Yoga is now a world-famous technique to keep your body healthy. The world progression of Yoga started with the establishment of the first yoga center in India in the early 1900s. With the help of digital media, the popularity of Yoga has been increasing each day. Also, our Government has been one sole reason for Yoga being so famous around the globe.
It is pleasant to see people all over the globe admiring Yoga so much. But do you know how old this technique is? And do you even know the actual meaning of Yoga? Is it an alternative exercise technique or is it more than just some body gestures?
In this blog, I am going to discuss the secret of Yoga. Which Veda mentions Yoga and what Yoga actually is? Read this blog completely.
What is Yoga?
The literal meaning of the word ‘Yoga’ is ‘Union’. It implies one’s action to unify his identity with his higher self through self-control. The practice of Yoga originated in the land of Indian civilization in ancient times. The early mentions of Yoga are in the Rig Veda. The latest writings of Rig Veda are as old as 1500 BCE.
Yoga revolves around the concept of the yoke or union of the mind and body of a person. Anyone who performs yoga (not only physical exercises) will lead himself/herself towards a path of consciousness unattached to this world. Yoga will free the practitioner from the bondages of this world which is ‘Sorrow’. The practice will also help you in connecting you with nature and hence helps you to focus more on ‘Dhyana’ or Meditation.
Unlike today’s understanding of the practice, Yoga was more spiritual than physical. The ancient philosophies from several religious worlds views such as Buddhism and Jainism also recognize Yoga as a way of spiritual awakening.
Which Veda Mentions Yoga?
We see the earliest signs of Yoga in Rig Veda. Vedas are the oldest & holiest books of Hinduism. There are four Vedas that explain different subjects of interest such as remedies, mantras, deities, magic, etc. Rig Veda is the oldest Veda which was written around 1500 BCE. It mentions Yoga in a poetic and metaphoric sense. The book has mentioned the term Yoga only 6 times but has explained it in various verses written by ancient sages. Rishi Vashisth has written the maximum number of verses in the Rig Veda.
Apart from the Vedas, we find mentions of Yoga in the Upanishads which is the explanation of the Vedas. They simplify the meaning of Vedas from indirect and metaphors to direct instructions. ‘Katha Upanishad’ mentions modern Yoga which is the physical form of Yoga gestures.
We see the systemization of Yoga studies from the sixth-fifth century BCE. The Katha Upanishad’ is as old as the fifth and third BCE. We also see Yoga as one of the six philosophy schools in India. A great sage Patanjali compiled the Vedic yoga instructions in his writings known as ‘Yoga Sutra of Patanjali’.
We find the Hatha Yoga texts from the early 11th century. The Hatha Yoga texts include modern-day postures and pranayama in their writings.
What Do Vedas Tell About Yoga?
As discussed above, the Rig Veda mentions the term ‘Yoga’ six times in its course. But not mentioning the term does not mean it has very little content about the practice. Rig Veda dives into Yoga and tells the spiritual nature of it.
The physical form of Yoga is only a very small segment of Yoga. Most often people misunderstand the complete course of Yoga and limited themselves to it only. We will discuss the wide domain of Yoga in this blog later. Rig Veda tells us to restrain our senses, still the breath, and yoke the mind to be capable of unifying our being to nature or higher self. Rig Veda mentions Yoga six times but only three of them mention it as not a literal yoking of horses.
The first one is Rig Veda 1.18.7. It says, “He promotes the yoga of thoughts.”
The second mention is 1.30.7 which says, “In each yoga, we invoke the strong Indra in each struggle.”
The third mention is 10.114.9. It is a hymn that describes Yoga in four-line poetry that goes like this.
“Who knows the yoga of the meters here?
Who has gained the ‘word’, the subject, and the object of thought?
Who is called the eighth hero among the conductors of order?
Who has perhaps controlled the two horses of Indra?”
The above mentions of Rig Veda show the spiritual nature of Yoga. It is less to do with physical postures and has much significance in spirituality. The Indra or senses are mentioned in several places in detail.
Rig Veda 1.18.7 says, “without summoning Indra, one’s actions are not perfected, even those of the wise. As Indra is the means of restraining the intellect.”
Types of Yoga and Their Importance:
Yoga today is famous for its amazing helpful physical exercise sets. But Yoga doesn’t limit itself to that only. As the word Yoga means ‘Yoking’, we see ancient writings have mentioned it as more of a spiritual practice than just physical. Below are the types of Yoga we find in the holy books of Hinduism.
1. Gyan Yoga or Sankhya Yoga:
The Bhagavad Geeta says a lot about Gyan Yoga or also known as Sankhya Yoga. It says that a person can achieve salvation through the true knowledge of self and this universe. In this yoga, you accumulate knowledge and wisdom based on intellectual arguments and logic. Gyan yoga also leads you through the path of self-discovery with meditation. By adopting meditation as an integral part of life, one discovers his/her true identity unattached to any strings of this world.
Gyan Yoga has three stages.
- Sravana: It is exposing yourself to knowledge.
- Manana: The stage of thinking and analyzing the knowledge with your understanding to increase wisdom.
- Nididhyasana: To meditate and find the true self by letting go of the ego.
The Gyan Yoga is very special as it challenges you not on the physical level but on your intellect. As you progress, it opens your mind. It makes you wise and humble too.
2. Karma Yoga:
Karma Yoga is also described in detail in the Bhagavad Geeta. Geeta says that to get salvation one must detach himself/herself from all the work he/she does in his/her life. You should not attach to the desired result of any work you do. You also must do all things for the sake of society. All your efforts should be in such a way that it would help the society to gain prosperity, freedom, dharma, and finally satisfaction.
When a person attaches himself to the desired results, he is stuck with the result itself. The attachment of desire whether good or bad will catch you like prey. Karma Yoga teaches you to do all things for the greater good and not to gain something for yourself. Following this makes you humble and compassionate to nature.
3. Bhakti Yoga:
As the name suggests, Bhakti Yoga teaches you to love and worship God. Krishna tells Arjuna to devote himself to the true God. The God who has created everything. The one who is inside all living and non-living beings. Bhakti Yoga tells you to understand the true nature of God, love him and submit to him. Only when you know that whatever you are doing is a part of a greater plan. You are just the tool for the world to achieve something great. All are in God’s hands. Further, if you can’t do it, go for the renunciation of your actions. This will bring you peace.
By being united with God through Bhakti Yoga, you free yourself from sins. You go detached from earthly possessions and your egoistic achievements. You understand that all this means nothing.
4. Ashtanga Yoga:
Ashtanga Yoga is yoga for physical exercises and body postures. It is heavily described in Hatha Yoga. It is also famous as ‘Raja Yoga’ or ‘Classical Yoga’. It includes all postures and processes through which you can train your mind and body. The name Ashtanga means it has eight divisions or steps. You can see them below.
- Yama (Principles)
- Niyama (Personal Discipline)
- Asana (Positions and Postures)
- Pranayama (Breathing Practices)
- Pratyahara (Withdrawal)
- Dharana (Concentration)
- Dhyan (Meditation)
- Samadhi (Salvation)
The first two steps enhance the quality of your life by giving control to you. Body postures develop control over your body. It improves your health and gives you flexibility and strength. Pranayama or breathing exercise helps you to fight stress and calms your mind. They also promote organ health by increasing the oxygen level in your body. Meditation & Samadhi leads you on heavy spiritual paths.
Unlike the perception people have, Yoga is an ancient knowledge having far more depth and meaning. It tells you to become one with your higher self. In this blog, I have discussed what Vedas tell us about Yoga. Hope this blog would have increased your knowledge about the Yoga cultural heritage of India.
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