Most people will have heard of yoga, and the mind boggling array of bendy poses or forms that it involves. Few however actually understand it for what it is, an advanced spiritual discipline which can help bring a sense of well-being and discipline. What is it, and how can it help you to live a more peaceful and fulfilling life?
Yoga originated in India several thousand years ago. Precisely when is not known. The broadest meaning of ‘yoga’ means to join or combine, to combine with the divine so to speak. On a more mundane level, there are many forms of yoga but the most common is hatha yoga, which is physical yoga. This is what western enthusiasts tend to typically be familiar with in gyms and health clubs around the world. It generally involves a series of stances that acutely challenge balance, strength and help to correct posture. The physical benefits of yoga have been noted by medical professionals, including improving strength, balance, and reducing chronic pain. It is also known to have positive effects for those looking to more effectively combat mental health challenges such as stress and depression. However while it is possible to work up a sweat doing yoga please note that it does not constitute strenuous or intense exercise. For that purpose there may be no avoiding the treadmill, unfortunately!
While there is no doubt that yoga helps to improve on many aspects of human physical health, it is on the spiritual level that yoga is intended to be the most beneficial. The ultimate aim of yoga is to attain liberation from suffering. This is the state known as moksha in Hinduism or nirvana in Buddhism (there are theological differences between the two words, but that’s a story for another time…), where you have become free from suffering and desire by recognising the world as it is – something which is not lasting.
The essence of all Indian philosophy is that our world as we know it is transient at best, if not an outright illusion. It is not really substantial. This is a concept that can be contemplated by all people, regardless of whether they are theistic, atheistic or agnostic (sitting on the fence – believing the existence of a God or Gods cannot be proven either way). In fact modern physics is beginning to point to the possibility that the entire universe is an illusion or hologram projected from somewhere outside. If this were to be proven, it would strongly suggest that the ancient Hindus were right about the very nature of existence.
Even if you don’t believe in a deity or higher being, or you find it hard to wrap your head around the idea that the world is an illusion, you can still easily work with the yoga principles of discipline, determination and focus. The philosophy of yoga is one of intense focus, quieting the mind so that it is not affected as much by the worries and stresses of every day. That is a practical and laudable application of an ancient philosophical principle which can be applied to our everyday lives. It will help us to reduce the stresses and cares of a rushed modern lifestyle, where we have little time for ourselves.
If people can respond to happiness and sadness, with all the emotions in between, with a sense of detachment and discipline then they will be on the way to becoming true Yogis. They are on the path to mastering their emotions, desires and weaknesses, making them more effective in day to day life. Applying the principles of yoga can give the discipline and focus to succeed professionally, personally and in business.