Discoveries in science and technology have improved our living conditions and made us financially and materially prosperous. However, economic prosperity measured in terms of GDP does not always ensure enrichment in the quality of life and well-being of human society. In order to develop a happy and harmonious personality and society, science must ensure a balanced growth of external and internal resources and coping skills. Unless scientific and technological developments are based on a consideration of human values and a concern for suffering humanity, the horrors of war and destruction, and damage due to eco-imbalanceswill loom large over the world.
In reality, man has explored the outer space but he has not dived sufficiently into the spaces within. Application of science and technology has resulted in cognitive development. Our knowledge and understanding of objects and the world have increased tremendously. In the process, however, man ignored his emotional patterning in life. As a result, in spite of plenty of wealth, physical comfort, and knowledge of sources of energy, space and communication skills, man is dissatisfied, disturbed and unhappy (Lawton, 1983). Selfishness, greed, wrath and lust are playing havoc. They have given rise to distrust, insecurity, anxiety, stress and conflict, and have made individuals and society restless and emotionally and socially weaker. Coleman (1970) rightly remarked, "The seventeenth century has been called the Age of Enlightenment; the eighteenth, the Age of Reason; the nineteenth, the Age of Progress; and the twentieth, the Age of Anxiety." From this, however, it must not be construed that material achievements are to be decried. In fact they have met our important needs, requirements and aspirations, and are indices of our progress and prosperity. However, overemphasizing them and ignoring the emotional and spiritual aspects of life has made the individual's personality and society unbalanced and problematic. So what we need is to establish a balance between the two. It has rightly been observed that just as a bird needs two wings in order to fly in the sky, similarly, in order to live a life of happiness and peace, an individual needs to integrate the dual aspects of material and spiritual life (Swami Satyananda, 1995). By spirituality is meant awareness of human values and striving to imbibe them in our life. So we must not look into the external environment only and develop intellectually, rather we must also delve deep within our psyches and expand emotionally and spiritually to promote the quality of life and health of the total being. In the ancient Indian Gurukul system students were provided with both material knowledge (apara jnana) regarding the external phenomena and world, and transcendental knowledge (para jnana) related to selfdevelopment. Our ancient systems and cultures fostered a more holistic and universal approach to life. Of them the science of yoga is perhaps the foremost.
This is an age of renaissance for the ancient science of yoga. Yoga constituted an essential aspect of the old tantric culture and figured prominently in the Vedas, Epics and Upanishads several thousand years ago. Even a systematic codification of raja yoga by Rishi Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras dates at least two and half thousand years back. However, it was in the twentieth century that good commentaries on yogic texts came to light in different languages by scholars and competent yogins, who explained the meaning and significance of different yogas (e.g. raja yoga, hatha yoga, karma yoga, bhakti yoga, jnana yoga, kriya yoga, etc). Great yogins and devoted sannyasins like Swami Vivekananda, Maharshi Ramana, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Sivananda, Swami Rama, Swami Satyananda and their disciples in the traditions spread the message of yoga in different parts of the world, removing the myth from people's minds that yogic practices were extensions of a religious faith or were meant only for sannyasins devoted to higher spiritual aims in life. They explained how yoga was needed to meet the psycho-physiological needs and problems of the common people. Standardized specific yogic practices like those of kriya yoga (Swami Yogananda), transcendental meditation (Maharshi Mahesh Yogi), yoga nidra (Swami Satyananda), vipasana (Buddhist technique), preksha dhyana (Jain technique), maitri bhavana (Yoga Vashishtha) etc. were brought forward and used for the specific purpose of promoting health and inner happiness. Thousands of yoga centres have sprung all over the world, and yoga and meditation are practised by millions of people in the United States alone (Walsh, 1999) and by several millions throughout the world.
