Scientific Base of Yoga
Scientific Base of Uoga
The true meaning and purpose of yoga can be understood after a basic knowledge of basic concepts of Sankhya Philosophy.The realisation of true nature of Purusha (self) is the main objective of Patanjali Yoga. If there is no believe in the existence of ‘self’ then whole yoga system reduces to physical exercise and that is not the reality at least from ancient Indian philosophical point of view. Acording to Yoga Philosophy this Purusha (self) is ever lasting and can surely be realised by following the prescribed path (Sadhna).
Meaning of Yoga
A good understanding of meaning of Yoga is essential to understand it’s ultimate objectives.Yoga is an alteration of ancient Indian word ‘Yog’ and due to heavy western influence now majority of people write and pronounce it as ‘yoga’.All the traditional literature of India,write it as ‘Yog’, which is a Hindi word meaning addition (+) and in general symbolizes union of ‘atman’ (soul) with ‘Paramatma’ (supreme soul).
In course of time a plethora of meanings got associated with this term and only few of the relevant are discussed here to get an insight into the prevailing meanings of the term. According to Rana V. et al (2003), the words ‘yoga’ and ‘yoke’ have the same Sanskrit root. Yoga can be described as an ancient form of spiritual ‘self-discipline’ that is required for achieving enlightenment (Samadhi), which is considered as the ultimate objective of following the yogic path in one’s life. The term ‘Yoga’ is found widely used in different texts belonging to different spiritual traditions of India like Vedas, Upanishad, Jain and Buddhist literature, Mahabharat, Shrimadbhagwadgita and many of the Puranas.
Mahrashi Patanjali (200 B.C.) is believed to be the founder of this System and for the first time he presented this system in a text called ‘Yoga-Sutra’ and it is considered as the original text of this philosophy.Patanjali in this text have explained entire yogic path through a sequence of clearly defined Eight steps, which provide seekers a clear road map for a smooth journey to enlightenment. He composed a book called YogSutra, which is the original book of Yoga.In Panatajali’s Yogsutra (1.2) Yoga in Sanskrit language is defined as ‘Yoga Chitvrittinirodha’, which literally means ‘to get rid of all the tendencies of mind’, in other words according to the founder , Yoga is a method of overcoming ‘modifications of the mind’.
Thuis concept of Chitta is originally from Sankhya philosophy and this Chitta (loosely translated as mind) is very unstable by the virtue of its nature and Yoga basically provides a path to make it stable through constant practice.
According to Patanjali’s Yog Sutra there are five different states/conditions of Chitta, which are named as ‘Kshipat’, ‘Moodh’, ‘Vikshipta’, ‘Ekagra’ and ‘Niroodha’. These different dynamic states of Chitta are responsible for different temperaments or conditions experienced by a person.In Kshipta condition of Chitta, there is the influence of Rajoguna, which makes it very fickle and restless.When the Chitta is under the influence of Tamoguna, then it leads to Moodah condition and the person becomes violent.When the Chitta comes under the influence of Satoguna as well as simultaneously under partial influence of Rajoguna, It is said to be in Vikshipta condition. Although in this condition Chitta is stable to some extent, but often the influence of Rajoguna makes it unstable. Finally, when the Chitta comes solely under the influence of Satoguna then it transforms to the condition of Ekagra. After going through Sadhna (austerity), when all the four transitory conditions of Chitta are overcome and 8 STEPS OF ASTANG YOGA (PATANJALI YOGA)Astanga Yoga.
Eight Steps of Yoga in context of Samkhya Theory
- Yama The first limb of Yoga ‘Yama’ is described as discipline in human behavior. It is about individual’s social behavior to lead a righteous life. These are five in number and are the core ethical Principles of Yoga philosophy. 1. Ahimsa (Non-violence) It means to be Kind to all living beings and it prohibits violence by in all possible ways (thoughts, deeds and actions). 2. Satya (Truth) This principle suggests follow the path of truthfulness and support the righteousness under all the circumstances. 3. Asteya (Non-Stealing) It prohibits acquiring any things unrightfully and guides one to remain free from greed. 4. Brahmacharya (Celibacy) It prohibits indulging in sexual activities and following passions for bodily pleasure and recommends conserving this energy for spiritual upliftment. 5. Aparigraha (Non-possessiveness) This principle prohibits accumulation of materialistic things beyond the essential requirements to lead a simple life.
