Many people still think that Yoga is a religion. Others believe it to be a kind of magic. Some associate Yoga with the rope trick, with snake-charming, fire-eating or sitting on nail-beds, lying on broken glass, walking on sharp swords, etc. Sometimes it is even linked to fortune telling, spiritualism, hypnotism and other “isms.” In reality, Yoga is a method, a system of physical, mental and spiritual development.
Q): What is the meaning of the word “Yoga”?
A: The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj,” which means join, or union. The purpose of all Yoga is to unite man, the finite, with the Infinite, with Cosmic Consciousness, Truth, God, Light or whatever other name one chooses to call the Ultimate Reality. Yoga, as they say in India, is a marriage of spirit and matter.
Q: Is there only one Yoga?
A: Yoga has several branches or divisions, but the goal, the aim of all of them is the same – the achievement of a union with the Supreme Consciousness. Raja Yoga (Royal Yoga) is the Yoga of consciousness, the highest form of Yoga. Its practice usually starts with Hatha Yoga which gives the body the necessary health and strength to endure the hardships of the more advanced stages of training.
Hatha Yoga is the Yoga of physical well-being. It consists of several steps and is preceded by the Yama-Niyama, the ten rules of the Yoga code of morality. The first stage is called Asana, or posture; the second is Pranayama, or breath control; the third is Pratyahara or nerve control; the fourth is Dharana, or mind control; the fifth is Dhyiana, or meditation; and finally there is Samadhi, the state of ultimate bliss and spiritual enlightenment. Strictly speaking the last four stages of Hat ha Yoga already merge into the realm of Raja Yoga.
Q: What does “Hatha” mean?
A: “Ha” stands for the sun and “tha” for the moon. The correct translation of Hatha Yoga would be solar and lunar Yoga, since it deals with the solar and lunar qualities of breath and Prana.
Q: What is “Prana”?
A: Prana is a subtle life energy existing in the air in fluid form. Everything living, from men to amoebae, from plants to animals, is charged with Prana. Without Prana there is no life.
Q: What religion does a yogi profess?
A: A yogi can belong to any religion or to none at all. In this case, he usually forms his own relationship with the Ultimate Reality once he has come closer to It.
Q: Can a Catholic take up Yoga?
A: Certainly, since Yoga is not a religion. In fact, a Catholic association has been recently formed in Bangalore, India, in order to introduce the Yoga Asanas to the Catholic young men there, and to integrate them into the Catholic way of life.
Q: If the goal of Yoga is a spiritual illumination, why then is so much attention given to the care of the body?
A: The yogis regard the human body as a temple of the Living Spirit and believe that as such it should be brought to the highest state of perfection. Also, the advanced practices of Yoga require great power of endurance. The body might not be able to stand the strain witho0ut special preparation.
Q: What is the origin of Yoga?
A: Yoga was originated in India several thousand years ago. According to the German Professor Max Mueller, Yoga is about 6,000 years old, but other sources suggest it is much older than that.
Q: Who originated Yoga?
A: This is not known. Patanjali, who lived about 200 B.C., is called the Father of Yoga because he was the first to put into writing what had until that time been handed down only verbally from master, or guru, to pupil, or chela.
There is more to know about yoga, but this information will put you on the right path.