Yoga is a science of living, and those who practice it are known as Yogis or Yoginis.
Yoga has nothing to do with any particular caste, religion, or nation,
and is therefore universally applicable and useful. Yoga sets up no particular God, or gods; neither does it deny the existence of God. It is a system of physical and thought culture.
One may be a Jew, Moslem, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian or atheist and still be a student of Yoga, since it neither criticizes any religion, nor does it support one particular religion. Some Yogis may not recognize supernatural powers or the duty of man to owe allegiance to them. Still they may reach self-realization through self-knowledge by the practice of Yoga, besides the attainment of miraculous powers, such as perfect control of the mind and body, including even the involuntary organs of the body.
As defined in the Oxford English Dictionary, Yoga is "a system of philosophic meditation and asceticism designed to effect the reunion of the soul with the universal spirit." This is true of certain forms of Yoga which are inextricably mixed in
Hindu metaphysics, and, in a sense, it is true of Hatha Yoga. However, the average student need not concern themself overmuch with this definition. It should be sufficient for them to know that Yoga is a system of mental and physical training with prescribed postures, breathing exercises, meditation and relaxation. Although yogic exercises may be compared to physical culture exercises, they differ from them in many ways. They are not intended for the development of large muscles, as in physical culture. Nor are
they aimed at merely disciplining the body. Yoga disciplines the mind as well as the body. The exercises of Yoga stand unparalleled among all the systems of physical exercises, because of the benefits they have to offer, a fact which the West has but too tardily grasped. Now that the knowledge of the East is being systematized and presented along Western lines, the West has become more receptive than before, and
has even attempted to adapt it to her own needs in physical culture, and in medicine, dieting and nutrition. It is my belief that this century~ will bring about a closer understanding between the East and the West.
Yoga teaches in easy, simple steps the control of the mind, its thought, and the whole body itself, though self-study and self-knowledge. There is nothing mysterious about it, as in black or white magic, nor, as is popularly imagined, does its scope and significance lie in the swallowing of crushed glass or cyanide, lying on beds of nails, or walking on hot coals. Hatha Yoga is only a form of "personal hygiene" which maintains perfect health in a human being through physical, mental, moral and spiritual training. The Yoga system which has been practiced in India since at least the time of the Epics, that is, 1000 B.C. (the excavations in the Indus Valley show the science was known in 3000 B.C.), supersedes modern knowledge of hygiene in many ways. It affords to us longevity, resistance to disease, the growth of a beautiful body, and mental and spiritual sublimation.Yogi Gupta 1958
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