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1) An Outline
Yoga is a synthetic practice technique for body and mind with more than 5000 years history.
Although it has been compiled mainly in Inida, it is not a characteristic culture of India only, but a very valuable
spiritual civilization of the whole humanity above nation, race and culture etc... In modern days, the whole world
expects that yoga can give the solution against many problems which modern men confronted and thus there has
been no ages when yoga could attract the interest of the many people of the whole world. In spite of that, there are
no other fields which are misunderstood like yoga. If we make the questions about many fields in our soceity,
we can understand that yoga are misunderstood very seriously. The typical misunderstanding
about yoga is as under.
 
2) Misunderstandings about yoga
1) Yoga is not the practice for a common people in the society like housewives, but the one for special few people.
=> No, yoga is the universal practice for every common people in the society.
2) Yoga is related with a supernatural power or a miracle.
=> No, one should not have interest about a supernatural power or a miracle in yoga.
3) Yoga is same as mysticism, magic or asceticism etc...
=> No, it is a commonsense technique for practice to observe oneself equanimously.
4) Yoga is a panacea to cure every ills.
=> No, although it has the effect to cure some ills, it is neither a panacea nor a method for medical treatment,
but a technique for practice to realize enlightenment.
5) Yoga is a system of philosophy to study the metaphysical theories of universe.
=> No, it is not an ideal philosophy like metaphysics, but rather a practical philosophy which has direct utility
in day to day life.
6) Yoga is mere physical exercies.
=> No, it is near to meditation technique for mind rather than mere physical exercise.
7) Yoga is a gymnastics to develop flexibility.
=> No, flexibility is not important and it is the practice to develop equanimous mind.
8) Yoga is a grotesque practice etc...
=> No, though there are strange techniques in yoga, it is very scientific, objective, universal, easy and safe
system of practice.
 
3) The aim of practising yoga
Above kinds of misunderstanding are caused by seeing only the part of the potentiality of yoga, in stead of seeing
it as a whole. The word 'yoga' literally means a tool as well as an aim. Yoga as an aim is to realize 'the synthesis
of personality' which is the highest aim of it, and 'the synthesis of personality' here means to realize perfect
freedom from the phenomena of body and mind, which usually are experienced as suffering, through perfect
control of the functional modifications of mind(cittavrittis). The etymology of 'yoga' is 'yuj' of Sanskrit
which means to bind 'a pony etc..' to a post. Here, a pony signifies the modifications of mind(cittavrittis)
which are difficult to control, because they are very complicate. By this we can understand that yoga is
a kind of practice system to control our mind.
 
4) The Types of Yoga
Like this to control the modifications of mind(cittavrittis) various techniques are used and these kinds of technique
of practising methods are mentioned in yogic scriptures and they are also called as 'yoga'. Thus, we can find out
various practising techniques related with the word 'yoga' like 'neti yoga', 'nauli yoga', 'dhyana yoga' etc...
These various practising methods are systematized and form the schools like 'bhakti yoga(the yoga of devotion)',
'jnana yoga(the yoga of knowledge)', 'karma yoga(the yoga of action)', 'mantra yoga(the yoga of holy words)',
'hatha yoga(the yoga of the male and female principles)', 'laya yoga(the yoga of desolution)' etc... In this way,
we can understand that traditionally a word 'yoga' has both meanings of 'method' as well as 'aim'.
But if one could not differentiate these two different meanings of yoga there would be confusion.
 
5) Two Practice Systems of Yoga
In yoga along with time flows different schools were created and thus various practising techniques were derived.
Although every yogic schools stressed a specific method, always the aim of it is only one, that is to control the
modifications of mind and thus to realize the high level synthesis. Some school uses the method to control mind
directly by observing it, but other school uses the method to control the modifications of mind indirectly
by controling breath and physical body.
 
4) Seven Practising Techniques
Every yogic techniques can be summarized into seven categories.
They are :
(1) Asana (Yogic postures)
(2) Pranayama (Yogic breathing)
(3) Bandha and Mudra (The techniques to control physiological function)
(4) Suddhi Kriya (Cleansing processes of body)
(5) Dhyana (Meditation)
(6) Yamas and Niyamas (Prohibiting and exhorting precepts : Attitude training)
(7) Mitahara (Proper diet)
These categories are again divided into various techniques and skills. Let us see them.
 
(1) Asana(Yogic Postures)
They are peculiar postures which stabilizes body and mind through static stretchings.
The purpose of these postures is to enhance the general condition of the muscles of whole body through giving
stimulus which can produce vitality to nerves, endocrine glands as well as muscles. Asana should be stable
and comfortable. The character of asanas is mental rather than physical. So, although they are practised by using
physical body the main aim of it is to feel and observe mind. Every asanas have to be practised through relaxed
effort as well as continuous awareness and they should be maintained without movement quite long time.
They should not be practised by giving sudden movement or jerk and the feeling fatigue should not be
accumulated by practising asanas.
 
Asana can be categorized into three.: They are,
(1) Meditative asanas ; (2) Cultural asanas ; and (3) Relaxative asanas.
 
