Yoga: General Principles in Yogic Practice


Yoga is the name given to the science or method of training, which is followed by spiritual aspirants. It has existed for thousands of years and is still revered in India and in Indian culture where the knowledge has been carefully preserved through a sacred traditional, unbroken channel between teacher and pupil. The system offers both health and spiritual understanding through the rewards of self-discipline and through the individual’s direct inner experiences or realizations.

The practitioner of Yoga is known as a “yogi” or sometimes in the feminine case, “yogini” and is a term of reverence for one who not only follows the practical techniques and embraces the yogic philosophy but is a title bestowed upon one who represents the spiritual quality essential in the ideal human character.

Yoga was once always practised in the traditional manner either within the home or ashram or in a place of natural beauty near water or stream, to enjoy quietude and shelter and to allow the student to feel in touch with nature. Earnest pupils had few or no possessions, or placed little value on material goods and were expected to follow the traditional austerities and the prevailing attitude of self-sacrifice. Renunciation was a part of their training. Serious aspirants were prepared to leave family, friends, material comforts and to accept the simple life in order to find answers to their spiritual needs.

However, in a different process, the general knowledge of Yoga has now become common knowledge throughout in the more materialistic western world where it is proving to be used as a popular aid in several areas of self culture – physical, psychological and spiritual.

The most well known and popular yogic path in modern times is Hatha Yoga. This demands self control over the body, physical cultivation of strength and flexibility through exercise and development of a fine degree of health and stamina through personal efforts in self discipline. In the process of applying the traditional physical disciplines involving nutrition, exercise, breathing exercises, postural controls and relaxation the yogi comes to better health and to understand his body.

The same may be said with Bhakta Yoga, which demands self-control over the emotions, the cultivation of contentment, love and peace and the rejection of emotional habits that produce stress. In the process of applying the entailing disciplines involved in gaining emotional control and cultivating positive moods, the yogi not only comes to better understand his feelings, but begins to find increased happiness and well-being.

Through Raja Yoga, disciplines centre upon the individual’s thoughts as he learns to assume greater awareness and conscious control over his thoughts, to cultivate his mental faculties and natural talents and to still the turbulence of transitory thoughts and impressions. This last provides the appropriate state of calm in which he can find inner peace and enjoy the climate in which creative thought can flourish. And even more importantly, then his mind is capable of reflecting thoughts beyond his usual limitations to experience what we call inspiration.

Throughout the training of a yogi, the factor, which is all-important, is that he holds his personal self image clear and strong so that he can direct his personal growth towards his own concept of the human ideal. He aspires to perfect himself in all ways and knows that this undertaking is difficult, long but extremely rewarding as he realises his personal responsibility in directing his life and his future.

By the teachings of Karma Yoga, the path of right action, all that is acquired by the yogi becomes integrated in his nature and directed towards positive outcomes in his life of action. towards better health, loving relationships, greater knowledge and skills. His capacity to help others increases accordingly. No reward, whether of better health, joy, knowledge or inspirational thought is for his own possession alone but is seen as an energy over which he has responsibility to utilize in the practical world and in his association with others around him,

The over-riding general realization which is experienced by those who practise yoga is that behind all life’s diversity is an integral unit and brotherhood of being in which all living creatures and kingdoms, although seemingly separate, are in essence interdependent not only in order to be life-sustaining but in order that life on our beautiful planet may progress towards the ‘better world’ of which mankind dreams.

So the practice of meditation assumes a prominent role in allowing conscious experiencing of the subtler worlds beyond the obvious material one – the world of emotions, abstract thought and the soul and spirit worlds beyond. Meditation, brings the yogi ever nearer to that higher consciousness, that illuminates his being and in stages allows his expansion of consciousness to comprehend something of the vast cosmic life of which we are a part.

The ultimate experience of Yoga equates with what is called ‘the mystical marriage’ of the Christian – or the ecstatic blending of individual with the supernal in an uplifted state evidencing beyond all doubt, the fact that in essence all life is one.

Michael Russell

Your Independent guide to Yoga []

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