The book presents a study of different type of yoga as all of them are considered essential at different stages in the path of spiritual evolution: hatha yoga, raja yoga, japa yoga, laya yoga, kundalini yoga, nada yoga, svara yoga among others. It starts with a background on the meaning and concept of yoga and its benefits. It examines the theory and practice of yoga under two broad groups - pertaining to purification of the body and purification of the mind, presenting yoga as taught in the Upanisadic texts as well as yoga as scientifically researched and practiced in the modern day by yogic masters. Under these groups are covered the science of the human body and its cleansing, postures, breathing and gestures and the different techniques meant for achieving spiritual and mental excellence through desireless actions, concentration fixation, meditation and yogic trance. Written in an easy-to-understand language, the work abounds in quotations and other reference to the sacred scriptures and famous ancient work on yoga to provide a broad base and comprehensive treatment of the subject.
The book will prove extremely relevant to all those simply interested in yoga or involved in studies on yoga, whether they are beginners, scholars, spiritual aspirants.
Swami Shantidharmananda Saraswati is a scholar-saint who has been involved in the quest for spiritual knowledge for years. He received spiritual guidance and wisdom from spiritual master at the historical pilgrimage centers - Munger, Rishikesh, Benaras and Omkareshwar. He has specialized in yoga, having received initiation from the great yogic master of modern times - Paramahansa Swami Satyananda Sarswati of Bihar School of Yoga, Munger. He currently resides and teaches in his own hermitage.
YOGA is a way of living a complete life. It is a method which overhauls all aspects of the human personality. It is a system of integral and spiritual education, education not only of the body and the mind or the intellect but also of the inner spirit. It shows you the marvellous method of rising from evil to good, and from goodness to holiness and then to eternal divine splendour. It is an art of right living. A yogi, who has learned the art of right living is happy, harmonious, peaceful and tension-free.
Yoga is a science, perfected by ancient seers, i.e.,rsis not merely of India but of humanity, as a whole. It is an exact science, a perfect practical system of self-culture. Thus, Yoga does make or does not require turning away from life. It just demands transformation and spiritualization of life, because it is a way of life, not something that is divorced from common life. Yoga does not say to forsake action but teaches to do with efficient performance in the right-spirit.
So, Yoga is for all and is universal. It is not a sectarian affair but a way of God realization and not a creed. The practice of Yoga is not opposed to any religion or any sacred Church, Mosque, Temple, Monastery, etc. It is purely spiritual and universal and, thus, does not contradict anyone's sincere faith. Therefore, Yoga is not a religion, but an aid to the practise of the basic spiritual truths of all religions.
Yoga is a very very ancient science that flourished in the world and, especially, in India. It is an inseparable part of every Indian's life. But now it is being accepted, the world over, again, and is becoming part of every man's existence. The Vedic mantras and the Upanisads have deeply elucidated this science. But being a very intricate subject, it is difficult to comprehend. This is the reason why the rsis and yogis created so many texts so as to make the subject easier. Some very reliable and authentic texts that delve into the science of Yoga are - Patanjala Yoga-Sutra, Yogi Yajnavalkya-Samhita, Gheranda-Samhita, Siva-Samhita, Bahada- Yoga-Sopana, Hatha- Yoga-Pradipika, etc. The finer aspects of Yoga have been explained in them on the basis of different types of practitioners.
A person who is ready to lead a life of moral purity and spiritual aspiration, which are the first steps in the path of Yoga, is a practitioner. One who has a calm mind, faith in -the words of the master and the scriptures, who is moderate in eating and sleeping and who has an intense longing for deliverance from the wheel of births and deaths is a qualified person for Yoga.
An aspirant in the path of Yoga should have certain basic qualities - faith, cheerfulness, courage, patience, purity, lack of despondence of mind, perseverance, sincerity, dispassion, serenity, self-restraint, non-violence, truthfulness, and non- covetousness. An austere and simple life is necessary. Self-control is the foundation of Yoga, whereas discipline of body and mind is the essence of Yoga. In the practice of Yoga, there is a reversal of the normal outgoing activity of mind, for which steadiness is essential and, for that, one has to bring the mind under complete control. Such people are called practitioners.
Life, today, is full of stress and strain, of tension and nervous irritability, of passion and hurry, of love and hate. If man puts into practice a few of the elementary principles of Yoga, he would be far better equipped to cope up with his complex existence. Yoga brings perfection, peace and calmness of mind. One can have restful sleep and increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and a good health. You can have success in every walk of life. It infuses new strength, confidence and self-reliance. It brings the emotions under control and increases your power of concentration at work. It leads the way from ignorance to wisdom, from disharmony to harmony, from weakness to strength, from wants to contentment, from limitation to infinitude, from diversity to unity, from imperfection to perfection, from hatred to divine love, from misunderstanding to proper understanding. It transforms one's life in such a way that all that is bad is removed; lust for power, material greed, sensual excitement, passion for wealth, selfishness, anger and all animal-natures are removed.
Constant and steady practise of Yoga with sincere devotion leads gradually towards spirituality, because the senses have to be thoroughly subjugated, divine virtues have to be cultivated and evil qualities eradicated and mind, too, should be controlled well. These are the basic aims of Yoga.
The final aim of Yoga is the experience of union of the (jivatma) soul with (paramatma) the Supreme. Due to the intoxicating effect of (Maya) worldly delusion, man has become oblivious of his Real Self and when he is subjected to the purifying "fire" of Yoga, he is freed of bodily impurities and inner conflicts and experiences the true form of the Soul.
In that state, the practitioner resides in and experiences his own self, i.e., Supreme Absolute Bliss.
