What is yoga: The word yoga means to join, unite or merge. It is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj. Yoga is a science and also an art. The practice of yoga integrates the body with the mind and the mind with the soul, thereby helping us to understand our own natures and to live harmoniously with our fellow men.
Yoga can be practiced by all irrespective of race, colour, caste, creed, sex and age. Most people are aware of only two aspects of yoga, the asanas and meditation. Yoga is more than these two aspects. It is, in fact, an eight-fold path called Ashtanga yoga.
Ashtanga yoga (The eight fold path)
Ashtanga yoga or the eight limbs of yoga are:
- Yama – The universal commandments. These are:
- Ahimsa: Non -violence.
- Satya: True and honesty.
- Asteya: Non-covetousness.
- Brahmacharya: Continence and self control.
- Aparigraha: Non accumulation of needless wealth.
- Niyama – The personal disciplines, these are:
- Saucha: Cleanliness and purity.
- Santosha: Satisfaction and contentment austerity, ability to bear hardship.
- Svadhyaya Ishvara : Introspection
- Pranidhana: Faith in God.
- Asana – Postures.
- Pranayama – Control of breath and bio-energy.
- Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the sense organs from the objects of sense.
- Dharana – Intense concentration for developing inner vision.
- Dhyana – Meditation, uninterrupted and deep concentration for a prolonged period.
- Samadhi – The goal of yoga, attained after a prolonged period of dhyana. Just as a river merged into the ocean and becomes one with it, so also the individual self merges into the universal sprit and becomes one. Peace and happiness are experienced as all polarities such as pain and pleasure, good and bad vanish.
Only the first three limbs of ashtanga yoga, yama, niyama and asana are relevant for children.
Sadhana – The sadhana implies a quest or study. There are three kind of sadhana.
- Bahiranga Sadhana (Bahir = Outer, Anga = body): This is the quest for external purity. Bahiranga sadhana consists of following the moral and ethical principles of yama and niyama for character building, and the practice of asanas for cleaning and maintaining the health of the body.
- Antaranga sadhana (antar = inner, anga = body): This is the quest for inner purity. In antaranga sadhna the practitioner strives to cleanse and control his mind and his sense through the practice of pranayama and pratyahara.
- Antaratma sadhana (antar = inner, atma= soul, self): This is the quest of the soul. Here the aspirant penetrates into the innermost aspects of his being through the practice of dharana, dhyana and Samadhi.
Only Bahiranga sadhana is for children.
Prayers are a part of bahiranga sadhana. Children enjoy praying, especially praying loudly. Children are essentially pious by nature, free from doubts and biases.
Prayers inspire a child towards betterment. They help mould a character which is respectful, revential and devout. Repetition of prayers before yoga classes helps ‘Set the mood’. Children immediately calm down.
What is yoga – Hatha Yoga and Raja yoga
Hatha means force or determination. Force and determination are required to practice hatha yoga. In addition ‘ha’ means sun and ‘tha’ means moon; just as positive and negative currents produce energy, Hatha Yoga also produces energy and force.
Raja means a king. Raja yoga leads to mastery over one’s body and mind. The classical text on yoga, Hatha yoga Pradipika states that both hatha yoga and raja yoga lead to the same goal, liberation.
They guide man to climb the ladder of spirituality. Hatha yoga starts with the body and ends with soul. Raja yoga starts with the mind and climbs down the body and uplifts again. Both criss-cross other and reach the destiny of peace, poise and plenty.
Yogic view of creation
Mahat Great productive principle.
Tanmatras Taste, touch, form, sound, smell.
Jananendriyas Organs of action: Legs, arms, speech, excretory and reproductive organs.
Mahabhutas Pure Elements: Earth, water, fire, air, ether.
Tri gunas The three qualities: All matter is constituted and pervaded by three basic qualities.
Sattva Pure and good.
Rajas Energetic active and passionate.
Tamas dull, Inert, and ignorant.