The First Step in Yoga

Nowadays people are using Yoga as a means of curing diseases, but its original purpose is different. Its real goal is self realization.

In the present times, Asanas (physical postures), along with a few Pranayama (breath control exercises) is passing off as Yoga. No one particularly seems to be concerned about the Yama and Niyamas. In his Principles of Yoga (Yoga Sutras), Sage Patanjali, first mentioned about the Yama Niyamas (Moral Discipline and Observances). Next steps of practices called Pratyahara and Dhyana (Withdrawal of senses and Meditation) are mentioned later. Sri Sankara has summarized all these principles in one Sloka (a couplet of sanskrit verse).

In his treatise Viveka Chudamani, Adi Sankaracharya says about Yoga thus -

yōgasya prathamaṁ dvāraṁ vāgnirōdhō aparigraḥ

nirāśā ca nirīhā ca nityamēkāntaśīlatā

According to Sankara's teachings, the foremost steps in Yoga are,

1. vāgnirōdhō: Control over speech

2. aparigraḥ: Not accepting anything from others

3. nirāśā: Not having hope

4. nirīhā: Not hankering after fame, status, money etc

5. nityamēkāntaśīlatā: Always staying in solitude

These are the foundational principles of Yoga. Without these steps as the basis, any number of practices come to naught. They will be useless.

Just by practicing Yoga postures without first practicing the above basic principles, Yoga remains merely, a form of workout like any other physical exercise. One might get the benefit of improved health, but cannot attain spiritual progress.

Is it right to bring down such a noble objective of Yoga to the level of mere physical exercise? We need to rethink about our attitude towards Yoga.

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