The soul resides in a physical form, which is a slave to so many (samskara) impressions and tendencies. But once the physical body is purified through Yoga it becomes free of the effect of disease, old age and death and capable of experiencing oneness with the Supreme Soul.
A person who has attained a body, purified by yogic fire, will have no disease, no old age and no forget-fulness.
Here, mrtyu does not mean death. Rather, it has the meaning as hinted in Mahabharata -
Forgetting about something or oneself is (mrtyu) death. In other words, (mrtyu) death is becoming oblivious of the true basis of life, i.e., the Soul.
Self-forgetfulness is death.
This is why, in the Gita after having listened to the discourse of Lord Krsna, Arjuna says -
Forgetfulness is destroyed and I have regained memory.
Rebirth is like waking up from sleep. To continue to be aware of the previous birth even in the next birth is called (na mrtyu) immortality. The text Susruta-Samhita describes this as follows:
A yogi has the knowledge of (karmas) actions of his past life and the (sadhanas) spiritual practices that he had accomplished then, due to his continuous study and practise of the scriptures. Surely, he will have a pure intellect and memory of all his past births. He is guided by them in the present life and, thus, acheives totality. In this very context it is said -
There (in rebirth), his intellect recalls (links itself with) the knowledge acquired in the previous births and puts more effort than before for perfection. By that very former practise, he is helplessly and unwillingly or forcibly taken towards the goal, i.e., perfection.
From all these authentic scriptural verses, it is clear that Yoga is not just a set of exercises for keeping the body healthy and disease- free, rather it is also a means of acheiving freedom from the limitations of the mundane world, within and without.
But still to attain liberation a strong-sturdy psychic body is also essential with a disease free physical body. For, a very famous saying goes thus -
This physical Body is the primary means for all spiritual practices.
According to this verse, without a healthy and disease free physical body, it is impossible to attain spiritual freedom. This is why the yogic system has been designed in such a manner that one could attain physical fitness and spiritual progress, at the same time. On the basis of their experiences, the rsis have gifted the asanas or yogic postures for physical fitness and breathing practices (pranayama) for longevity to mankind. All these have a scientific basis.
Through a strong will-power, one could practise these. Yoga brings peace and joy in life and, at the same time, it opens up the path to totality and spiritual emancipation. Yoga, besides teaching how to lead life in a beautiful and organized manner, also helps one develop a strong personality.
The aim of hatha-yoga is to make the bones flexible, the muscles supple, the blood circulation perfect and ensure proper functioning of the various glands so that all body functions could go on smoothly and unhindered.Pranayama, i.e., breathing practices aims at making the body as well as the mind healthy. Through it, one becomes free of tension and capable of accomplishing work with concentration.
Hence, if your aim is to make the physical body healthy and well built, gain the capability of remaining unperturbed and balanced in adverse situations, become impartial, simple and hard working in life, make your existence joyous, peaceful and contented, lead a highly moral life even in adverse conditions, keep the mind and soul healthy, live a life dedicated to service and high principles and realize and experience the mysteries of the universe and the Soul, then, you should surely start to gain the knowledge of Yoga from some realized master (guru) and practise it under his guidance.
There are four categories of evolving human beings in this world. First, those who believe in karma, i.e., action and who are endowed with physical energy. Second, believe in devotion to the Lord and, hence, are endowed with softer feelings and emotions. Third, are those who practise (dhyana) meditation and are linked to the energy of the Soul. The last category comprises people who are deep thinkers and, hence, their faculties of thought are much developed. Thus, matching with these four categories of spiritual practitioners, there are four paths prescribed by the rsis - karma- yoga (Yoga of action), bhakti-yoga (Yoga of devotion), raja-yoga (Yoga of spiritual discipline) and jnana-yoga (Yoga of knowledge).
The present work is not only dedicated to postures (asana) and breathing practices (pranayama) - two of the eight-fold path, called Astanga Yoga, prescribed in raja-yoga by Patanjali but deals Yoga in its totality. The text has fifteen main chapters which appear in the major three sections of the book. The first section relates to purification of the body, the second to purifi-cation of mind and the third pertains to knowledge of subtle elements.
The book starts with an introduction to Astanga Yoga (Eight- fold Yoga System) and concludes with a section, dedicated to alleviation of ailments through Yoga and the scientific basis of this system. The last section of the book is the epilogue. Thus, the book has five sections.
In the Introduction of the book, the views of great rsis, like Patanjali and yogi Yajnavalkya regarding the eight limb Yoga (Astanga Yoga) have been presented in order to introduce the readers to this subject.
The first section focuses on purification of the gross and subtle bodies. In this part, the chapters on anatomy and body purification relate to the physical body and its purification. The chapters on asanas and pranayama are related to the purification of both the gross and the subtle body.
The second part of the book, relating to purification of mind and other internal-organs, focuses on dispelling of ignorance and countering inflation of the ego. This part focuses on Fruitless or desireless actions niskama karma yoga), Proper diet (yuktahara), Introversion (pratyahara), Fixing mind (dharana) and Meditation (dhyana). But the means prescribed in sections three and four cannot be properly put into practice without the knowledge of the subtle spiritual elements. Thus, the fifth section is dedicated to Science of Spiritual elements (tattva vijnana), which throws light on Para-sympathetic Nervous system (nadis), Plexuses or psychic centres (cakras) and the dormant energy (kundalini). In the end is the section relating to treatment of ailments, through Yoga. In it, different Yogic practices have been prescribed for different diseases based on the real life experiences of practioners of this system and also of my master (guru), Paramahansa Swami Satyananda Saraswati of Bihar School of Yoga.
It is my sincere hope that mankind, especially the spiritual practitioners, would benefit more from this book. Wishing for the welfare and physical and spiritual progress of all, I dedicate this work to the human society, which epitomises Lord Narayana.
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