Yoga is the science that helps tune the mind and body towards complete deliverance and self-realization. It comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ meaning union, and the ultimate goal is self-enlightenment. For this to come about, one first needs to be in control of the mind and body. To achieve this, Yoga makes the use of breath, movement, posture, relaxation and meditation. It is based on the development of awareness of the mind and body, with breath control playing an integral role.
The most prominent yoga styles are Bhakti Yoga which emphasizes on devotion to God, Hatha which deals with physical training of the body for the practice of higher meditation, Jnana the path of wisdom, Karma which stresses on selfless action and service, Kundalini which concentrates on charkas in the body to generate spiritual power, Mantra which deals with the chanting of certain words or phrases to achieve a higher level of consciousness, Purna which attempts to bring about psychic, cosmic and existential integration, and Raja Yoga concerned mainly with the use of meditation to achieve liberation.
There are eight steps to the practice of yoga:
Yama - the five abstentions; non-violence, truth, non-covetousness, chastity, detachment to possession.
Niyama - the five observances; purity, contentment, austerity, study and surrender to god
Asanas - postures
Pranayama - control of breath
Pratyahara - sensory inhibition
Dharana - concentration
Dhyana - meditation
Samadhi - liberation; the transcendent realization of the highest truth
Dhyana or meditation is one of the eight principles of yoga. It is perfect contemplation dealing with the senses, body, breath and mind. It is a process by which the mind is relaxed and controlled by focusing on only one thought at a time. It is the art and science of training each of the levels of our being in order that we are able to co-ordinate and integrate those aspects of our selves, and exist in the centre of consciousness.
Meditation is therapeutic, reduces stress, helps us achieve a clearer mind, improves concentration and will power, and gives a greater sense of purpose.