Yoga figured prominently in the National Education Policy of India circulated in 1986 and also in its revised versions. The Govt. of India, in its circulars, highlighted the significance of yoga training for the balanced physical, cognitive and emotional growth of school-going children. Yoga training has gained popularity in schools. However, as regards higher level teaching and research in yoga, except for a few centres and universities in the country, for a long time it remained largely confined to interested individuals and their efforts. A big boost was provided by the University Grants Commission, New Delhi, in 1993, when it introduced the scheme of establishing yoga centres in the universities, and with its recommendation the first Deemed University in yoga (Bihar Yoga Bharati) came into existence in the year 2000 at Munger, which provides teaching courses at the MA/MSc level in yogic subjects and offers research facilities for doctoral level researches in yoga. This has been followed by the granting of similar status recently to Vivekananda Yoga Mahavidyapeetham, near Bangalore. We hope more such institutes will emerge to promote scientific studies and advanced courses in yoga, and that more concerted efforts will be made to introduce the concepts and application of yoga in academic disciplines devoted to the promotion of the well-being of individuals and society.
The yogic practices were well received in the different countries not only by ordinary people but also by scientists, particularly physiologists, psychologists and medical experts. The practice and techniques of particularly raja yoga, hatha yoga, and meditations were put to experimental tests. Their theoretical assertions and practical use were verified to provide yoga with its scientific status.
In India, however, behavioural scientists, particularly psychologists, showed apathy and indifference to yoga in the beginning, although as a discipline devoted to the study of the mind and consciousness, yoga was closest to psychology. Maybe under the impact of British rule or in their enthusiasm to be labelled as scientific they "shut their eyes to the psychologies of their own systems of thought and were dazzled by the modern scientific psychology of the West" (D. Sinha, 1965). This resulted in the establishment and growth of western psychology in India and the neglect of the indigenous rich field of yoga psychology in its own land. For a long time Indian psychologists did repetitions and replications of studies made in the West. H.G. Singh (1997) presented illustrative evidence of this sad plight and made out a strong case for the introduction of Indian psychology and yoga as a subject of teaching, research and service to society. It was almost in the last quartile of the twentieth century that the Indian psychologists realized that psychology anchored in our own soico-cultural fabrics can provide a better understanding of human behaviour (D. Sinha, 1981, 1986), and the conceptual understanding and application of different aspects of Indian psychology and yoga became a matter of their serious concern (Chakraborty, 1987; Kuppuswami, 1985; Misra, 1988; Parameshwaran, 1969; Sethi, 1977).
An important factor, which promoted the study of different aspects of yogic psychology, was the international interest in and appreciation of Indian thought on the human psyche and its functioning. Emergence of humanistic and transpersonal psychology and realization of the significance of higher order human needs gave rise to investigations into psychological or subjective well-being, promotion of quality of life and ingredients of positive mental health. Efforts have been made to factor analyze positive mental health (Kasl, 1973; Barnes, 1994) and psychological well-being (McCullock, 1991; Bhogle and Prakash, 1995), which manifest in selfconfidence, ego-strength and overall satisfaction in life. Studies on these lines by contemporary psychologists and their data-based inference that the feeling of happiness and satisfaction subjectively experienced by individuals is not necessarily dependent upon material gains or objective conditions of life (Okun and Stock, 1987) bring them nearer to the eastern and yogic thought on life satisfaction.
Promotion of health and quality of life is the prime objective of yoga and is the point of greatest attraction for researchers and practitioners in yoga. From the yogic perspective, health does not mean just a disease free body (as now accepted by the WHO). It believes in a holistic approach to health of which the body, the mind and the spirit are integral and interdependent aspects. Yoga takes into consideration both the positive and negative aspects of health. By positive health is meant physical fitness, mental agility and spiritual verve. It is expressed in overall satisfaction, inner happiness, peace and blissful experiences. On the other hand, neglect of any of the three aspects (body, mind and spirit) of health results in imbalance and disharmony in the being and the person carries negative health features which manifest in problems and disorders of a physical, mental or psychosomatic nature. A good deal of studies have been done to indicate the short and long term effects of the yogic practices on psychophysiological functioning and their role in the prevention and management of different health problems. The selected yogic practices have a favourable reconditioning effect on endocrine gland secretion (Copeland, 1975), reduction in sympathetic tone of the autonomic nervous system (Prabhu, 1987; Srinivasan, 1983) as well as in oxygen consumption and blood flow (Jevning et al, 1983). Yogic practices recondition the whole body, especially the neuromuscular and neuroglandular systems, to enable it to withstand greater stress and strain (Kuvalyananda & Vinekar, 1963).
