YOGA at last is coming into its own in the Western world. After many years of being dismissed as a bizarre cult attractive only to eccentrics, it is today recognized as a fundamental art and skill. More than that, many of its most bitter opponents, people who were among the first to cry down Yogic culture, have now embraced it as a way of life.
The ancients who formulated the science of Yoga were way ahead of us in our modern world of stress and hurry. Recognizing, thousands of years ago, man’s basic need for discipline to counteract the physical and spiritual deterioration caused by the mere fight for survival, they evolved a science which is at once as ancient as India herself and as modern as the space age.
The law of Yoga is the law of Life. Yoga embodies the secrets of successful living and combines profound and age-old truths with a way of life acceptable to the modern mind. It was evolved from the Veda, one of the most ancient scriptural books known to mankind in which Indian saints and sages taught that the Universe is one and that all religions are paths ascending the same mountain towards Eternal Truth. The great modern saint, Sri Ramakrishna, is often quoted as saying, ‘As many faiths, so many paths.’
But Yoga is not a religion, nor is it a mystic cult. It is a Hindu system of philosophic meditation and asceticism designed to effect the reunion of the devotee’s soul with God. It is a philosophy which integrates the individual life and the world surrounding us to achieve a basic harmony and equilibrium in the heart and mind of man.
How is physical health a part of so spiritual a philosophy as Yoga? Simply that the trichotomy of our lives, divided into body, soul and spirit, is echoed in the complete Yogic philosophy whose three approaches—asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), and meditation—are unified as one approach to self discovery.
One of the fundamental doctrines of Yoga is that God is within each one of us but He reveals Himself only in conditions of purity, both spiritually and physically. To function on a higher level, either mentally or physically, the first step must always be to rid the body of the impurities that cause disease and which impede spiritual development. One can draw the analogy of the window which must be cleaned before one can see the light clearly through it.
This basic principle of purification underlines all Yogic practice and at the same time it aims at establishing a balance in the body so that it functions, as it were, like a perfect machine. When this state of physical balance is achieved the mind can then be controlled and can realize the ultimate in pure thought and reason. I have yet to meet anyone who can successfully employ the techniques of mind control while plagued with indigestion, asthma, a thumping headache or any other of the ills and stress symptoms which plague modern man. So first things first. Physical ills drag one downwards and the disciplinary science of Hatha Yoga was evolved that the body would be freed from pain and disease…
… To be continued