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Yoga: A brief overview

by Dr. Minati Mishra
2nd February 2016

Yoga means union and the aim of yoga is to make one achieve a state of union into one's own nature.

Sage Patanjali in his yogasutras describes yoga as the restraint of the fluctuations (vrittis) in mind.
The vrittis prevent mind from resting in its true form, which are described to be of five types - direct knowledge, errors, imaginations, sleep and recollections.
When the vrittis are extinguished, the desire for all the things that are perceived are extinguished and the perceiver, the perceived and the perceptions become united.
It may be difficult for everyone to disregard the vrittis and achieve the state of samadhi.
For those it is necessary to practice yoga which helps gain concentration and achieve imperturbability.

Patanjali devises the eightfold path of yoga (Raja yoga) consisting of eight steps- self restraints (yama), observances (niyama)
postures to master the body (asana) and breath (pranayama), sense withdrawal (pratyahara), concentration (dharana),
contemplation (dhyana) and union (samadhi), where intermediate steps guide the practioner to progress to a higher level,
the goal being liberation or samadhi.
Self restraints (yama) such as non violence and truthfulness and niyamas prepare one to have a mastery over the physical body.
Asana is described as poses that give comfort and steadiness necessary for contemplation.
Once the mastery over the body is achieved through poses (asanas), the breath (prana) must be mastered through pranayamas.
Holding the breath before exhaling is to be practised regularly to achieve concentration and to prepare the mind for contemplation (dhyana).
Repetition of names of god or symbols for god such as "Om" may be followed.
Once one has mastery over the thoughts one has mastery over the emotions. The senses stop being engaged with external objects
and the mind becomes similar to its true nature.

The belief that happiness depends on external things is known as desire. The belief that suffering is caused by external things is known as aversion.
Anxiety and suffering arise only because of desires and aversions.
The experience of both happiness and suffering, the eternal and the transitory, and the pure and the impure arise from a lack of insight.
When the lack of insight disappears, the identification of the true self with such experiences disappears and one becomes liberated.
Any work thus done with rigor without attachment to its outcome leads one to liberation. This psychological practice of non-attachment is called Kriya yoga.

Yoga improves the physical and mental health of the practitioner at the intermediate levels and ultimately guides him to liberation.
Though most people understand yoga as a form of physical exercise, Patanjali's yogasutras may help one understand yoga
and its true purpose.

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