The different meditational practices have relaxing and rejuvenating effects on the body and brain, reflected in transformation of the brain waves (Naifeh, 1993), and they regulate the heart rate, breathing and oxygen consumption (Telles et al, 1997). As a result, yogic practices have been found useful in preventing and managing disorders related to the body systems (Karmananda, 1986). The psychosomato- spiritual approach of yoga is more effective in managing stress-related psychosomatic problems like asthma, diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and tension headache (Divekar, 1982; Nagarathna & Nagendra, 1985; Shankardevananda, 1984, 1984a; Ornish, 1990; Latha and Kalippan, 1992). Similarly the psychotherapeutic value of asana, pranayama, yoga nidra and other pratyahara practices has been indicated in the management of anxiety, depression and other neurotic disorders (Bhushan and Sinha, 2001; Kumar, 2002; Nagendra, 1993). In a study conducted on 78 students undergoing a four month residential Certificate Course in Yogic Studies it was found that the yogic lifestyle adopted by the students resulted in a substantial reduction in their anxiety, depression, somatism, obsession, hostility, intersensitivity, phobic anxiety, paranoid ideation and psychotism as measured by Derogatis's SCL (Bhushan, 1998).
As regards positive psychological correlates, yoga helps one to achieve full potentiality. Findings of controlled studies indicate improvement in cognitive abilities, concentration and memory on account of yogic practices (Gupta, 1999; Sridevi et al, 1998). In a study by Selvamurty (1993), for six months yogic practices were conducted on JCOs in the Defence force. This resulted in a significant improvement in their body flexibility, concentration, memory, learning efficiency and psychomotor performance. The biochemical profile showed a relative hypo-metabolic state and reduced levels of stress hormones. Studies conducted in the Department of Yoga Psychology of Bihar Yoga Bharati, Munger, have shown promotion of emotional security and emotional stability (Tivashri, 2002), psychological well-being and life satisfaction on account of adopting a yogic lifestyle. Thus the yogic practices help in the management of negative features of health and the promotion of positive qualities.
In order to understand the yogic view on promotion of personality, we must look into the spiritual aspect of human life, and the yogic models of personality. As stated earlier, the spiritual aspect is closely linked with the functioning of the mind and body systems. It includes: (i) purification of self, and (ii) expansion of self. Purification of self here is indicative of the dominant harmony in mental conditioning, which involves certain psychophysical and psychic practices (sadhana) and observance of human values and social norms. From the yogic viewpoint, observance of the yamas and niyamas and the practices of asana, pranayama, meditation, the hatha yoga shatkriyas, karma yoga and bhakti yoga, etc. are different purification techniques for the mind and body.
On the other hand, expansion of self refers to transcendence, positive emotions and attitudes expressed in care and love for all. This is called atmabhava or samatvabhava, which means that the spirit within every organism is the same, the difference is in external features of the body which is only a container for the spirit or the real self. When this spiritual realization comes, the practitioner identifies easily with the suffering and grief of others as if they are his own, and his feeling is expressed in true love manifested in giving, serving and making sacrifices for others without any discrimination and expectation of return. He enjoys doing these acts and derives inner satisfaction and everlasting peace. Mathur (2002) has rightly observed that "the mind draws its power from spirit, transmits it to all the body organs and ensures their rhythmic and coordinated functioning." So, spirituality is not just something abstract, rather it is the inner source or strength for bringing about qualitative improvement in one's personality, which is reflected in his appropriate thoughts, behaviour and lifestyle.
