In terms of practice, Yoga is a discipline that over 300 million people around the world are actively engaged in. The word “Yoga” literally means “union,” and refers to an inner state where one experiences everything as a part of oneself. Often mistaken for a system of physical exercise, the Yogic system is actually a set of tools for self-transformation that are designed to bring one to this state of union.
Contrary to popular belief, Yoga postures or asanas are not just about stretching and bending the body. In Sadhguru’s words, “Yogasanas are not exercises. They are very subtle processes of manipulating your energy in a certain direction. It needs to be done with a certain level of awareness. There are various levels of doing asanas. You can practice asanas just physically, or more deeply, being aware of the breath, sensations, reverberations, being aware of the nadis, or with appropriate mantras. You can even do asanas without moving a limb.”
Yogic practices are a science and technology for turning inward. Sadhguru defines Yoga as a subjective tool to explore the inner dimension of a human being that is beyond the accumulations of body and mind.
The International Day of Yoga is celebrated annually on 21 June. It was declared to be so by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 11, 2014.
The date of 21 June was chosen because it is the summer solstice (the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere) and has special significance in the Yogic system.
The proposal for the International Day of Yoga was put forward by the Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, and during his address to the UNGA on September 27, 2014. In his speech, he said:
“Yoga is an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition. This tradition is 5,000 years old. It 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 discovery. It is not about strength but sensitivity. It is not about competition but cooperation. It is not about self-assertion but self-restraint. It is not about violence but peace. Yoga can open up a new horizon of peace and harmony.”
He proposed that 21 June be declared as the International Day of Yoga and that date was unanimously approved by the UNGA.
Although Yoga has many health benefits such as…
Better heart health
Higher levels of energy
...and many more, Sadhguru describes good health as merely a side effect of Yoga. Yoga is not just about physical fitness; it is a holistic system that touches every aspect of your being – physical, mental, emotional, and energy-wise.
Yoga can help with weight loss but it is only a side effect of the inner transformation that people experience through Yoga. With regular practice, they find that their relationship with their physical body and their eating habits change. However, The main purpose of Yoga is to bring one to a state of union where they experience the entire cosmos as part of themselves. In Sadhguru’s words, “Yoga rejuvenates the system and brings so much sense into you that you will not overeat. Once a certain level of awareness arises in your body, your body becomes such, it will just eat what is needed for it. It will not eat anything more. This is not because you are controlling or regulating your life in any way or because somebody is telling you to go on a diet. If you do some other exercises or dieting processes, you are always trying to control yourself. With Yogic practices, you do not have to control yourself. You just do the practices. This takes care of the system in such a way that it will not allow you to eat more than needed. This is the big difference with Yoga.”
Many Yoga practitioners have found relief from back pain because Yogic practices address all aspects of human wellbeing. The Yogic system is designed to bring a person to a sense of physical health, mental clarity, emotional pleasantness, and energetic vibrance. Specifically, the spine is given utmost importance in Yoga. Sadhguru explains that without the spine, a human being would be unable to experience higher possibilities. Keeping the spine well-protected, strong, and sensitive is important for a Yogi because you want to experience the whole universe as a part of yourself.
Building muscle, strength, and flexibility is a natural outcome of practicing Yoga. Since the physical aspect of Yoga is only preparatory in nature, one of its goals is to enable the practitioner to sit in a stable and comfortable posture. However, Yoga builds strength not just in the muscles but in all aspects of the physiology which ensures holistic development of the body.
Yoga has been shown to be effective in reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. The main reason for this is that Yoga brings about a transformation in the way you perceive yourself and the world around you.
No, Yoga is not just for ascetic monks and can be practiced by people of all walks of life. However, there are separate kinds of Yogic practices that are suitable only for monks and should not be practiced by people who are not initiated into the ascetic path.
There are four fundamental types of Yoga - Karma Yoga, Gnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Kriya Yoga. This is because a human being is a combination of these four aspects - Body, Mind, Emotion, and Energy. Whatever kind of spiritual path one walks falls into one or more of these four categories.
Gnana Yoga is the path of intelligence. Sadhguru describes it as a process of sharpening one’s intelligence to a point where it penetrates through the process of life and shows you what is true and what is not true.
Karma Yoga is the path of selfless action. It is the path of service, where one uses physical action to evolve spiritually.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion, where one uses their emotions to try to reach the ultimate. Sadhguru describes this path as the fastest and sweetest way to grow.
Kriya Yoga is the path of using one’s inner energies to reach the ultimate. Following the path of pure Kriya Yoga is a very demanding but powerful way to walk the spiritual path.
Kundalini Yoga is a set of practices that allow one to tap into the huge volume of energy within a person that is yet to find its potential. Sadhguru warns that one must be stable and exercise extreme caution before activating the Kundalini. He also reveals that every aspect of Yoga activates Kundalini in some way.
In Sadhguru’s words, “The word ‘Tantra’ literally means a technique or a technology. This is an inner technology. These are subjective methods not objective methods. But in the current understanding in society, the word "Tantra" refers to very unorthodox or socially unacceptable methods. It is just that certain aspects are used in a certain way. It is not any different from Yoga. It is a limb of Yoga called Tantra Yoga.”
Over 15,000 years ago Adiyogi, the first Yogi, transmitted the science of Yoga to his seven disciples, the Saptarishis. Yoga predates all religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. This is way before ancient scriptures such as Vedas and Upanishads were written. In fact, even the Sanskrit language had not been invented yet.
Adiyogi expounded 112 ways through which human beings can transcend their limitations and reach their ultimate potential. Adiyogi’s offerings are tools for individual transformation, as individual transformation is the only way to transform the world. His fundamental message is that “in is the only way out” for human wellbeing and liberation. Because he was the source of Yoga, Adiyogi is also called Adiguru or the first Guru.
A Guru is not a teacher in the conventional sense. A Guru is one who can ignite the spiritual process within you. A Guru is not a preacher but a catalyst who can bring about a fundamental change in your consciousness. Since every individual is unique, the Guru crafts a spiritual path that is suitable for that particular individual and offers Yoga as a living possibility rather than an ideology or a set of techniques.
A Yogi is someone who is established in a state of union and experiences the entire cosmos within themselves. When someone breaches the boundaries of the physical and transcends its compulsive and cyclical nature, they become a Yogi. (A830) This is why Sadhguru defines spirituality as transcending the limitations of the physical and experiencing this boundlessness.
Sadhguru says, “The word ‘Zen’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘Dhyan.’ Gautama the Buddha taught Dhyan. Bodhidharma carried Dhyan to China, where it became Chan. This Chan went further down into Far East Asian countries, where it became Zen.
Zen is one form of spiritual path which has no scriptures, books, rules, or particular practices – nothing. It is an uncharted path. It is not very different from what Yoga is. What we call Yoga, they call Zen. In Yoga, we present the same thing as a science while in Zen it is handled as an art form.”
Yoga is suitable for everyone regardless of their age, gender, or physical fitness. The Yogic system contains methods suitable for every kind of person.
To begin the practice of Yoga, you do not need anything other than your body. You don’t even need a Yoga studio to get started! However, here are a few aspects that can help kickstart your Yoga journey, such as: