The first International Day of Yoga was observed around the world on 21 June 2015. The initiative was taken by the Honourable Prime Minister of India Mr.Narendra Modi. As world celebrates Yoga day today on 21 June 2024 here is what we think world should know about Yoga.

Considered an enduring cultural legacy of the Indus-Saraswati Valley civilization dating back to 2700 B.C., Yoga has served humanity’s material and spiritual upliftment. Its core values are intrinsic to Yoga Sadhana.

Chapter 1 : Origins and Fundamentals

Yoga is fundamentally a spiritual discipline rooted in an intricate science aimed at harmonizing mind and body. It embodies an art and science of wholesome living. The term ‘Yoga’ finds its origin in the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’, meaning ‘to join’, ‘to yoke’, or ‘to unite’. According to Yogic scriptures, the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with Universal Consciousness, fostering perfect harmony between mind and body, and between Man and Nature. Modern scientists corroborate this perspective, viewing everything in the universe as manifestations of the same quantum fabric. One who experiences this interconnectedness is considered a yogi, having attained states of liberation such as mukti, nirvana, or moksha. Thus, the goal of Yoga is Self-realization, transcending suffering to attain ‘the state of liberation’ (Moksha) or ‘freedom’ (Kaivalya). Its primary objectives include living freely across all facets of life, promoting health, and fostering harmony through Yoga practice.

Chapter 2 : Historical and Cultural Legacy

Yoga’s presence is evidenced in seals and fossil remnants of the Indus-Saraswati Valley civilization, depicting figures engaged in Yoga Sadhana. The symbols and idols of mother Goddesses suggest Tantra Yoga practices. Yoga finds expression in folk traditions, Vedic and Upanishadic heritage, Buddhist and Jain traditions, Darshanas, and epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana. It thrives in the theistic traditions of Shaivas, Vaishnavas, and Tantric traditions, as well as in South Asian mystical traditions. During its early phases, Yoga was guided by Gurus and held significant spiritual value, integrated into daily rituals such as Upasana. The Vedic period emphasized the sun, influencing the practice of ‘Surya Namaskara’. Maharshi Patanjali systematically codified existing Yoga practices, their meanings, and associated knowledge through his Yoga Sutras. Historical evidence supports Yoga’s existence during the pre-Vedic period (2700 B.C.) through Patanjali’s era.

Chapter 3 :Evolution and Development

Insights into Yoga practices and related literature are found in Vedas, Upanishads, Smritis, Buddhist and Jain teachings, Panini, epics, and Puranas. The Classical period (500 B.C. – 800 A.D.) is hailed as Yoga’s fertile phase, marked by Vyasa’s commentaries on Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita. This era witnessed the teachings of Mahavir and Buddha, whose concepts of ‘Pancha Mahavrata’ and ‘Ashta Magga’ reflected early forms of Yoga Sadhana. The Bhagavad Gita expounded Gyan Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma Yoga, which remain exemplary paths of human wisdom and peace today. The Post-Classical period (800 A.D. – 1700 A.D.) featured the teachings of Acharyatrayas like Adi Shankaracharya, Ramanujacharya, and Madhavacharya. The Natha Yogis of Hathayoga tradition, including Matsyendranath, Gorakshanath, and Swatmaram Suri, popularized Hatha Yoga practices. The Modern period (1700 A.D. – 1900 A.D.) saw contributions from Yogacharyas advancing Raja Yoga alongside Vedanta and Bhakti Yoga.

Chapter 4 : Schools and Practices

Various philosophical traditions, lineages, and Guru-shishya paramparas have given rise to diverse Traditional Schools of Yoga, including Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Dhyana Yoga, Patanjala Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga, Raja Yoga, Jain Yoga, and Buddha Yoga. Each school embraces unique principles and practices, leading to ultimate Yoga aims and objectives. Yoga Sadhanas widely practiced for health and wellness include Yama and Niyama (restraints and observances), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), Samadhi/Samyama (integration), Bandhas and Mudras (body locks and gestures), Shat karmas (cleansing practices), Yukta-ahara (balanced diet), Yukta karma (righteous actions), and Mantra japa (repetitive chanting).

Chapter 5 : Modern Perspectives and Global Influence

In contemporary times, global dissemination of Yoga owes much to influential figures like Swami Sivananda, Shri T. Krishnamacharya, Swami Kuvalayananda, Shri Yogendra, Swami Rama, Sri Aurobindo, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Acharya Rajneesh, Pattabhi Jois, B.K.S. Iyengar, and Swami Satyananda Saraswati. B.K.S. Iyengar, founder of ‘Iyengar Yoga’, was renowned as a foremost yoga teacher worldwide. While many associate Yoga primarily with Hatha Yoga and asanas (postures), the Yoga Sutras devote just three sutras to asanas. Hatha Yoga fundamentally prepares the body for sustained energy levels, starting from the physical body to breath, mind, and inner self. Although Yoga is widely recognized for its therapeutic and fitness benefits, its ultimate aim transcends these outcomes. Yoga aligns individual geometry with the cosmic, achieving heightened perception and harmony. Yoga transcends specific religions, beliefs, or communities, perpetually acknowledged as a technology for inner well-being. Any individual, regardless of faith, ethnicity, or culture, can benefit from dedicated Yoga practice.

Source : Wikipedia/Minstry of Ayush