Yoga is, therefore, a promotive science which aims at evolution of mind and personality. This is conceived in yogic literature as the journey from the development of the potential of annamaya kosha to the identification of the Self with higher consciousness in anandamaya kosha. In between are the stages of awakening the faculties of pranamaya, manomaya and vijnanamaya koshas. They represent the five sheaths of human personality and reflect the hierarchy of states of consciousness (Sinha and Naidu, 1992). Annamaya kosha constitutes our physical body and its sensuous and material requirements, desires and aspirations. Such desires and ambitions have no limit. They give rise to cravings for more and more goods, possessiveness, and ultimately result in stress, anxiety, frustration, conflict, psychosomatic disturbances and problems. The same has been beautifully stated in the Bhagavad Gita (2: 62-63) as:
Dhyayato vishayanpunsah sangasteshupajayate
Sangat sanjayate kamah kamatkrodhobhijayate.
Krodhadbhavati sammohah sammohatsmritivibhramah
Smritibhranshad buddhinashah buddhinashatpranashyati.
"When a man thinks of objects, attachment for them arises; from attachment, desire is born; from desire, anger arises. From anger comes delusion, from delusion, loss of memory; from loss of memory, destruction of discrimination; from the loss of discrimination he perishes." On the other hand, with yogic practices when the other koshas are awakened, the source of delight is internalized. The practitioner gradually develops samyam (self-restraint), santosha (satisfaction) and shanti (peace). A person with an awakened anandamaya kosha has all these qualities which are expressed in a saintly nature (cf. Swami Niranjanananda, 1993).
The concept of evolution in human personality is inherent in the description of the three gunas - tamas, rajas and sattwa. They are present in every person and the dominance of one over the other two determines his personality. A person dominated by tamas is lethargic, static, self-centred and dominated by impulses to fulfil his ends. A rajasic person is aware of the social and moral codes but is dominated by worldly aspirations (ishanas), is active, effortful and achievement oriented. He may have more material richness, but suffers from the pain of expectations and attachments to persons and things. Different to these is the sattwic person who is directed by human values, a transcended consciousness, feelings of compassion and love for all, which provides him with inner delight and happiness. A few studies have shown how the concept of the gunas goes beyond Maslow's need-hierarchy theory (Daftuar and Sharma, 1997) and that the dispositions of the gunas have practical significance even in an organizational set up (Kaur and Sinha, 1992). The yogic practices aim at transforming the tamasic and rajasic nature to generate one's sattwic nature.
The Indian spiritual traditions rest on making life free from suffering. Whether it was Vedantic philosophy, tantric philosophy, Jain philosophy or Buddhist philosophy, their foundation was not to search for God but to discover the sources of human misery and suffering and to find ways to overcome them. In yogic literature, asakti (attachment) has been mentioned as the chief source of all human suffering. Asakti literally means limiting of the area of consciousness which involves interaction and attraction to objects and individuals with expectation and is dominated by tamas and rajas. It results in acts of possessiveness, threats to ego (asmita) and attraction or lust (raga) for sensorial objects (Bhushan, 1994). When the expectation is not fulfilled, the attraction turns into repulsion and hatred (dwesha). In either case one suffers from insecurity, stress, anxiety, and fear of various sorts. In yogic texts they have been described as kleshas (sufferings) which originate on account of avidya (ignorance or wrong notion), of mistaking pleasure for pain and the eternal for temporary things and events. On the one hand, avidya gives rise to the strong motivating force of asakti and, on the other, it manifests in troublesome cognitive sets and mental modifications called the painful chitta vrittis. The chitta vrittis provide a cognitive basis to our behaviour and interactions, and are five in number. They are pramana (proof) or valid cognition; viparyaya (illusion) or invalid cognition; vikalpa (fancy) or objectless verbal cognition; nidra (sleep) or unconscious cognition; and smriti (memory) or recollection of past cognition. Thus the modern cognitive approach to human behaviour was well conceived in the ancient literature of yoga psychology. The literature further says that the chitta vrittis may be klishta (painful) or aklishta (non-painful) in nature. When the vrittis are guided by avidya and asakti, they result in affliction and suffering. On the other hand, by making them positive and spiritually oriented they become aklishta. So, suffering or happiness depends upon how we perceive and think about objects and situations. This is why Patanjali says in his Yoga Sutras that the aim of yoga is to control the modifications of mind (yogashchitta vritti nirodhah). Control of the vrittis does not mean suppression of desires and thoughts. It only means transformation of their nature. The cognitions and thoughts are reoriented by yogic practices so that the practitioner develops an optimistic attitude, viveka (wisdom) and a lessening of sensorial desires. He develops anasakta bhava (feeling of nonattachment), which makes his actions and behaviour self-enjoying, providing him with happiness and peace.
