Yoga means union. Union of the body, the mind and the soul. The spiritual science of yoga is said to be thousands of years old. The exact age cannot be pinpointed, but in the ancient scriptures of Hinduism, all saints and Rishis (Enlightened Souls) knew about yoga, and it is known that they were often in yogic Samadhi (Highest state of meditation) It is also known that those saints had acquired yogic Siddhis (spiritual powers).
Yoga is not just getting entangled into some postures for flexibility. It is a complete spiritual science, which can eventually take you out of body consciousness and merge the soul into Cosmic consciousness. In the beginning, yoga can make you physically fit, mentally stable, and take away all mental stress. Practice of yoga with Pranayam (Certain breathing techniques in the yoga system) can heal many diseases. We humans breathe two kinds of breaths, called the I da and the Pingala. Meaning, the Moon breath and the Sun breath. Whenever these breaths get unbalanced, diseases start appearing on the body. Mind gets greatly disturbed and all kinds of tensions are created. All problems really, are to do with the state of mind.
Prana means life force. Our life is sustained by our breathing. Therefore Pranayam balances our life forces for a healthier living. The yogic postures are called Asanas. Asanas tone up the whole body, muscles, bones, correct your postures, and increase your energy, thereby keeping you active.
Sage Patanjali wrote down the yoga sutras (Chapters). There are 196 sutras written. The basic and complete Tenets of yoga are eight-step fold. They are as follows:
Yama - Yama Requires a lot of inner discipline, with ethical teachings of truthfulness, non-violence, celibacy, righteousness and non-materialistic life. Here, for family people, celibacy cannot be applied, but curtailing your sexual desires is more likely. Similarly, non-violence need not necessarily be in action, but in thought as well, like anger, cruelty or causing harassment to others. In your day to day life, you must not cheat or be dishonest in your dealing with others. Live by righteousness.
Niyama – Niyama means routine. The routine of daily life should be – cleanliness (Of body and mind), austerity, self study (Of spiritual literature and watching your own self. Contentment.) Prayers to God.
Asana - Asana means yogic postures. Thus daily practice of yogasanas, or yogic exercises, which keep your body healthy, energized, and in tune with your mind.
Pranayama - Pranayama is to do with the breathing technique in yoga. Prana means life forces. Ayama means to expand. So it is to do with the expansion of the life forces. By doing Pranayama in a proper Asana, we would be able to preserve our life forces, which keep dissipating from our body day after day.
Pratyahara - Pratyahara means withdrawing from materialistic desires and senses. It also means contentment, and taking your mind away from greed, attachment, lust anger and ego. It's only after you take your mind away from the world, can you go higher.
Dharana - Dharana means to think. To contemplate, to focus your mind towards your goal, and have an intense ambition to achieve it. So it means you should have a strong mind, and not get discouraged or lose interest in your training or path. Often, a disciple finds the strictures too hard to follow, and tends to feel that he or she may not be able to continue the disciplined training. But if you are strong mentally, then the body follows the master mind.
Dhyana – Dhyana means meditation. Each day, the practitioner must meditate upon God. Meditation takes you to a higher level of consciousness and awareness of your soul. To achieve a proper meditative state, you have to follow all the aforementioned stages. Meditation may in fact be more difficult than you think. It requires a total control over your fickle mind.
Samadhi – This is the last stage of achievement. Samadhi is the highest state of meditation. At this stage, you are in a state of Cosmic consciousness. Only a spiritual master can go into a state of Samadhi. There are two kinds of Samadhi. When you merge into divine consciousness and bliss for a period of time in meditation, and come back to the body consciousness, it is called Savikalpa Samadhi. When a yogi merges his spirit and consciousness, with the Cosmic consciousness, it is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi. The yogi leaves his mortal body at will, to enter into the Causal plane, where he lives as a Cosmic being. He lives as a God realized soul, but not yet merged with God. He lives in a form called Hiranyagarbha, or the Causal body.
YOGA ASANAS AND THEIR PHYSICAL BENEFITSDHANUR ASANA (ARCHER POSE)
GOOD FOR MUSCLES OF HANDS, FEET, NERVES, LIVER. SPLEEN, SCIATICA AND DISEASES OF THE INTESTINES.
CHAKRA ASANA (WHEEL POSE)
GOOD FOR THE FLEXIBILITY OF THE SPINAL COLUMN, CONSTIPATION, LUMBAGO, AND FOR REDUCING FAT.
