I give you the following definition, ‘Yoga is a definite means for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual development’. It strengthens and develops the physical and mental personality and improves one’s integral personality.
Through yoga one can discipline body and mind. The person who is unable to observe individual discipline does not understand the meaning of social discipline nor will he be able to follow it.
Yoga asanas are yogic exercises to keep both body and mind healthy. If the body is not healthy, the mind will not be healthy and if the mind is unhealthy, thoughts will be faulty.
The first achievement of yogic practices is gaining sound physical health. Regular practice of yoga asanas for ten to fifteen minutes daily is most essential.
It is equally important to have perfect mental equilibrium and steadiness, which is the natural outcome of yoga asanas. Yoga practices quickly correct the mental personality, such as short temper, anger, mental agitation, depression, dissatisfied nature and other mental complexes.
It is a gradual process which can be sped up by regular practice. Mental capacities increase, the mind becomes sound, steady and subtle. Yoga has given definite positive results to millions of practitioners. This is the secret behind its continuity and the reason why it is flourishing.
Shiva is considered to be the first propounder of the science of yoga. We can call him the adi guru of yoga. The first disciple was his wife, Parvati.
One day when Lord Shiva was teaching yoga to Parvati on the banks of a river, the king of fish was listening with keen interest to the yogic philosophy of Lord Shiva. Parvati became very happy and prayed to Lord Shiva to transform the king of fish into a human being. Lord Shiva did as desired by Parvati, and that man became famous in yogic history as yogi Matsyendranath. He further propagated yoga to his disciples and used to sit in a peculiar asana for meditation, matsyendrasana.
In the scriptures it is said that there are 8.4 million asanas according to the total number of creatures an individual soul has to cross before becoming a human being. Not all are available in books but many hundreds of asanas are referenced in scriptures.
Some asanas are difficult and some easy. Every asana has its own benefits. Easy and elementary asanas are beneficial to all. Games and sports build up the body and give strength to muscles, but still yoga asanas have got special benefits which other exercises can not provide. Sports and exercises require much time, place and other accessories, while yogic asanas do not require these extra tools and take little time.
The greatest drawback of yoga is that it makes a person into a cultured human being and does not allow him to move towards his animal instincts. This makes some people afraid of yoga.
Time is changing fast and yoga will soon be accepted as one of the essential necessities of life. Yoga is the culture of tomorrow.
Excerpt from an article printed in YOGA, Vol.6, No.8 Aug 1968