The Effects of Yoga on Body and Soul
Yoga is one of the ancient sciences of India for a union between Body, Mind and Spirit and derives its name from Yug which means Union. It is one of the six fundamental philosophies of the Hindus which are Uttara Mimamsa, Purva Mimamsa ( Vedanta’s ), Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya and Vaisheshta. It is commonly misunderstood only as an exercise routine of Asanas or postures for physical well-being but that is just Hattha Yoga or Yoga for disciplining the body. They are four paths of Yoga for Union with the absolute or the soul, namely Bhakti Yoga or Devotion, Karma Yoga or Deeds, Jnana Yoga or Knowledge and Raj Yoga or Meditation. Yoga is attributed to Patanjali who lived around 400 CE and wrote down aphorisms of Yoga for the unity of the mind, body and spirit and final liberation from samsara or the cycle of birth and death on earth as understood by Sanatana Dharma the Vedic religion of the Hindus.
To understand the importance of Yoga and its effect on mind and soul one must first understand the philosophical backdrop it was assigned in. Apart from the six fundamental philosophies of Sanatana Dharma, there are six Vedanta philosophies covering the various views on our relationship between mind, body and soul. The highest school of Vedanta in Advaita or Non- Duality where there is just One soul or Self which is God your deepest being and multiplicity of individuals is just a feature of nature or Prakriti. Brought out from the basic philosophy of Cosmology in Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism known as Samkhya Philosophy which states ‘Creation comes into being between Prakriti or nature, cosmic energy and Supreme spirit or Purusha’ , the self-organizing principle which is identified in Advaita as the one supreme self or Brahman, the Hindu name for God or soul as in Advaita there is no difference between soul and God but unlike the Abrahamic loving God, is in lines with philosophers like Spinoza of being an impersonal Absolute. Although Samkhya states there can be multiple spirits or source unlike Vedanta which states there is only one. The path to this realization is achieved by Raj Yoga or Meditation or Jnana Yoga the path of knowledge and an inquiry of the self or the Non- Existence of it. Advaita is a school of philosophy identified with Adi Shankara 8th Century Indian theologian and philosopher who is famous for commenting ‘No birth, no death, no caste have I, Father, Mother have I none, I am he blissful spirit I am he.‘
This idea of there being one soul which is God and multiplicity is an illusion or delusion has been argued by other Hindu Philosophical schools like Ramanuja or Qualified Non- Dualism that states you cannot be God but are not one or the other but inseparable all the same as brought out by Jesus commenting ‘ I’m in the father and the Father is in me ‘ which brings out not one or the other but inseparable all the same and finally the School of Dvaita or duality which is what is conventionally understood of a God being separate from a soul and each live or exist in separate realities.
Yoga is really a school of clearing the mind of its ghosts and having a clear vision of your realities with the various schools you can choose from and attaining Moksha or liberation as understood by the Hindus from Samsara or the cycle of birth and death. The first aphorism in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras or aphorisms is 1-1 ‘The subject now being offered is Yoga‘. Patanjali stating this meant there is not one path to attain union with the soul or the infinite as each man has different aptitudes and sense of reasoning to quote him he says ‘These are the stages through which every truth seeker must travel, regardless of his religion, if he would achieve union with the Infinite‘. Another sutra states ‘Yoga is the neutralization of the vortices of feeling‘, Here it question who are you which has been debated by various philosophers including Rene Descartes, the first modern western philosopher famously commenting ‘I think therefore I am‘ which concludes that the individual self or body is the self but schools of Vedanta do not buy this by stating the self is made up of Mon ( Mind ) Buddhi ( Intelligence) , Chitta ( Feelings ) and Ahamkara or EGO and the delusion of autonomous identity. According to Jnana Yoga or the School of knowledge the self or God is really ever existent , ever conscious and always in bliss ( SAT , CHIT , ANANDA ) with seers like Sri Ramana Maharishi commenting that if you identify the body with the supreme self or God you are identifying your being and eternal life with a corpse. Yoga as a school though fundamentally dispute western individualism with a view of a universality and singularity of all existence with different views on ourselves and its relationship with God or Brahman, the highest being Non- Duality and you are in your deepest being not the empirical identity which is just a character in a Cartesian Theatre but God himself with the realized man stating to the world AHAM BRAHMASMI or I AM BRAHMAN.
Yoga is a discipline to control the mind and bring all mind, body and soul in union with the absolute. As suggested you can take any path of Yoga for this realization from Bhakti Yoga or devotion to the absolute or infinite, Karma Yoga or deeds in your life, to Raj Yoga or meditation and knowing yourself and the thoughts which you are not but its witness and finally the path of Jnana Yoga or knowledge when one studies the nature of being with all relevant sciences and comes to his realization. It is one of the greatest gifts from India to the west and its purpose is for clarity of being not bound by any religion as such. One can choose any path of Yoga to self-realization according to one’s aptitude but its final goal is to liberate the man from his turmoil’s from the world. It takes into all knowledge we have acquired dividing it into Sruti or Smriti. Sruti being knowledge got from transcendental sources and Smriti being knowledge acquired empirically.
Yoga as a school basis itself on Pantheism that the manifest is a projection of the absolute and you are in person undivided with it, although Hinduism and Yoga has place for all views and in a larger context is Monotheistic as they believe in one reality with different arguments if there was creation or not as a Non- Dualist may argue Creator and Creation present a duality and hence cannot be Non- Dual with different schools bringing in different views and only enriching Yoga, Mind and Body science.
Yogie Chandra Tatvaraj, born Chandran Tatvaraj Christian also known as Chandran Christian is an Indian Singer/ Song Writer, Author, Hatha Yoga Enthusiast and Artist who fronted some of India’s most iconic rock bands of the ’80s to 1997.
In a very alternative journey in life, he has been associated in Creative writing, Media and the Arts with the WHO, Norwegian Aid, Swedish Developmental Corporation, British Council and the Government of India. His passionate interests include Philosophy (Indian and Greek), Physics, Neuroscience, Psychology, Wild Life, Yoga, Music, Reading, Writing, Painting and Spirituality.
Author of Who are You , Gratefully Dead, Paradox of Life , Wagging Tongues , The Lotus , The Rose , The Lily and I am Prana PEACE AND LOVE