As the readers may be aware, Yoga is a lot more than just physical postures. Yoga is not just for the body ; in fact the ultimate aim of Yoga is transcending the limiting body consciousness - our chief hurdle.
WHAT IS YOGA : The name Yoga (actually Yog) is derived from the root words Yujir (to connect) and Yuj (to manage). Unless we connect, we cannot manage. The body,mind,intellect,ego and soul are to be all connected for a better inner organization. Yoga connects these various levels of our being, brings the inner union between the errant ego and intuitive soul and eventually, the final union between the ego-liberated soul and Spirit. Yoga is both the journey and the goal.
David S. Jordan said, there can be no excellence without right living. Ashtanga Raja Yoga, the ultimate blend that makes a scientific path for the final Union, begins with the 10 principles of right living, the Do's and Don'ts :
Yama : the five Don'ts. Ahimsa, non-violence (in thought, speech and action) ; Satya,no lying or untruth ; Brahmacharya, no irresponsible sensual indulgence (rather than literal abstinence from sex which married couples need for procreation) ; Asteya, no theft or craving for things not yours ; Aparigraha, no hoarding of things more than your actual need.
Similarly, we have the 5 Do’s (Niyama) : Shouch (Cleanliness in body and mind), Santosh (Contentment), Tapa (rigorous self-discipline), Swadhyaya (study of scriptures and self-study) and Ishwar Pranidhan (devotional surrender to God). Together these are like, and very similar to, the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament..
YOGA & BODY : As we said in the beginning, Yoga is not just for the body. Nor do you ignore the body, for that matter. In Yoga, in 'sadhana' (spiritual practices), the body does have its own important place but only as a means, not as the end. Yogic exercises score over all other exercises in that they exercise not only the external muscles, but the internal organs also, including the endocrine glands, and pranayama helps re-wire the neural circuits, helping one to change habits ; secondly, Yoga stresses upon relaxation (Vishraam) as much as it emphasizes upon workout (Vyayaam), for ex. through Shavasana, Meditation, etc. This improves sleep, our most natural destressor, which in turn improves focus.
And that's the central point ; we 'have' bodies but we 'are' not them.
The right attitude to the body is like that of a conscientious employer to the employee ;the body is, in the enlightened words of St. Francis of Assisi, the 'Brother Donkey', a beast of burden. In "Saints That Moved the World", it is said that when Saint Francis was building the church at San Damian, he "designated his own body to serve him as beast of burden. He lifted heavy stones, one at a time, and said: 'Now, Brother Donkey, carry it to San Damian.' And when Donkey Body broke down at times under the great burden, driver Francis would encourage and calm him and sternly he would add: 'Brother Donkey, the Father wills it, we must hurry.' Then Donkey Body would obey."
So we neither indulge in, nor exploit, neither pamper, nor torture the body. We just take care of it as an aware owner will take care of his vehicle, and go beyond it. If you are attached to the car you have, you won't be able to leave it at the destination ; nor would you be sure of arriving at it if you did not maintain it, letting it break down on the way !
YOGA & MIND : The next hurdle is the Mind which has been compared by Sw. Vivekananda to "a drunken money, generously fed on liquor, bitten by a scorpion and possessed by a devil's soul " , and verily so it is, unless disciplined. What is the best way to discipline it ? Pranayama and right living.
The mind is neither the brain nor all of our Consciousness. The mind rules the brain which is its hardware or the CPU, and itself is that limited part of Consciousness which is defined and bound by Time and Space coordinates.
That part in us who only likes and dislikes, and is driven by sensual pleasure and displeasure, is the lower mind (Manas). It is like the rein in a chariot, supposed to control the wild steeds of the five senses but usually unable, unless firmly in the hands of the charioteer - that part of us which insists that what feels unpleasant may be good for us, or that which is so pleasant in doing (overstuffing the tummy with that big burger or pizza or another drink, for example) may actually be bitter in result. It is the higher mind, the discriminating intellect (Buddhi).
