What is 'Yoga'?
After experiencing the ups and downs of my life, together with my life-long learning, at this stage of my life, I would describe myself as a spiritual person, rather than a religious person. I found myself being a truth seeker, rather than just following rules or dogmas from any religion.
I studied the Bible, Buddha's teachings, Hindu sutras, the Chinese Yi Jin, and different science subjects such as physics (from quantum mechanics to cosmology) and psychology (from neuroscience to counselling and hypnotherapy), all trying to understand the ultimate truth on the universe and human, and how to make this world a better place, a more beautiful place! And help all those who are suffering, not just human, but also all sentient beings.
All these knowledge and experiences bring me more confidence to say that, "YOGA IS REALLY A SCIENCE SUBJECT!"
Yoga is in fact a scientific, and systematic system, which provides different means to help each of us to attain our goal. Either you want physical health, mental health, or have a spiritual goal.
The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali and Hatha Yoga Pradipika are two very very important textbooks for all those who want to understand and practice yoga. Patanjali highlighted the eight practices of yoga, which guide you through until you reach your goal, from the very basic physical level, up to the highest spiritual goal you have, the realization of the Highest Consciousness, the omniprescence and omniscience Consciousness, (Jesus for Christians, and Dharma for Buddhists and Hindus, etc.)
Among the 8 practices of yoga, some of them you can take at the same time, but some of them can only go one-by-one, because you will need the foundation to be built well and firm.
Those eight practices are:
I would like to share my understanding and experiences on these 8 practices.
Yama - It contains the rules of conduct, such as non-violence, always telling the truth, non-stealing, forgiveness, compassion, etc. It guides us how to act responsibly as a member of the society. Following these yamas, we will have a society in harmony.
Niyama - it contains observances such as austerity, contentment, faith in Supreme Consciousness (or God), studying sacred scriptures, modesty, etc. Following these niyamas helps our lives to be more fulfilled, content, and meaningful. Contentment and satisfaction will grow deep inside our hearts.
Asana - The physical movements or postures which systematically strengthen and stretch our muscles, train our physical body for better health, and also as a preparation to our spiritual journey, if we want it.
Pranayama - Through yogic breathing exercises, it empowers our body and cleanses our respiratory system as a start. It gives energy to our organs, muscle tissues and cells to perform daily routines. it provides energy and even stimulates our brain for better and brighter functioning, such as memory and creative thinking. Together with the asanas, we can start off our journey towards our spiritual goal!
Pratyahara - It is the withdrawal of senses. Everyone can understand what it is when we think of sleeping. We shut off all senses of the physical body, we ignore any sound, smell, touch, light from the envirnoment. Of course, different people have different level of sense withdrawal at sleep. However here, Pratyahara means there is sense withdrawal but the mind is still clear and conscious. For example, when you are very concentrated when watching a movie, you can ignore things happen around you. But, how can you do it when it is without the movie? Then you need to train your concentration on meditation. Then you can attain a still and clear mind, which is needed for your ultimate spiritual goal, or realization of the Supreme Consciousness, or union with God.
Dharana - This is the concentration or the one-pointedness needed for our meditation, to achieve a still and clear mind.
Dhyana - This is the practice of meditation and contemplation, that you need to spend time and effort on. With more and more practices of meditation, and with longer and longer duration for each meditation session, your state of clear and still mind will be getting more and more stable.
Samadhi - This is the stable meditative state of the clear and still mind. Atttaining samadhi, you will feel joyful with calm and peace, your mind is so clear that you can see the ultimate truth from this phenomenon world. Believers will be able to attain union with God, or realization of the Supreme Consciousness. Your ultimate destination in fact depends on your true believe. STAY FIRM WITH YOUR BELIEVE, NOTHING WILL MOVE YOU AWAY FROM THAT. Trust me!!!
From the above, you will see that yoga systematically provides you with many scientific methods to achieve your goal, no matter which level (either you want physical health, mental health, or have a spiritual goal) you target at. And yoga is good for any believes or religion you have.
Only one point you need to bear in mind, the higher your goal is, the more important is the role of your teacher! Carefully choose your spiritual teacher to guide you through, and help you overcome the obstacles on your spiritual journey. Make sure your teacher is trustworthy and capable for it!
Feeling ready? Start off now! Yoga is for everyone!
6 March, 2016