What is Yoga?

Yoga is considered as a sister science to Ayurveda. Ayurveda helps people to make progress in yoga. Yoga is used in ayurveda as an important lifestyle component as well as therapeutic modality. 

Most people living in so-called modern culture approach yoga only as a type of exercise. In January 1973, this was true for me. I was lucky to begin taking yoga classes in college. Initially it was just a new way of getting some exercise. From the twice-a-week class I felt such wonderful benefits, better than just physical exercise, that I began doing the asanas (physical yogic exercises) on my own every day.  

Some yoga classes incorporate pranayama (breathing techniques) and/or meditation, but generally only in very simplistic, limited, minimal amounts. Most of the names of the various styles of yoga that are currently available didn’t exist before 1988. While Hatha Yoga historically includes pranayama and meditation practices as fundamental components of its path, many people today think that Hatha Yoga is just a style of yoga exercises.

Yoga is one of the six key systems of Indian philosophy, known as darshana or shad darshana, or shad darshan, meaning six types of inner and outer vision. 

The six systems of Indian philosophy are Samkhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimansa, Yoga and Vedanta.These are teachings which help us to understand everyday experience with a perspective that promotes personal evolution towards self-realization or enlightenment.

Patanjali’s sutras on Yoga are widely recognized as deeply authoritative. Rishi Patanjali gave the following as the definition of yoga: “yogashchittavrittinirodhah.” This means that Yoga is stopping the movement or modulations of the mind. When the mind is still, one can more easily experience Pure Consciousness

Patanjali goes further to explain that Yoga is the state when we see ourself as it truly is, without identifying with any of what we know as normal modulations or states of mind, or vrittis. The vrittis are: correct knowledge, wrong knowledge, fantasy or imagination, sleep, and memory. These are considered to be the 5 modes or modulations of the mind. 

Dreaming during sleep is included in the category of fantasy or imagination. Most of the time, for most people, they are lost in whatever mode the mind is functioning in, whether it is sleep, daydreaming or remembering, etc. Being established in yoga, a person will not loose their experience of their true self while the mind experiences the world.  

Raj Yoga, the royal path of Patanjali, is known as an eight-sided gem, Ashtanga, or an eight-limbed path. This is a more complete understanding of yoga. Note that Patanjali’s understanding of yoga is much broader than the physical style of asanas being taught in many cities called Ashtanga Yoga. 

The 8 fundamental categories of Raj Yoga are: 

  • Yama - restraints, values

ahimsa - non-violence

satya - benevolent truth

asteya - non-theft

brahmacharya - moving with Pure Consciousness or Brahmin

aparigraha - non-accumulation physically, mentally and emotionally

  • Niyama - observances, requirements

saucha - cleanliness of body, mind and speech

santosha - contentment

tapas - austerity, spiritual effort, forbearance

swadhyaya - self study

Ishvara pranidhan - devotion to the Divine

  • Asana  - positions of the body, physical exercises  

  • Pranayama - breathing exercises, including various different types of breathing techniques.

  • Pratyahara - withdrawing the senses, mastery over senses 

  • Dharana - focusing, concentration

  • Dhyana - meditation  

  • Samadhi - absorption in harmonious experience of the moment.

There are different types of samadhi. It can happen with eyes open or closed. There are more varieties of samadhi with eyes closed. In one kind of eyes closed samadhi, there is just the awareness of ‘I am’, without any experience in that moment of who I am or where I am. People who meditate, practice yoga, do pranayams, chant, sing, dance, laugh and serve others will at some time to some extent experience some of this value of Consciousness, whether you call it Big Mind, Pure Love, Divine Love, God, Infinity, Being, Pure Consciousness or the Quantum State.  

Some people will do things on a regular basis to improve their life and at times this has been called abhyasa, practice. 

Abhyasa is something you do repeatedly, with respect and full awareness to bring yourself into the present moment. Abhyasa is being centered in the present moment. Generally abhyasa will include use of mantras and some combination of the eight limbs of yoga; yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Daily practice, abhyasa, and vairagya, dispassion, are essential in yoga.  

Shiva is sometimes said to have been the original yogi. Shiva is the eternal, innocent, pure consciousness, not an actual person. It has been said that there are asanas for every type of incarnation a soul could have, whether insect, bird, snake, cat, dog, cow, fish, etc. Some have said that mastery over an asana will supposedly give one freedom from the necessity of incarnating in the corresponding type of life form.  

It is not necessary to master one limb of Yoga before working on another. Some have said that one must master the limbs of Yoga sequentially. There may have been some people who did that, yet it is easy to see that this is a belief and not a necessity. For example, there are many who are quite skilled in asana who yet know little to nothing about, and may not practice, yama, or niyama. The more one can incorporate these practices into their life the faster may be one’s progress.  

Some people encounter blocks to being able to do certain components of Yoga. Ayurveda provides methods of helping people to get past blocks and obstacles so it is easier to follow ones intentions. Practical Ayurveda™ has helped many people to achieve greater mastery in their path of Yoga.

Yoga increases skill in action. If you are becoming less skillful in life, in general, perhaps there is a blockage, or, you are not really doing yoga. Some blockages can be cleared through sacred ceremonies or yagna, sometimes spelled yagya. Or there may be some other issue that needs to be addressed. At Practical Ayurveda™ we are happy to help people, whether they are new to yoga or long term advanced practitioners or teachers.  

Yoga is a path of increasing awareness. It requires taking time to make our awareness simple, just being with the happening, whatever is happening in the moment. One way to lose awareness of yourself is to keep yourself endlessly busy.  

Yoga is a means of improving a person’s life. For many different types of personal problems, Yoga and Ayurveda have solutions. Ayurveda and yoga provide the means of attaining experiences that have been out of our reach.  

It is easy to see that anyone who applies themselves to incorporating the fullness of Yoga and Ayurveda into their life can become a better person.    

Contact us today to see how this ancient, beautiful practice can easily be incorporated into your life for a healthy, happier, more peaceful you!


Disclaimer: These statements are intended to be informational only and are based on thousands of years of accumulated experiences within the realm of Ayurveda. None of these statements are intended to diagnose, treat, cure or heal any disease. Before embarking on undertaking to improve one’s health it is wise first to consult with professionals. None of these statements has been investigated or approved by the FDA.