Anasakti is not an impractical ideal beyond the reach of man in modern society. Empirical findings show that persons high in anasakti experience significantly less strain and stress based on subjective ratings of distressful events than those who are low on it (Pande and Naidu, 1992). A person high in anasakti performs a task and serves a person or institution with dedication and task involvement without any additional expectation. His performance is not of instrumental value to achieving some incentive, rather he works and enjoys as a karma yogi. He does not decry material support or amenities, but is not conditioned by them. Such a transformation in attitude and cognitions develops gradually through yogic practices, being reflected in attainment of the mental states postulated in hierarchical order like moorha mana (ignorant mind), kshipta mana (fluctuating mind), vikshipta mana (oscillating mind), ekagra mana (concentrated mind) and niruddha mana (non-attached or transcendental mind). The literature says that moorha mana is dominated by asakti, and tamoguna and niruddha mana by anasakti and sattwa guna. The yogic practices aim to achieve this highest state of a non-attached and quietened niruddha mana. The other three are intermediate states of transformation which gradually take place during yogic sadhana. Thus yogic practices bring about positive transformation, leading to a healthy, harmonious and enlightened personality, which has been described as sthitaprajna - a model of the non-attached personality of stable mind, about which the Bhagavad Gita (2:56) says:
Dukheshvanudvignamanah sukheshu vigatasprihah
"He is a person who is neither shaken by sorrows and miseries, nor is disturbed by the pleasures of achievements and is free from the influence of attachment, fear and anger." This has been described as the ideal transformed personality. However, the journey starts from management and prevention of problems of health or personality to achieving normalcy and then developing the inherent faculties of the human personality.
The pranic system in yoga presents the psychophysiological basis of the yogic practices and their effects. Prana is the vital life force and the basis of human health and illness. The proper flow of prana provides energy and vitality to the body and its systems, alertness and quietness of mind, and awakening of the psychic centres. Yoga describes five pranas, which flow in different parts of the body to keep them fit and energetic. They are udana (in the neck, head and limbs like the hands and legs), prana (in the chest area), samana (in the abdominal region), apana (in the area below the navel, i.e. large intestine, kidney, anus and genitals), and vyana (which pervades the whole body and coordinates all the other pranas).
These pranas flow through the channels called nadis. Of the thousands of nadis flowing in the whole body, three nadis found in the region of the spinal cord are most important. They are ida nadi, pingala nadi and sushumna nadi. The flow of these nadis is indicated by the flow in the nostrils. When our left nostril flows, it indicates the flow of ida nadi. Similarly, a flow in the right nostril and both nostrils indicate the flows of pingala and sushumna nadis respectively. Yogic literature says that a balance in the flow of ida and pingala leads to sound health, while an imbalance creates health problems. The flow in ida is related to chitta shakti. So, when ida nadi flows too much, this results in mental stress, anxiety, depression and other similar problems. On the other hand, pingala is related to prana shakti. Excessive flow of pingala nadi makes a person hyperactive, restless, aggressive, destructive and lacking in concentration. Many problems are also created on account of blockages in the nadis. Awakening of sushumna leads to psychic evolution and expansion of consciousness. Yoga provides methods, particularly pranayama sadhana, to cleanse the nadis, establish a balance in the flow of ida and pingala nadis and to awaken sushumna (cf. Swami Niranjanananda, 1994). But before doing pranayama sadhana, the body muscles, joints and glands need to be made free from toxins and relaxed by the practice of yogasanas. Asana and pranayama are interdependent and essential yogic practices for balancing the different systems to establish or re-establish emotional harmony and psychomotor normality. Similarly, pranayama sadhana has relaxing effects on the brain and mind. It cleans and quietens the mind and prepares it for higher meditational practices.
