I remember many occasions when I get off car on my way in a strange town – to grab two pieces of sandwich. I am hungry, and am in a desperate need of filling of my little belly. It is called eating. And, I also remember the care I take when I plan to dine at a personal affair or at a business luncheon. To keep the bread plate on the left or to adopt the way of using fork in American style or continental style, and a whole list. It is nice to know both – to eat to keep us alive; and the second, to dine to live with dignity, self-respect, and mutual respect among people we live with.
So, also Yoga! Yoga has been an integral constituent of Hindu way of life, and is counted among the core beliefs since time innumerable. It means the stillness of mind; and is a vehicle to eliminate perturbation of mind while enabling the individual soul to find its relevance with the supreme infinitude, Paramaatmaa. Yoga helps human take a cognizance of inner self, and prescribes eight steps to achieve the ultimate goal. It starts with assimilation of moral values in life (Yama), and requires adopting discipline for body and mind (Niyama). The third step is about regular practice of Aasanas (postures). Praanaayaam (breath control) comes next, and forms the physical facet along with the former. The process does not stop here, but goes beyond physical domain with the withdrawal of the self from material affiliations (Pratyaahaar) and the act of concentrating upon stillness (Dhaaranaa). The final two steps include meditation (Dhyaan) and the eventual state of achieving direct link with Paramaatmaa (Samaadhi). This is Paanini’s Astaanga Yoga.
In the true Hindu way, rigidity is relinquished. Bhagavat Gita prescribes more adoptable ways while discarding the single approach for salvation. It suggests four ways like devotion (Bhakti), performing worldly duties (Karma), seeking and disseminating knowledge (Gyaan), or meditating and mastering the self (Raaja Yoga, close to what Paanini suggested). There is also a system of giving emphasis on physical Aasanas (Hatha Yoga) though it broadly prescribes the first four steps of Raaja Yoga and suggests the other four as the next level.
In contrast, popularly today, Yoga has been reduced to moving our infirm limbs in different ways and shaking our belly while breathing profusely. In fact, it has been prescribed as an alternative health treatment for sick body – a growing symptom of the majority among the world population.
It’s the real flexibility of Hindu culture – adopt a variance or initiate a divergence from the original, and you have the followers. And, interestingly, it has also created a large business ecosystem around the globe with business babas driving it.
In spite of all these facts and realities, I believe that we need to be aware and practise Yoga in its pristine form and spirit at some point during our lifetime, particularly for Hindus. While you tend to eat in your fast-paced life, dining once in a while relieves you and makes you happier : )