Back bends, fancy head and hand stands are all part of the very commercialized form of Yoga today. In other parts of the world, like the United States, Yoga is often associated with asanas (postures) and Pranayama (breathing techniques) of Hatha Yoga. Yoga, in Singapore has also been part of our fitness culture lately. As an avid practitioner of yoga myself, I found it unfortunate that I know so little of its origins (apart from knowing it originated from India), and what it actually means to be practicing such asanas and pranayamas. To me, Yoga was simply a way cleansing the mind, the soul and at the same time, building strength and stability to help me throughout my practice. Little did i know, Yoga seem to have some sort of connection to Sanskrit Vedas, the eightfold path and even the cycle of death (Samsara) that we all have heard about in previous lectures!
Origins of Yoga
As the yoga tradition lasted for 4 periods from more than 5,000 years ago, I shall attempt to highlight just a little of its origins. The oldest and most intensively studied was the Vedic Yoga that focused on the Vedas. The sacred scripture of Brahmanism that is the basis of modern-day Hinduism. This period was characterised by rituals and ceremonies that allowed one to surpass the limitations of the mind and live in divine harmony.
Translated from Sanskrit, the classical language of India, the word “yoga” means “union,” or “to yoke or join.” This union signifies how the individual's consciousness can join with something greater—some may call that God, the divine, or universal consciousness. Simply stated, the ultimate goal of yoga is the attainment of Moksha from the liberation of the cycle of death (samsara)
Having said that, what poses and postures in a regular one hour yoga class can help you achieve Moksha or develop a connection with the Hindu tradition and God? P.S yoga movement has the cheapest rates so far if you decide to attain Moksha next week or something.. (:
Ashtanga Yoga (Eight Limbs/Eightfold Path)
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.
Pranayama (Breathing Techniques)
The basis of all yoga practice begins with the breath. Pranayama is generally defined as breath control. The word Pranayama comprises of two roots: 'prana' plus 'ayama'. Prana means 'vital energy' or 'life force'. (Just to side track a little, its almost similar to "Ka" and "Ba" in Egyptian periods). It is believed that once the mind has been stilled, and prana flows freely in our body, the door way to the evolution of consciousness opens, leading the aspirant into higher dimensions of spiritual experience.
Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation)
One primary source of light is, of course, the sun. For thousands of years, the Hindus have revered the sun, which they call Surya, as both the physical and spiritual heart of our world and the creator of all life itself. Since everything that exists originates from the sun, as Alain Danizlou wrote in The Myths and Gods of India, it “must contain the potentiality of all that is to be known.” For the Hindus, the sun is the “eye of the world” (loka chakshus), seeing and uniting all selves in itself, an image of and a pathway to the divine. Furthermore, The Sanskrit word namaskar stems from namas, which means “to bow to” or “to adore.” (The familiar phrase we use before and after every yoga class! namaste..—te means “you”—also comes from this root!) Not only that, "Namaste" is also used to thank oneself and our bodies for committing to the practice!
Although Yoga has been around for many years, its only in recent times that people found the benefits of practicing it. Teachers and masters of Yoga have always highlighted how the mind, body and soul is always connected to one another. Its amazing how a very commercialized sport today, has roots from wayyyyy back. Having said so, do let me know if you're an avid practitioner of yoga as well! Namaste (:
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