This essay is an excerpt from The Way of The Karma Yogi , my new book.
Yoga, now widely practiced all around the world, is not a religion but a way of living that promotes a balanced development of the body, mind and spirit. Unlike other physical exercises that focus primarily on physical well-being, yoga takes a comprehensive approach and helps in our spiritual development as well.
The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘yuj’ which means to connect, join or balance. Yoga is generally defined as union: union between the limited self and the Divine Self. The ultimate goal of yoga is to help us realize our identity with the Divine Self and attain enlightenment. It makes us aware of our intrinsic nature and helps us get in tune with it. As the Bhagavad Gita teaches us: “A person is said to have achieved yoga, the union with the Self, when the perfectly disciplined mind gets freedom from all desires, and becomes absorbed in the Self alone.” Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev calls yoga “an expression of life.” He points out, “Yoga essentially means finding the keys to the nature of the existence.”
Many people think of Yoga as stretching, holding the breath and doing a set of difficult pretzel-like poses, but it is far beyond that. Yoga is a practice that elevates the life force within. It helps us feel energized and rejuvenated and bestows upon us the power to have better control over our body and our mind.
Yoga helps us attain personal expansion through a series of comprehensive physical and mental exercises comprising of various body postures or ‘asanas’, breathing exercises or ‘pranayama’ and meditation or ‘dhyana’.These exercises help recharge our body, mind and soul and offer us the following benefits:
- Increased strength and flexibility
- Comprehensive fitness
- Inner peace and tranquility
- Weight loss
- Improved respiration
- Increased energy and vitality
- Better posture
- Improved sexuality
- Better sleep
- Increased Immunity
- Better cardiovascular endurance
- Increased metabolism
- Enhanced blood circulation
- Increased self-awareness
- Improved focus and concentration
- Enhanced mental clarity
- Improved memory
- Better mood
Along with the above-mentioned benefits, Yoga also assists in reducing stress and tension in the body by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. It helps in removing any negative blocks from the mind and getting rid of toxins that accumulate in the body. As a direct result of these benefits, Yoga keeps us away from premature aging as well.
In September 2014, while addressing the 69th session of UN General Assembly, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi urged the world community to celebrate today, i.e. June 21, the summer solstice and the longest day of the year, as International Yoga Day. In his address, he stated: “Yoga is an invaluable gift of our ancient tradition. Yoga embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”