So far we have discussed the objectives, theories and principles of yoga. But yoga is a science because of its practices and their applications. So, the discussion will remain incomplete without a description of them. There are different yogas and different yogic practices. Like psychology, yoga believes in the basic reality of individual differences and so no one yoga or yogic practice can be effective for all. As per predispositions of human personality, some people are dynamic and action oriented for whom hatha yoga and karma yoga would be more effective. Similarly, for emotional persons bhakti yoga, for intellectual persons jnana yoga, and for intuitive/introvert people raja yoga can be most beneficial and effective. However, instead of placing a person under a specific personality type it is more scientific to provide the appropriate package of yogic practices for an individual, keeping in mind his specific needs and personality make-up.
All yogas aim at controlling the negative features of health and promoting the quality of human life. So, the modern approach is to use the different yogic practices in an integrated manner to promote holistic health. For this the salient features and exact effects of the different practices are to be kept in mind. The eight steps of raja yoga, for example, are systematic and interrelated steps for evolution of personality. The first two steps of yama and niyama are observances at the mental and conduct levels to tune the mind and body to live a yogic lifestyle. Similarly, asanas are not just physical exercises, rather they remove hormonal blocks and harmonize metabolic and other physiological functioning, including that of the endocrinal and nervous systems. Pranayamas purify and energize the body by removing toxins and strengthening the immune system (cf. Swami Satyananda, 2002). The steps of pratyahara and dharana include meditational practices which provide mental relaxation and relieve the mind of negative thoughts, emotional strains and conflicts, and enhance the level of mental sharpness, satisfaction and peace of mind. Dhyana and samadhi are higher order spiritual practices which result in expansion of consciousness and blissful realizations. Most of these practices are observed also in hatha yoga with the emphasis on purification of the body, mind and the pranic system. For this it emphasizes six cleansing practices known as the shatkarmas, which include neti, dhauti, nauli, basti, kapalbhati and trataka. They are beneficial in promoting physical, mental and emotional health. Karma yoga includes the practice of selfless service and deriving pleasure in doing the work without any motive of receiving incentive for the service rendered. This is an attitudinal yoga helpful in removing many psychological problems which develop on account of expectations and ego problems in interpersonal interactions. Similarly, bhakti yoga includes the practice of transcending the emotion of love with a sense of dedication. This can be manifested in divine songs, music and extension of love and compassion for all, particularly those who are in need and misery.
In many ways the different yogas complement each other. This is why in well developed yoga centres, the practices are suitably interwoven both for adopting a yogic lifestyle as well as for training and health management programs. The aim is to develop a harmonious and homogenous human personality.
Today life has become more competitive, fast and individualistic, and as such more stressful. This has given rise to a lot of psychosocial problems reflected in interpersonal irritations to the breaking up of conjugal life, families and society at large. The social scenario as highlighted in the media is full of violence, corruption and crimes of all sorts. Can yoga work as an effective intervener in controlling or containing these social maladies which are threatening the very existence of human society? Psychologists agree that these problems are rooted in the human psyche. So, along the line of the U.N.O.'s emblem, we must resolve to "fight them in the minds of men", and instead of giving sermons and preaching to others it must start from oneself. From this viewpoint, yoga is a valuable instrument.
