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Friday
May012009

What is Yoga?

                                      

Yoga is not a religion, a political movement, or a dogma. It is a way of bringing harmony within diversity. It respects all cultures, creeds and nations. It nurtures the higher instincts of humanity – compassion, cooperation, and peace.

It is said that man was made in the image of his creator – healthy, happy, vibrant, and wise – living positively and constantly striving to uplift himself. To be healthy in body and mind, and to be full of vitality, are normal attributes of human life. They are man’s birthright. There is little doubt, however, that man has drifted off his intended course. The human mode of living today reflects an attitude which accepts disease and suffering, whether physical, mental, or psychological, as unavoidable and normal. Negative conditioning, habits, and thoughts have thus shortened man’s life-expectancy.

Thousands of years ago highly evolved humanists and sages created the system of yoga, a scientific method whereby one is able to develop physically, mentally, and psychologically into a more complete human being. The term ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘yuk’ meaning ‘union’ or ‘yoke’. It implies harmony and balance between all aspects of creation; the impulses and inclinations of the ever-wavering mind being brought under the discriminating yoke of the Higher Self.

Although there are many different forms of yoga practice, the most accessible method for the Western student is that form which takes the physical body as its starting point.

This is Hatha Yoga. The syllables ha and tha signify respectively the sun and the moon, the flux of positive and negative energies. Balance of these energies result in perfect health, imbalance in disease. Hatha Yoga is thus a complete system of physical maintenance, although physical exercises alone do not constitute Hatha Yoga – that would simply be gymnastics. Hatha Yoga consists of purposefully directed bodily exercises combined with the guidance of life-force into all parts of the body – each muscle, joint, gland, and nerve fiber – making the body into a conscious and obedient instrument. The combined action of postures with breath control will eliminate poisons and toxins and will vitalize the body, strengthening the whole nervous system. You will begin to feel energetic, yet relaxed. Free from tension, you will be able to cope more easily with the constantly increasing demands of modern living.

However, there is more to Hatha Yoga than a feeling of physical fitness. By stimulating endocrine activity (endocrine secretions being a major component in the ‘manufacture’ of emotions), Hatha Yoga becomes a valuable aid in the regulation and stabilization of emotion. If practiced conscientiously, it will uplift your mind as well as your emotions, it will raise your consciousness, and it will bring you into harmony with the whole of nature.

Interestingly, the word ‘Hatha’ also translates as ‘force’ – that tremendous force which you can harness to help overcome many negative manifestations both around you and within you. Hatha Yoga is no self-seeking showmanship, no fanatic asceticism, torture, or fancy gymnastics. It is a scientific tool, pleasant and enjoyable, which can help you achieve balance of bodily, mental, and emotional functions.

 


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