ASHWINI MUDRA (ANAL CONTRACTION)
HELPFUL IN SPERMATORRHOEA, AND DISEASES LIKE PILES, AND FISTULA.
VAJRA ASANA (MOUNTAIN POSE)
GOOD FOR LEG MUSCLES, SCIATICA INDIGESTION AND GASTRITIS.
BHUJANGA ASANA (SERPENT POSE)
MAKES THE SPINAL CORD FLEXIBLE, CORRECTS CURVATURE OF THE SPINE, TONES MUSCLES OF HEART, ABDOMEN AND BACK, LEUCORRHOEA AND MENSTRUAL DISORDERS.
HALA ASANA (PLOUGH POSE)
KEEPS THE BACKBONE FLEXIBLE,WHICH MAINTAINS YOUTH, TONES THE THIGHS AND PELVIC REGION, HELPS IN LIVER AND SPLEEN DISORDERS, AND HELPS IN OBESITY AND CONSTIPATION.
KUKKUT ASANA (COCK POSE)
DEVELOPS VERY STRONG HANDS, SHOULDERS AND ABDOMEN MUSCLES.
MAHA BANDH MUDRA (SEX GLANDS)
ACTIVATES OVARIES, SPERM GLANDS, HELPS IN EXCESSIVE EMISSIONS, IN IMOPTENCY, MENSTRUAL DISORDERS, STERILITY AND PREMTURE GREY HAIR.
SHIRSH ASANA (HEAD STAND POSE)
GIVES BLOOD SUPPLY TO THE BRAIN, ACTIVATES THE PINEAL AND PITUITARY GLANDS, HELPS CURE PYORRHOEA, MYOPIA, VERTIGO, EPILEPSY, HYSTERIA, AND NEURALGIA.
MATSYA ASANA (FISH POSE)
HELPS CURE HERNIA, THYROID GLAND DISFUNCTION, GASTRIC AND STOMACH ULCERS, AND INDIGESTION.
MAYUR ASANA (PEACOCK POSE)
GOOD FOR DIGESTIVE DISORDERS, BILE SECRETION, MUCOUS, DROPSY, SPLEEN, PILES, DIABETES AND LETHARGY.
PADMA ASANA (LOTUS POSE)
GOOD FOR STRAIGHTENING OF THE BACKBONE, RHEUMATISM, HIP AND PELVIC MUSCLES. THIS IS ALSO THE ASANA FOR MEDITATION AND MUDRAS.
SALLABH ASANA (LOCUST POSE)
VERY GOOD FOR LOWER HALF OF THE BODY, LUMBAGO, WEAK BACK MUSCLES AND FOR SORENESS AND WEAKNESS.
SHAVA ASANA (DEAD BODY POSE)
THIS IS THE EASIEST ASANA TO DO AS IT INVOLVES LYING DOWN RELAXED. IT HELPS PEOPLE WITH HEART DISEASES, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE, TO STABILIZE BREATHING AND CALMING THE MIND. THIS IS A GOOD METHOD FOR STUDENTS AND SPORTSPERSON TO RELAX.
MATSYENDRA ASANA (SPINAL TWIST)
THIS ASANA IS VERY GOOD FOR THE BACK, RHEUMATISM, HIPS, LIVER AND SPLEEN DISEASES AND CONSTIPATION. IT IS ALSO HELPS IN REDUCING EXCESS FAT AT THE WAIST AND HIPS. KEEPS THE MIDDLE PART OF THE BODY SUPPLE.
PASCHIMOTANA ASANA (LOWER BODY)
GOOD FOR FLEXIBILITY OF BACKBONE, TONES UP THE MUSCLES AND NERVES OF THE SPINE, HELPS CURE SCITICA, DIARRHOEA AND OBESITY.
SARVANGA ASANA (ALL BODY POSE)
THIS ASANA IS PROBABLY THE BEST OF ALL. THE VERY NAME SUGGESTS THAT IT TONES UP THE WHOLE BODY, IT'S GLANDS AND CIRCULATION. IT IS SAID THAT THIS ASANA CURES MANY AILMENTS OF THE BODY, AND HELPS TO NOURISH THE ENTIRE BODY. THIS ASANA ACTIVATES THE PITUITARY GLAND WHICH SECRETES VITAL FLUID FOR THE GROWTH OF THE BODY.