By Hare Krsna Das

“Yoga, the word, invokes in my mind the image of a slim, athletic bodied, fair-skinned girl posing in an incredible asana for a photograph” was one student Isabella’s answer when I asked her, “What do you understand by Yoga?”

Although not the truth, but her version is the contemporary reality where a Google search result for yoga throws us innumerable such photos of men and women in different asana positions popularized by many yoga teachers and professionals from both East and the West. As someone said, the global yoga industry is worth a few billion dollars!

But what truly is yoga? What’s the origin and purpose of yoga? How can a millennial see yoga’s worth in her/his life?

The Sanskrit word Yoga, having its origins in the ancient scriptures of India, literally means ‘to connect or unite’. The Vedic scriptures of India speak about the true self as the spiritual entity, distinct from the body constructed of five elements of matter, and also about the Supreme Divine, the source of all that is spiritual and material.

The Bhagavad Gita, essentially a book of yoga and accepted as the essence of all the Vedic literature, describes Yoga as ‘one process’ of connecting the soul with the Supersoul, realized in progression like a ladder having different stages of elevation. The base being work for selfish sensory pleasures and a progressive life being action in Karma Yoga, where a person starts dedicating the work and its results for more than own self – be it family, society, animals or the environment. Higher than this stage is the Jnana Yoga – the state of enlightenment through knowledge and wisdom, leading to selfless life of detachment. Ashtanga Yoga is the practice of actively controlling the senses from going back and engaging in selfish material pleasures, and with regulation of mind and senses focusing on the Supreme.

However, the highest level on this ladder is Bhakti Yoga – the art of working in love and devotion to the Supreme and dedicating one’s life in service of the Divine and the creations of the Divine. The different aspects of this Divine are described in the scriptures as (i) all pervasive non-dual spiritual energy – Brahman, (ii) the localized personal fragment of the Divine within every living beings’ heart as the Supersoul – Paramatma and (iii) the most beautiful form as a complete person endowed with all the divine qualities who is realized as personal God – Bhagavan.

The heart of every sentient living being is always searching for and longing to have connection with the most beautiful, powerful, resourceful, merciful and wise person. The Bhakti Yoga process gives the practical tools to establish this connection with the Divine and is therefore the highest rung on the Yoga ladder.

Thus, there are not many different types of yogas as we often misunderstand today, but different levels or stages of the one yoga process. This process is realized as Yoga Ladder which a sincere student climbs to connect with the Divine.

Are you ready yet to climb your first step?

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