We stand hypnotized by the belief that disease and illness are our fate and destiny, rather than health and bliss, which are truly our birthright and heritage. In order to emerge from our mass hypnosis and collective hysteria and to experience health, joy and creative fulfilment, we must make a systematic application of yoga in our daily lives.
(Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yogic Management of Common Diseases)
It is highly doubtful there is anyone left on the planet who hasn’t heard about the myriad health benefits of taking up yoga, let alone who isn’t in possession of a yoga mat (or two). Nevertheless, few might have heard of Saraswati‘s yogic prescription for 36 common ailments or Swami Muktibodhananda’s Hatha Yoga Pradipika (unless they’ve travelled the teacher training path, that is).
All who regularly attend yoga classes will be aware of the asanas (or ‘postures’) – but it is so much more than an exercise system. Yoga is, rather, a philosophy and is veritably spiritually intertwined with Hindu beliefs and practice, as well. Those poses, coupled with pranayama (or ‘breathing’), and a vegetarian diet, are meant to train the body to sit comfortably in meditation, for example. Indeed, there are 8 Steps to yoga (known also as Raja Yoga, or the physiological approach to reaching enlightenment; as opposed to Karma, Jnana or Bhakti Yogas).
The 8 Step Path of Raja Yoga
- Yamas (‘abstensions’)
- Niyamas (‘observances’)
- Asanas (‘poses’)
- Pranayama (‘breathing’)
- Pratyahara (‘withdrawal’)
- Dharana (‘concentration’)
- Dhyana (‘meditation’)
- Samadhi (‘the super-conscious state’)
The yamas and niyamas break down further, those abstensions and observances being specified, almost like commandments by which one may live a good life:
Yamas (‘external moral codes’)
- Ahimsa (‘non-violence’)
- Satya (‘truthfulness’)
- Asteya (‘non-stealing’)
- Brahmacharya (‘self-control’)
- Aparigraha (‘non-possessiveness’)
Niyamas (‘internal practices’)
- Saucha (‘purification’)
- Santosha (‘contentment’)
- Tapas (‘self-discipline’)
- Svadhyaya (‘self-study’)
- Ishvara Pranidhana (‘self-surrender’)
In short, to ‘do’ yoga is to adopt a way of living that moves beyond the physical to the mental and ultimately the spiritual – a long term goal if ever there was one (in all sensibility, a life-long one). For the end in sight, the ‘return’ on such dedication, is the obtainment of Nirvana. So, the next time you’re fretting over not being able to do a pose, breathe deep and give pause to what you are really bending your body and brain towards: achieving bliss.
Now, that’s a relaxing thought indeed. Namaste.