As stated earlier, yogic practices have two-dimensional manifestations - internal and external. Internally they result in personal purification and self-evolution, and externally they result in transcendence, in positive thinking and emotions towards others. The two aspects are mutually reinforcing. All spiritual traditions accept this. In Buddhist philosophy, for example, it is reflected in arhat (to liberate oneself) and bodhisattva (to liberate others) from miseries. When a person develops control over his psychophysiological disturbances on account of the yogic practices, and improves his emotional quality of life, he becomes more loving and caring for others. Then he starts perceiving and appreciating the positive qualities in others and finding out his own mistakes and weaknesses to improve in the future. Such a transformation in attitude controls aggression, feelings of revenge and results in loving behaviour and social interactions. This is well supported by the studies conducted on convicts in which yogic practices were introduced in prisons. This was first done in 1980 by Satyananda Yogashrams in San Quentin prison in the USA, Long Bay prison in Australia and then by Vyavahare (1993) in Thane prison in India. In 1994-95 a comprehensive project was undertaken by Bihar School of Yoga, Munger, in which 15-day programs of yoga training were executed in 24 Bihar prisons. The data collected from 1145 convicts (who underwent the training) revealed a very significant positive transformation in their attitude, emotional make-up, behaviour and future plans (cf. Bhushan, 1998a). On the basis of the results of the study and the unanimous recommendation of the jail authorities, the Govt. of Bihar took a policy decision to introduce yoga practices to jail inmates on a regular basis. For this, 168 prisoners convicted for life were trained and made qualified yoga teachers by Bihar School of Yoga so that they could execute the scheme in all Bihar prisons. This program is still a nonstarter.
The advantage of yogic practices is that, with salient effects on the autonomic nervous system, brain waves and endocrine glands, etc., they harmonize the metabolic and physiological functions and mental processes without any voluntary effort on the part of the practitioner, and so the change in their nature and behaviour is sometimes even surprising to them. This is evident from village yoga programs organized by Bihar School of Yoga in about 400 villages so far in Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. The case of Seetarampurnazira, a diara village (subject to flooding) in Munger district, is worth quoting. Eight years ago most people in the village had criminal records and carried firearms. After adopting yogic practices, including mantra recitation and singing devotional songs (kirtan), their lifestyle has undergone a tremendous change and they are now simple cultivators living a normal life.
Similarly, in July 2001 a team of sixteen young yogatrained boys from Yuva Yoga Mitra Mandal (Youth Yoga Fellowship), the youth wing of Bihar School of Yoga, were sent to Bhuj (Gujarat). They conducted yoga practice classes for the earthquake-stricken people of the town at sixteen places, in which over 900 people participated. The yoga training program of a fortnight's duration provided much relief to the participants in as much as they reported a reduction in feelings of insecurity and anxiety, and an improvement in optimism. Asana, pranayama, visualization, yoga nidra and group songs related to confidence building were considered most useful yogic inputs. The experience gives an indication that yogic practices can serve as useful aids in psychological rehabilitation of the victims of natural disasters.
Emphasizing the external aspect of yogic sadhana, Patanjali writes in the Yoga Sutras (1:33):
Maitri karuna muditopekshanam sukha dukha punyapunya
"Feel friendly to those who are happy, compassionate to those in grief, happy to those who are saintly and indifferent towards the wicked in order to live a happy life." This is the yogic key to observe happy interpersonal relationships. Persons living a yogic lifestyle are better equipped to practise this. Swami Sivananda described the eightfold path of practical yoga as serve, love, give, purify, be good, do good, meditate, and realize. Of these, the first six are external expressions of yoga to promote human values and make social life loving and beautiful. Love, service and compassion are forces to connect people emotionally to perceive the world as one family. This is the social dimension of yoga being presented by Sivananda Math for the well-being of the backward people of a tribal area (Rikhia) in Jharkhand. Swami Satyananda (2000) calls this service to the needy as an expression of dedication and love to the living gods. Thus yoga begins with the body, travels through the mind, emotions and spirit to reach out to humanity. Yoga is not a panacea for all the ills prevailing at individual and societal levels, but certainly it gives hope for making the twenty-first century an age of human endeavour to promote peace and tranquillity.