(1) Meditative asanas are postures to sit steadily and comfortably.
They are formed by various methods to situate hands and legs, and the speciality of them is to erect neck
and spine straightly. The fact that the half of asanas among thirty two asanas which appear in hathayogic texts
like Hathapradipika and Gherandasamhita is an evidence that ultimately yoga is the practise system to meditate
deeply.
(2) Cultural asanas are kinds of static stretching which can control the condition of muscles rightly.
These postures can control nervous system and endocrine glands; and strenghthen the muscles of back and
spine firmly. And also, they can help many important organs in the cavities of chest and abdoman to work
properly, and to enhance the blood circulation of whole body. There are various cultural asanas with sitting,
lying down and standing poses.
(3) Relaxative asanas are few in numbers. They can be practised by lying down or prone postures and can
give deep relaxation and rest to body and mind. In general asanas are the fundamental basis,
because they can provide right foundation for yogic practices.
 
(2) Pranayama(Kumbhaka : Yogic Breathing)
This technique is the practising method to control and regulate breathing. The long and comfortable holding
is the essential technique of the kumbhaka of pranayama. But, one must avoid to practise kumbhka, the technique
to hold breathing in the beginning stage of practice, and in this period one must control respiration with 1 : 2 ratio
of incoming breath and outgoing breath. There are several types of pranayama. : All of them regulate respiration
by breathing in through one or two nostrils or mouth. Controled inspiration is called as puraka, controled holding
of breath is called as kumbhaka and controled expiration is called as rechaka. The main purpose of pranayama is
to control autonomous nerveous system through controling respiration, and through it one tries to control mind perfectly. This is the practising technique to do higher practice like meditation in an easier and more effective way.
 
(3) Bandha and Mudra(The technique to control physiological function)
This technique is the one to produce deep physiological change inside body by locking and binding the voluntary
and involuntary muscles. It can control the pressure of inner cavity of body and can increase emotional stability,
and in this way it can increase the blood circulation and the nutrition supply by removing the congestion of
important organs.

It is seperated into bandha and mudra by the method to use pranayama. The mudra which is used directly in
pranayama is called as bandha, which means to bind, because it can bind the specific nerve activities and make
channel in the specific place and direction in the body. Jalandharabandha, uddiyanabandha, muladharabandha
and jivhabandha are important bandhas. Some asanas are called as mudra,
because they themselves can produce deep physiological changes.
 
(4) Sat Kriyas(Six Cleansing Processes)
These are purification processes usually classified into six divisions and therefore they are often called sat
kriyas(six techniques)'. The techniques are trataka(eyes purifying technique), neti(nostrils purifying technique),
dhauti(stomach purifying technique), nauli(abdomen purifying technique) and kapalabhati(purifying whole body) and
each of them again has several techniques. They can help to enhance the adaptability of the tissues of various
inner organs and systems. Kriyas can control the different reactions of body and create the psychophysiological
balance. The modes of purification in the kriyas are air, water, vibration, massage and the control of activity etc...
The regions of cleansing involved in various kriyas are nasopharyngeal, orocranial,gastroaesophageal,
anorectal and intestinal.
 
(5) Dhyana(Meditation)
This is the practice involving control of the mental functions which start from the initial withrawal of the senses from
external objects to the complete oblivion of the external environment. There are innumerable techniques of
meditation. It is a process of absorption in which the individual tries to turn his attention to dwell upon a single
object, sound, concept or experience.

Meditation is a great tranquilliser. However, it is not always safe to start one's practice in Mmditation without
preparing adequately through asanas and pranayamas. In the hierarch of yogic practices meditation occupies a
higher position. The basic principle of meditation is to develop internal awareness.
 
(6) Yamas and Niyamas(Attitude Training Practices)
These are technically called Yamas and Niyamas. These are selfimposed restrictions to govern one's behavior to
form a particular attitudinal pattern. Yamas are the prohibit precepts in the society and Niyamas are the exhort
precepts which are helpful for steady practice if one can observe alone. Five Yamas are non-violence(ahimsa),
truthfulness(satya), non-stealing(asteya), non-sexualmisconduc(brahmacharya) and non-possessiveness
(aparigraha). Five Niyamas are cleanliness(sauca), contentment (samtosa), the observation of suffering(tapa),
self-investigation (svadhyaya) and the conversion to own-nature(Ishvarapranidhana). Although it is very difficult
to observe Yamas and Niyamas, if one can observe them sincerely it will be very much helpful to practice yoga
which is for developing equanimous mind. However, if someone does not observe them properly one will become
unstable in mind and thus become great hindrance in yogic practice. Therefore the observation of Yamas and
Niyamas is the fundamental basis in the practice of yoga.
 
(7) Mitahara(Proper Diet)
This is the observation of light eating and vegetarian diet which is helpful for yoga & meditation and the proper
consuming of healthy and nutrious food which is good for the condition of body and mind of every individual.
Because the food habit is closely related with our mind activities, if we observe it properly it will be very much
helpful for yoga practice, but if our food habit is not proper like comsuming too much meat, voracious eating,
overeating, drinking alcohol, smoking etc.. it will become great hindrance for yoga practice.