YOGA & FOCUS : All successful people have had great concentration or focus. Pranayama (Life-force management through the agency of breath) and Pratyahara(interiorization), the 4th and 5th steps that follow Yama-Niyama-Asana in Ashtanga Raja Yoga, bring about an incredible control over the distractions of mind - both outer (sensory) and inner (thought-related). As concentration (Dharana, the 6th step) builds up, it can be used on a business problem or a project point, as much as it can be used for focusing on the latent divinity of every soul, which then becomes Dhyan, or Meditation, the 7th step, eventually leading to Samadhi, or Self-Realization..
EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT : YOGA & WORK : Yoga is not evasion from work. You can't say, ‘I am a Yogi, not attached to this world, it is all Maya, I don't have any desires - so why should I work’ ? Even monks work - for helping and uplifting others in the society. They may in fact work much harder than the worldly people. Dutiful action is a kind of Yoga (Karma Yoga), if implemented without attachment to fruits, and can be as liberating as meditation.
Yoga also ensures wellness, motivation and focus - the drivers of employee engagement.
YOGA & SOUL : SELF-MOTIVATION : The Bible assures us that the 'kingdom of heaven' is within us. The Gita tells us to 'Raise ourselves by ourselves' (Uddharet Atmana Atmaanam...) ; here the Self (Soul) raises the lower self (Ego). All motivation in fact is Self-motivation wherein Soul raises Ego to unite with it, before the final union of Soul uniting with Spirit can happen.
When you make yourself do your yoga practice even when the ego resists, that is motivation coming in from the soul that grows with a snowball effect with everyday's practice. When you do pranayama and pratyahaara happens as a result, bringing about what modern medicine understands as 'Neuroplasticity of Brain', changing old habits of thinking and doing, it sets off new motivation, a new 'taking charge' of oneself. When you meditate, your entire view of life and the universe changes - a new beauty, new causeless joy, a secure peace together dawn upon you bringing eventual transformation. It is too incredible to express in words and anyone willing to be steadfast in meditative practice, can verify it.
But people expect results overnight, they begin Yoga as a fad and give up soon. They should realize that if perishable material things ask for such hard work, why should imperishable, divine gifts come with half-hearted effort ?
CREATING EXCELLENCE AS A HABIT : Excellence is not just a matter of skills, it is as much - often more - a matter of attitudes. The most vital attitude is the result of one's perception of oneself. We are spiritual beings, playing human roles for experience, and no external conditions can be a limit to our destiny. Excellence in any work is an outer expression of our inner divinity and potential perfection.
In the Gita, aptly considered by those who really understand it as the finest management manual ever put to print, Lord Krishna says 'Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam'(meaning, Yoga is effectiveness in action). This effectiveness cannot be called Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist etc.
When our outer activity is poised with inner calmness born of meditation, when there is balance between our Yin & Yang - between reason & feeling, sustainable excellence happens.
STRUGGLES & STRESS AT WORKPLACE & IN LIFE : Now it is important to understand that the wisdom that is in the Gita was imparted not in the cool shade of a tree in a hermitage or the comfort of a home, but right in the middle of a battle field when the two rival armies had gathered for what was going to be the biggest battle in the history of humanity. In the personal and professional life alike, we have struggles / conflicts everyday : Role-Role Conflict, Role-Goal Conflict, Ego-Ego Conflict, etc. There are conflicts within a team, and between teams.
90% of our stress does not come from the events that happen or the behavior of others ; it comes from our emotional reactiveness to them. The truth is, we do NOT have to manage stress, we just have to manage ourselves - our ego, our likes and dislikes, our emotions, habits and attitudes. Read more here : https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dont-manage-stress-yourself-hans-dholakia
YOGA & WORK-LIFE BALANCE : Another definition of Yoga in the Gita is, "Samtwam Yoga Uchyate' : Yoga is balance and equanimity. My Master, Paramahansa Yogananda, author of "Autobiography of a Yogi' (www.yogananda-srf.org and www.yssofindia.org) taught that meditation plus right activity is the ultimate key. We have to strike the right balance.
