Yoga is not just a physical exercise. Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual exercise. In fact Asana is just a branch of Yoga. Including other 7 branches makes a complete Astanga Yoga.
According to Patanjali there are eight steps to walk for in the Astanga yoga which lead to the destination. Yoga comes from ‘Yuj’ root word meaning to unite: to unite with goal, to achieve what one is looking for. For Patanjali, the yoga is the process of controlling mind: “Mana prashamano upaya yogah”, or “Yogah chitta vritti nirodha”. Bhagavad Gita says that Mind is as strong as uncontrollable wind. The Yogic philosophy teaches to be master of one’s own senses first before being master of any other thing. Lord Krishna in Gita says that “Samatvam yoga uchetye” i.e. to yoga is to remain balanced or unbiased or steady even in ups and downs of life. He further says that “Yoga karmashu kaushala” – to follow yoga is to be an excellent doer of the duty or work.
Yoga seems to summarize not only best parts of Eastern philosophy (like Buddhism, Hinduism etc) but also other philosophies of the world.
The eight steps as given by Lord Patanjali are:
1. Yama: Rules to be followed for welfare of society.
a. Ahimsa: Non-violence (not harming others by mind, words and actions)
b. Satya: Truthfulness
c. Asteya: Non-stealing, moderation
d. Bramcharya: Self disciplined, or to be Controller of one’s own senses
e. Aprigraha: Non-hording
2. Niyam: Rules to be followed for welfare of oneself.
a. Saucha: Cleaniless
b. Santosha: Contement
c. Tapa: Austerity
d. Swadhya: Self-study
e. Ishwor pranidhan: Srevice to God
3.Asana: Postures, major exercises of Yoga
4.Pranayam: Breathing Exercises
5.Pratyhara: Keeping mind and senses in prime objectives, removing from insignificant ones
6.Dharana: Absorbance to the divine goal
7.Dhyan: Meditation on the divine goal
8.Samadhi: Being united with the divine goal.
We should never try not to forget the primary steps for the better foundation of our Sadhana while doing yoga. We are mostly aware of the physical exercises which, for us, provide some visible benefits. But we have problem appreciating the benefits for which we may not have instruments to visualize and measure. Can we visualize and measure some important things like- thoughts, love, hatred etc. by some physical procedure?
Yoga is not always good for the body as there are many limitation of postures of yoga in a person with disease. So I request everybody to follow a good yoga instructor. It is a powerful tool so handle the yoga with care.