Do You Want to Embark on a Voyage Called Yoga?



International Yoga Day is celebrated on the 21st of June every year and has been recognized by the United Nations General Assembly on December, 11, 2014. Yoga has today achieved international status and has become a fad of sorts, it is a booming Multi-Billion dollar industry.

But what really is Yoga? What is its history and origin? Is there more to Yoga than than mere physical calisthenics?

Yoga-tracing the roots

The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of Hinduism were composed sometime in the period 1500-500 BCE and this period is commonly referred to as the Vedic age or Period. Yoga finds mention in the Rig Veda, the oldest of the Vedas, however historians estimate that Yoga developed somewhere around the sixth and fifth century BCE. The fact that elements of Yoga are inculcated into the daily prayers and rituals performed by the Brahmin community is a pointer to the history of Yoga. Just as the Rig Veda has flown down orally from the Vedic Ages, so too have the elements of Yoga like Asana, Dhyana and Pranayama.

The Philosophy of Yoga

The positive effect of Yoga on health and lifestyle is today widely accepted and the hordes of people flocking to Yoga camps and retreats is ample proof of this fact. Though there is no denying the immense health benefits that Yoga offers, there is much, much more to Yoga than is generally fathomed.

Yoga may be compared to an Ocean with an infinite depth and the Yoga practitioner a diver who dives in seeking treasure. He finds silver at the first level beneath the water, symbolizing the physical benefits of Yoga. He may be satisfied with these riches and not travel deeper. But on the other hand, if he persists and dives deeper, he shall discover Gold, symbolizing the benefits that Yoga offers to the mind. At this stage the Diver may abandon his voyage, but if he still dives deeper into the Ocean of Yoga, he shall find precious stones of infinite value symbolizing a state of Samadhi, a merging of one’s consciousness with that of the cosmic consciousness.


If Yoga is a voyage of discovery, then the body is the vehicle. This vehicle needs to be in a good condition and hence the emphasis on Asanas and breathing exercises for physical well being. If the body is the vehicle, then the Mind is the driver. Yogic practices go beyond the physical to ensure that the Mind is bereft of all diversions and focused on driving to its destination, Dhyana or Meditation ensures that the mind is in control of the body. Now with a fit vehicle and a fit driver a person can embark on a journey beyond the frontiers of time and space, as known to Man.

The Practice of Yoga

It was in the year 400 CE, that an Indian Sage called Patanjali, compiled a treatise on the practice of Yoga, that came to be know as Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. He has described Yoga as being composed of 8 basic elements. A true Yoga practitioner needs to work hard with uncommon dedication on all these elements to reap the real benefits of Yoga.

The 8 elements of Yoga according to Patanjali are:



The Yamas together with Niyamas form the code of conduct of the commandments for the Yoga Practitioner. The Yamas are a list of Self-Restraints that are to be imposed on the self. The 5 Yamas according to Patanjali are Ahimsa or Non-Violence, Satya or Non-Falsehood(practice of truth), Asteya or Non-Stealing, Brahmacharya or Chastity, Aparigraha or Selflessness.


Niyamas are the prescribed duties that the Yoga Practitioner needs to follow and these are Sauca or the cleanliness of the Body and the Mind, Santosa or Contentment with a positive attitude and acceptance of circumstances, Tapas or the act of accepting but not causing pain, Svadhyaya or self study including introspection of ones thoughts and actions, Isvarapranidhana or contemplation on the Supreme God.


This is the most popular and widely practiced element of Yoga, and is focused on the physical aspects. Asana originally referred to the posture in which a person sits, it is recomendded that the posture be firm, but relaxed with the ability to sit still for long periods of time, this is conducive to concentration and relaxation. Over the years Asanas have assumed the form of physical exercise and are referred to as Yoga positions or postures. There are 12 basic asanas which when practiced correctly and regularly have immense benefit on the health of the Body and the Mind. The most common asana is the Padmasana or Lotus posture which is a cross-legged sitting posture, this asana is ideal for long hours of meditation. Surya Namaskara or Salutation to the sun is a series of 12 asanas done in a continuous motion as a benediction to the Sun. The Surya Namaskara is known to provide immense benefit to the body and the mind.


