" Atha yoganushasnam" YS1.1
Great sage Patanjali also known as the father of yoga in his text ‘Yoga sutras” started the teachings of yoga with “atha yoganushashnam” which means - Now begins the discipline of yoga.
Yoga is a life of self discipline based on ancient teachings and philosophies. This is a science, art, philosophy, way of life all in one. It was practice in India thousands of years ago. Since yogic teachings and techniques are based on universal truths and scientific facts they are equally valid and beneficial in modern age as in ancient times. Yoga means union. At an individual level it can be defined as a system that refines body ,mind and spirit and brings about harmony. At a broader level it can be referred as a system that brings about harmony between an individual and its environment- with other beings, with nature and with universe.
Beauty of this system is the diversity in its approach, yet unity when it comes to the ultimate goal. Individuals, depending on their personality may choose either of the four paths of yoga. Some may prefer path of selfless service through karma yoga , others may prefer path of devotion and unconditional love through bhakti yoga, some may choose intellectual approach through the path of knowledge or jnana yoga, while some may choose scientific and practical approach through raja yoga and hatha yoga. Regardless of which path we choose to start, we all have seeds and qualities of other paths too. However different personalities, temperaments, likes and dislikes people have , in the depth of our beings we all are essentially same!
Even the practice of hatha yoga (at times described under raja yoga) that essentially emphasize on postures(asanas) and breathing exercises(pranayama) towards healthy body and mind can’t be practiced without the qualities of selfless service, devotion and proper knowledge.According to Patanjali, yoga practice is incomplete without the other steps commonly referred as Ashtanga yoga ie consisting of eight limbs:-
Yama- purification of body
Niyama- purification of mind
Pranayama- breathing exercises
Pratyahara- withdrawal of senses
Dharana- concentration of the mind
Samadhi- state of self (superconsciousness)
Yoga's holistic approach sees an individual's health (body, mind and breath), happiness and peace interconnected. Yogic teachings suggest guidelines and codes when practised by an individual creates harmony within oneself and with life, thus enjoying health, happiness and peace. It provides a support system to individuals whereby life becomes a joyful experience rather than a task, a challenge or something to cope up with. 'JOY' this is exactly what life is meant to be.