yoga as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. United Nations in response to COVID-19, has suggested that mindfulness meditation is a great option to incorporate and to reduce anxiety and stress caused by isolation and lockdowns.
Yoga is considered a ‘Sadhana’ i.e. disciplined and dedicated practice. It is a science with many benefits for humanity. It is not related to particular religion. Yoga can be very useful to the people who practice it. Yoga is seen as a complete workout. It purifies both mind and body.
Yoga is a great gift to mankind given by India to the world. It is an exercise that connects the elements of mind and body. It helps to meditate and relax. It is an essential tool in the 21st century to develop self awareness and discipline. Any one can practise Yoga no matter what age or whichever religion one follows. In a stressed world of today, Yoga can be a calming exercise and it can prove to be effectively controlling the lifestyle diseases that the world is struggling to fight. With rising number of pandemics and new viruses that weakens the immune response of human body, Yoga has the potential to make the mankind healthier naturally.
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