- Niyama (Personal Observances) After a good practice of Yamas, one is prepared to follow Niyama, for leading a righteous life. These Niyamas are related to yogic discipline and spiritual observances. These Niyamas help to get oneself establish in the path of Yoga, which demands an infallible adherence to the principles of Yogi life to proceed further to get enlightenment. These five Niyamas are following: 1. Sauch (Cleanliness) It directs one to remain physically clean and also keep the surroundings clean to best possible extent. 2. Santosh (Contentment) It directs one to remain content with one’s life and not to give emphasis to materialist things. 3. Tapas(Austerity) Tapas suggest remain attentive and follow right body posture, breathing patterns and food habits to control the senses.. 4. Svadhyaya (Study of the Spiritual texts and contemplation) This principle recommends to get engaged in study of relevant spiritual texts on a regular basis to cultivate positive thoughts and to remain inspired to lead a yogic life based on principles. 28 5. Isvara pranidhana (Leading a life devoted to God) This principle suggests to lead a life devoted to God and to accept everything as divine will.
- Assana (Physical postures) Yam and Niyam together prepare one for performing Asanas, which are special body postures practiced to bring stability of body and mind.These Asanas (Physical postures), bring a discipline to the body and improve the ability to concentrate on something for a longer duration.This situation of stability is a most sought after one for practicing meditation. Although often these asanas are mistaken as ‘Yoga’, but these physical exercises are to get body healthy and ready for long hours of meditation.
- Pranayama (Controlled Breathing techniques) Asanas prepare one further for Pranayama, which aims to harmonize the breathing process.The regular practice of this respiratory exercise results in establishing a harmony between breath and mind and brings mental stability.This practice aims at controlling, regulating and perceiving of the breath.Pranayama helps greatly in controlling the energy flow (prana) within the body and brings energy in body and have very positive impacts on the mind.
- Pratyahara (Mental stability) Pranayama prepares one mentally and physically for Pratayhara, which aims to turn the seeker to an inward journey aimed at self-realisation.One is considered as successful in this practice ,when during meditation we one gets totally absorbed in the object of meditation. It requires the controlling of senses and keep oneself unaffected by all kinds of external sensations. 29
- Dharna (Mental conceptualization) Pratyahara prepares one for the next step of yoga journey called Dharana, which literally means a firmly believed object for concentrating mind. During initial steps of yoga the seeker remains conscious of the mind and the mental process. During this concentration is effortless and one feels that meditation is effortless and in later stages there is no sense of time.
- Dhyana (Meditation) A success in the process of Dharana leads one to the stage for Dhyana, which literally means contemplation or meditation. In the process of Dharna, mind gets singly focused on a particular object, where as in Dhyana eventually mind is absolutely free from any thoughts.
- Samadhi This is the ultimate stage in Yoga journey. After perfection in Dhayana one gets prepared for self-realization. In this stage the process, subject and object of meditation, all there merge together and become one and the seeker no more realizes any difference in the three. Thus, finally the seeker (‘self’) realizes his eternal connection with the universal energy and become free from the bondage of Prakriti. Samadhi is described in different ways by scholars in different texts,but in general means to become one with supreme reality of universe. In this stage one perceives self as an ‘Atman (soul) and the illusion of identifying self as a body or mind is finally overcome.
In this stage the mind becomes pure and unbiased and therefore is able to perceive the objects, which are beyond the consciousness. The mind can explore the subconscious mind and can interpret the latent Samskaras stored in subconscious mind. Samadhi in this way is a totally unbiased state of mind that brings absolute freedom to Atman. (Chatterjee & Datta, 1939)
Above discussion makes it clear that, Astanga Yoga system founded by Patanjali is a structured and well defined path in which each step is aimed at a definite purpose and follows a certain subset of steps and guidelines.These eight limbs are subjected to different interpretations to some extent by the practitioners, but in general have more or less above meaning for the seekers. According to renowned authors in the field the Yoga (Chatterjee S, & Dhatta, 1939), these eight limbs of yoga are integral to the Yoga path.The first five steps (Yama, Niyama, Assana, Pranayama, and Pratyahara) serve as the foundation of a spiritual life and are referred as ‘external’ means and the last three are termed as ‘internal’ means as these are related immediately to the process of ‘self-realization’ or Enlightement.In this way yoga is a ancient spiritual path giving by Indian Sages to human beings to attain self realization and get enlightenment or the full realization of oneness with universe in life.