Posted on

Who is a Yogī?

Since ages, this land has seen many Yogīs who have been great spiritual masters and who have lit the light of wisdom in mankind through their extraordinary contributions. This land has always treated those Yogīs as the embodiments of the Supreme and followed their footsteps. But with the passage of time, the inclination towards spirituality has declined in the people due to many reasons. Nowadays the term ‘Yogī’ is as familiar as the term ‘Yoga’, and when heard, it stimulates a kind of mystical perspective in our minds with multiple conclusions.

Who is a Yogī? What are his qualities? What is his lifestyle? And how  can one become a Yogi? Our ancient scriptures are the sources where we find the answers to all these queries.

In the Bhagavad Gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa says:

अनाश्रितः कर्मफलं कार्यं कर्म करोति यः।
स संन्यासी च योगी च न निरग्निर्न चाक्रियः॥

anāśritaḥ karmaphalaṁ kāryṁ karma karate yaḥ।
sa saṁnyāsī ca yogī ca na nirgnirna cākriyaḥ॥

[Bhagavad Gītā, 6: 1]

One who performs his prescribed duties by renouncing the fruits of his actions is both a Saṁnyāsī and a Yogī, but not someone who has merely given up performing sacrifices or other prescribed duties.

People in general have a misconception about a Yogī or a Saṁnyāsī, that he is someone who does not shoulder any responsibilities and who renounces all activities. But here, Lord Kṛṣṇa upholds the true practice of Dharma. He says that no one should ever discard his prescribed duties. Everyone should execute his duties with utmost devotion. Among the doers of duties, a true Yogī is one who discharges his duties for the duty’s sake and is in no way attached to the fruits of his actions. The Lord further asserts that the practice of Yoga is not different from Saṁnyāsa, as no one becomes a Yogī without renouncing Saṅkalpa (selfish desires). In his Yoga Sūtras, Maharṣi Patañjali describes the means to attain Yoga, which are Abhyāsa (practice) and Vairāgya (renunciation).

Lord Kṛṣṇa describes the Yogī who has attained the peaks of Yoga as:

यदा हि नेन्द्रियार्थेषु न कर्मस्वनुषज्जते।
सर्वसङ्कल्पसंन्यासी योगारूढस्तदोच्यते॥

yadā hi nendriyārtheṣu na karmasvanuṣajjate।
sarvasaṅkalpasaṃnyāsī yogārūḍhastadocyate॥

[Bhagavad Gītā, 6: 4]

When one is free from attachments to the sense objects as well as the actions, and has renounced all selfish desires, he is said to have ascended the peaks of Yoga.

Posted on

Why Prāṇāyāma?

Modern Science establishes Prāṇāyāma as one of the leading mechanisms to a hoard of health benefits. Prāṇāyāma is known to lower blood glucose levels and serum cholesterol levels, regulate systolic and diastolic blood pressures, enhance blood circulation and sleep, and combat depression. By regulating the breathing process, Prāṇāyāma relaxes the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, thereby resulting is a lowered stress response. By balancing the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, Prāṇāyāma results in better mental and physical health.

प्राणायामात् खेचरत्त्वं प्राणायामादरोगता।
प्राणायामात्तथाशक्तिः प्राणायामान्मनोन्मनी।
आनन्दो जायते चित्ते प्राणायामी सुखी भवेत् ॥

prāṇāyāmāt khecarattvaṃ prāṇāyāmādarogatā।
prāṇāyāmāttathāśaktiḥ prāṇāyāmānmanonmanī।
ānando jāyate citte prāṇāyāmī sukhī bhavet ॥

[Gheraṇḍasaṃhitā, 5.57]

By practicing Prāṇāyāma, one can attain power of levitation, salubrious living, Śakti (divine energy,) and stillness of mind. An inexplicable joy is experienced, and the practitioner remains ever happy.

Prāṇāyāma practices have been scientifically proven to enhance cardiorespiratory responses. Prāṇāyāma is helpful, also in detoxifying the body. The most significant contribution of Prāṇāyāma to a better lifestyle, is the mental calm it engenders. By regulating the HPA axis and its response to stress, a deeper sense of calm is experienced; a mental stillness that allows man to better function in society and to better identify himself with a higher force.

प्राणायामेन युक्तेन सर्वरोगक्षयो भवेत्।
अयुक्ताभ्यासयोगेन सर्वरोगसमुद्गमः॥

prāṇāyāmena yuktena sarvarogakṣayo bhavet।
ayuktābhyāsayogena sarvarogasamudgamaḥ॥

[haṭhayogapradīpikā, 2.16]

When practiced properly, Prāṇāyāma helps in combating diseases, and when (Haṭha) Yoga is practiced in the absence of Prāṇāyāma, the practice paves the path to ailments.

By lowering the heart-rate and regularizing systolic-diastolic blood pressures, Prāṇāyāma is believed to enhance life expectancy.