YOGA

For the uninitiated, the image of yoga commonly consists of contorting yourself into a human pretzel and sitting on the pointy bit of some distant mountain. Initially developed/discovered in the India-Nepal region thousands of years ago, yoga has evolved to include postures that really do fit that sort of description. Through much persistence, patience and careful study, many people today have achieved and even surpassed those Even so, this should be considered an extremity of yoga. Just as all martial arts (Kung Fu, Karate, Ju Jitsu etc.) have evolved from yoga, anything can be taken to the point of distraction when on the road to enlightenment. These complex and sometimes dangerous yoga poses should only be considered after years of experience and never seen as an end-goal. The oldest formal documentation of yoga comes from around 200 B.C. (Patanjali's Yoga Sutra) but there are many references that point way back to the Vedic times (2000-3000 B.C.) where, it is said, the yoga path was initiated. In any case, yoga has been around in one form or another for a very long time. Long enough to have been the precursor to every form of martial arts and every type of exercise system. Translating from the ancient Sanskrit, the word yoga is derived from the verbal root, yuj, meaning to yoke, harness. From the language, yoga is the process of uniting ourselves in order to express the energy of our true nature. In other words, yoga is the methodical steps of aligning and converging our body, mind and spirit for the purpose of enlightenment.

Philosophical thinking in India has long been concerned with the root crisis of the human spirit - the separation from the central consciousness and the only reality (Atman or Brahman). It is because of this separation, which begins with the ignorance of our birth, that we suffer the traumas of physical, emotional and psychological conflicts. As an unfortunate consequence of this disconnection and the loss of that awareness, we erroneously look externally for our happiness. The material and sensory pleasures of life, the approval and value judgments of others, the more is better philosophy, anything to allow us to forget that the cause of all our suffering lies within. Yoga calls our attention back to this and aims to reunite us with the innermost centre of our being.s The Yamas tell us what we should not do in terms of the external world. The Niyamas tell us what we should do in terms of our inner world. The Asanas align and integrate our body and mind while releasing vital energies and preparing us for the physical and mental challenges of the remaining limbs. Pranayama brings particular emphasis onto the breath to lift our awareness of the universal life-force that sustains and energizes us.The last four limbs are the methodical steps towards enlightened meditation. Pratyahara relieves us from the constant bombardment of stimuli by blocking our senses and turning our minds inward. Dharana holds the mind on a single point to the exclusion of all other existence. Dhyana is the connection and communication between the subject and object where you, the subject, are no longer separated from the object of your meditation. Finally, if such a word is relevant anymore, we arrive at Samadhi, an indistinguishable part of the universal consciousness. The most popular elements of yoga in the western world fall under the Hatha (physical) yoga. This generally includes the Asana and, to a lesser extent, Pranayama. This can be an excellent place to start as long as it is understood that the eight limbs are not a sequential path, but one where all limbs are unavoidably concurrent. Many of the physical poses (Asanas) require such concentration to hold a balance (or maintain the strength and flexibility, or apply complex anatomical adjustments, etc) that you can't help but be in a Dharana state. Similarly, it is essential for the body to be able to sit still for long periods to achieve meaningful meditation. Here the Asanas are essential; through the countless variations of hundreds of postures, we begin opening our hips, strengthen our lower and upper back, flexing our legs for sitting and simultaneously learning to relax the mind to be open to the possibility of meditation. Yoga is now being utilized in modern society in many ways. However, these applications tend to be superficial. To obtain a more comprehensive view of yoga and its potential utility within society, we need to go much deeper. Bihar Yoga Bharati was established to help provide this insight. Here scholars, scientists, artists, medical practitioners, administrators and yogic aspirants of a high caliber can study, research and develop a complete perspective on yoga and its potential uses within society. This is our contribution to creating a better future and a better world for coming generations.

The Garhwal region of north India is speckled with some of the holiest of Hindu pilgrimage sites and Rishikesh is one such major attractions. Crowded with sadhus with long matted hair and pilgrims from all over the globe, Rishikesh is the birthplace of yoga. It attracts thousands of tourists every year, who come to seek mental peace in the midst of the humdrum of modern life. The various ghats and temples assist the human spirit in its endeavor to be one with the ultimate source of all creations. It is also an attraction for the ones in search of adventure and passion.

Rishikesh is called the yoga capital of the world and there are many ashrams in Rishikesh offering courses on meditation, yoga and Hindu philosophy. The hatha yoga and pranayama meditation classes at Sri Ved Niketan Ashram are well known. The Shivananda Ashram is located opposite the Shivananda Jhula and is flocked by tourists. It is also possible to stay in the ashram by intimating the authorities a month earlier. Other ashrams include the Yoga Niketan Ashram, Omkarananda Ashram, Vanmali Gita Yogashram, Dayananda Vedanta Ashram, Brahma Niwas and the Yoga Study Center. The International Yoga Festival is organized every year from February 2 to 7 by UP Tourism.

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