Pranayama, is a technique and practice to control the breath . It is generally practiced just before the start of meditation to ensure the absolute focus of the mind.


This is the withdrawal of the senses from the extenal objects and drawing them inwards towards an inner awareness and consciousness.


After the withdrawal of the senses inwards, the mind should focus all its concentration on a single point. The mind is now aware only of this object and nothing else.


Dhyana is the act of continuous meditation after the Dharana stage has been achieved, i.e., the mind has been focussed on a single point and now the mind is in a deep state of meditation on this point.


This is the final stage or Yoga, in this stage the difference between the meditator and the object of meditation disappears and the meditator enters into a trance and experiences Ananda or true bliss.

The practice of Yoga is not easy and requires a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline of the Body and the Mind, though it may not be possible for all to reach the state of Samadhi, whatever state one is able to get to, the benefits accruing to the body, mind and soul are immense. Yoga is not a religion, it is a way of life and it can be embraced into one’s lifestyle regardless of caste, color or creed.

This is a puny effort to write briefly on the mammoth subject of Yoga, Yoga is a vast subject and understanding it completely is beyond the capacity of most minds. One needs to experience Yoga to really understand it. I am a mere humble student of Yoga and would urge you to reach out to some of the Masters to lead you on the true path of Yoga.


Here are some links that could help you in your quest:

Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres and Ashrams | Om Page ™

International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres. Founded by Swami Vishnudevananda over 50 years ago, we have over 60 yoga centres and ashrams around the world. Our teacher training course now has over 26,000 graduates. We offer yoga vacations, retreats and many other programs.


YSSI – Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

Yogoda Satsanga Society was founded in 1917 by Paramahansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi (Complete and Authorized edition), to make available the teachings of Kriya Yoga, a sacred spiritual science originating millenniums ago in India.


This article has also been published on Huffington post. Please check here.

Did you find this article interesting? What regimen do you follow for fitness of your body and mind? Do share in the comments section. Shoot your queries related to this article in the comments section.




44 thoughts on “Do You Want to Embark on a Voyage Called Yoga?

  1. Very interesting to hear the history of yoga. I really respect it and know many people who have managed to ease back injuries and pain by regularly partaking in yoga. It is such a great exercise. I really should do it more but I am too fidgeting ha ha. There are so many different types of yoga and it can really help you feel more grounded. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I do meditate but haven’t tried yoga yet. A lot of my friends do though. I think it’s legitimately beneficial, physically and spiritually speaking. Personally I’m more drawn to martial arts or other activities that can be used as self-defense. 🙂

  3. Yoga is awesome and I am so proud of its Indian origins. What an apt post on international yoga day. Do you practice yourself? I would like to do it more often but I am so not flexible 🙁

  4. Wow! There is tremendous information here about yoga that I never knew about. I just do some occasional yoga by following it on youtube. Thanks for sharing this!

  5. My whole family meditates regularly. I’m the only one who doesn’t. I’ve actually taken a lot of yoga classes but I would love to marry the two and yoga/meditate regularly. Life’s just too busy sometimes, and I know that taking the time to relax and clear your mind is necessary.

  6. Your article is very interesting! I loved practicing and really need to do it again. I felt so much better in my body and my mind. it is quite amazing and truly a state of mind.

  7. I have never read about Yoga before, at least not about its meaning and origins so I find this post quite interesting. I practice yoga sometimes but I admit I am not religious, but I want to, because yoga is not only good for the body, it also does a lot of wonders to my state of mind.

  8. Thanks for such a detailed and insightful post. I always new Yoga was about more than just body-bending poses but the finer details had always escaped me – until now. I feel like I have learned something and now have something to aim for! Thanks!

  9. I’ve been practicing yoga for almost three years now and I can definitely say that it can do wonders. I have scoliosis and my back feels great after yoga. Your post provided a lot of useful information, thank you for sharing

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