Work-life balance is a misnomer ; work is an integral part of life.
The ultimate secret is very simple ; in my Master's words, it is about being "Calmly Active & Actively Calm". We have to do our role-play, like a good stage actor. We have to bring our body, mind and heart to what we do ; we have to do our very best. But even as we do this, we have to stay calm, remembering that it is only a role. Then success does not bloat our ego, nor does failure depress us. We create excellence - naturally and happily, as it were.
YOGA IS NOT ABOUT RELIGION : It is a super-scientific spiritual practice. It is for all - it has a universal appeal and utility - just as Krishna's and Christ's love is universal, just as rain and sunshine are God's gifts to all his children, regardless of any man-made division. Religion has a set of practices, dogma, belief-systems etc. But spirituality is about right conduct. Yoga teaches right attitudes and conduct with oneself and with others by realizing them as actually one's larger Self. Yoga takes one ahead in the inner journey from a limiting 'I' of 'me and mine' to the Universal Self of One Spirit and All Life.
Findings in Quantum Physics on Consciousness, in PNI and Neuro-cardiology on the power of a positive mind and the power of love, scientific findings on Aura and Brain Waves etc. are the bridges between Science and Religion. And Yoga, my Master aptly says, is the Science Of Religion.
YOGA & MEDITATION : Meditation is of course the ultimate step (7th out of total 8 steps) of Raja Yoga. Everything from Yama-Niyama to Dharana that go before Meditation are preparatory while the only one that follows it (Samadhi, the 8th step) is merely a result of successful meditation. The modern world needs meditation more than anything else - students, housewives, office-goers, teachers and professors, scientists, organizational and government heads - they all need meditation as much as the monks and spiritual aspirants do. Meditation alone can establish unity among the warring religious hardliners, because through it they will see the oneness hidden behind their outer diversity.
YOGA & LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT : Leadership is more than just IQ and EQ - we need Spiritual Quotient or Intelligence or SQ.
Essentially, leadership is about taming the ego, and yogic meditation helps there tremendously.
We must learn to THINK as great leaders do, we must learn to FEEL as they do, we must learn to INTUIT as they do. True leaders are aware, compassionate and considerate. They are well-informed and knowledgeable. But they also have a sense of situation.
What is right in one situation cannot be appropriate in another. Leadership is not just a theory that can be learned merely intellectually. Leadership is situational. The guiding precepts, the ethical undercurrents, the larger picture, the overall purpose do not change but the way they are expressed / implemented may change entirely according to the need of time and place.
CONCLUSION : Yoga is a super-science. Everyone needs to be the leader of one's own life, so everyone can find great help in Yoga. Nothing promotes durable happiness, harmony within and around us, and balanced Personal Leadership, as does regular Yoga-Meditation.
A recent research has shown that it is not genes or DNA that determine our final destiny ; with positive thoughts and meditation we can change even our DNA/genetic codes ! Yogic pranayama and meditation give one mastery over one's thoughts and perceptions, and therefore over one's destiny !
Author: Hans Dholakia. To Hans, life is a pilgrimage - a journey in consciousness through different role plays for discovering and realizing Self. A Chem.Engineer with over 43 yrs' experience, first in Mktg.(ending at Dir./VP levels) and then in Training, Hans is also a poet in 3 languages. His passion is blending neurosciences/modern management thinking with universal spiritual values and yoga-meditation, to help people realize their potential by taking charge of themselves. He is a long-time Kriyaban disciple of Sri Paramahansa Yogananda (a globally-revered saint who authored the life-transforming spiritual classic 'Autobiography of a Yogi'). A family man with two sons and a grand-daughter, Hans believes in balanced living - experiencing life in its fullness, beauty and joy. Through service,right conduct and daily Kriya meditation, he seeks Spirit as the Highest Potential of himself and all alike, under divine guidance of his beloved Guru.