The National President of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Smriti Manch, Sri Vinod Shukla ji is disciple of Sri Sri Anand Murti ji a great preacher and saint who worked towards the attainment of eternal bliss. Walking on the footsteps of his Guru, Sri Shukla ji himself practices and preaches ‘Ashtanga Yoga Sadhna’ to his followers. His spiritual beliefs are deep down embedded in the principles of morality which make him raise his voice against immoral malpractices that exist in our society. Although blissfully married he still has adhered towards the sacrificing service towards God and humanity. He believes in passing off a society that is free from destructive and harmful forces.
The Ashtanga Yoga preached by Vinod Shukla ji is based on expansion of mind and body and unification with the supreme consciousness. His concept of Yoga is not about the bodily postures, its more about its spiritual side of which ‘asanas’ or postures are just a part. As per Maharishi Patanjali’s “Yoga Sutra” Yoga has eight limbs that lead a human soul from little self to the divine spirit.
It is something that nurtures spiritual growth of different facets of human nature (chitta and vritti). Yoga is all about ‘controlling mind and mastering senses’; harmonizing human senses and to achieve self realization. Yoga has a scientific basis as well because it deals with body, breath, mind, soul and ultimately the Universe. Yoga helps everyone to discover their hidden inner potentials and touches a human being at mental, physical and spiritual levels.
Yogic practice is ancient wisdom of India that has existed for thousands of years. The Ashtanga Yoga as the name suggests is based on the eight fold path of Yoga given by Maharishi Patanjali in his ‘Patanjali Sutras’. In this, the first four limbs are meant for the external cleansing and getting prepared for meditation and enlightenment where as the next four limbs are about actually leading towards on the path of highest levels of self awareness and enlightenment.
1. The Yamas: Here we have 5 ‘Yamas’ that need to be adhered to by all the yogis they constitute the first things that need be one with devotion and perseverance. The Yamas bring moral restraints and comprise of the basic moral codes like ahimsa (non-violense), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-theft), brahmcharya (celibacy) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
i. Ahimsa: Ahimsa is a sign of humanity and it is quintessential for any Yogi to be ‘non-violent’ both physically and verbally. A yogi should abstain from hurting or causing pain to anyone with his words or deeds. It also includes being kind towards all beings and Mother Nature.
ii. Satya: A Yogi should practice and live Satya i.e. truthfulness with his words, deeds, thoughts and values. Even when no one is watching a Yogi should adhere to ‘Satya’, keep vows to himself and not to show off to others or for appeasing Gods.
iii. Asteya: Asteya or non-theft is to be practiced by a Yogi at all times. He should not be lured by worldly belongings. Theft should not be of belongings but also of other things like stealing somebody’s credit, or somebody’s near and dear one, etc. Yogi should not have any kind of greed in his behavior.
iv. Brahmacharya: It means being celibate and abstaining from any kind of sexual activity. It also has a wider meaning that all the activities of a Yogi should be focused and lead him towards spiritual and not be distracted by thing that take away his mental and physical energies.
v. Aparigraha: It means non accumulation of belongings; a Yogi should not take anything from this world beyond his basic needs. If we accumulate more than we require then we cannot free our mind from carrying out the burden of our belongings.
These five ‘Yamas’ are difficult to follow in practical life when faced with real life challenges although a Yogi should adhere to it as much as possible.
2. The Niyamas: The Yamas are for mastering the body and mind though the Niyamas that constitute the second limb of Ashtanga Yoga. They have rules that are to be followed in the day-to-day personal life by a Yogi. It has the guidelines that take a step further towards higher spiritual path. Regarding how one can improve upon himself and develop personal qualities while aiming towards reaching higher levels of awareness and enlightenment.
The five Niyamas are Shaucha (external cleanliness and purity), Santosh (contentment), Tapas (discipline), Swadhyay (self study) and Ishwara Pranidhana (devotion towards God).
3. Asanas: This is the third limb of Ashtang Yoga and help the body to get ready for meditation and Samadhi as before preceding towards meditation the mind needs to be ready and body accustomed to stay still for meditation. A person should first do ‘Asanas’ to make his body healthy and strong and be physically fit so that he can proceed further.
4. Pranayama: It is the fourth limb of Ashtanga Yoga and deals with the formal practice of controlled breathing that is ‘Prana’or the vital life force in all of us because we all know that without it the body cannot withstand life. Pranayam incorporates two words “Prana” and “Aayaam” in which ‘Prana’ means life and Aayaam means ‘regulation’. It is beneficial for the mind and essential for keeping alive. It has loads of benefit as it clears up ‘nadis’ and opens up ‘chakras’ and also alleviates spirits, keeps us healthy, makes feel positive and brings clarity to thoughts.
5. Pratyahara: It is the fifth limb of Ashtanga Yoga and also the most important limb of Yoga Sadhna that helps to gain mastery over external influences. The human behavior s is mostly governed by senses and Pratyahara means putting constraints on our senses. “Prati” means “against” and “ahara” means “food” that can be physical, sensual or emotional. Pratyahara helps us to keep away from negative sensory influences and aids to fortify mind’s power of remaining immune towards external pleasures.
6. Dharana: It is the sixth limb of Yoga that refers to concentration that one needs to perform with utmost finesse. It is like withdrawing all your senses and focusing them to a single point. It further interconnects with Dhyana and Samadhi.
7. Dhyana: It is the seventh limb of Yoga that pertains to mediation having overall benefits on mind and body. The day-to-day stress that acts as toxins on our mind body take leave from ourselves, and we feel more peaceful and serene. We actually can listen to our inner self and also speak to it. Doing meditation brings a lot of self awareness.
8. Samadhi: The eighth and the final limb of the Ashtanga Yoga (the eight-fold path of Yoga) is called Samadhi; it is the highest state of spiritual consciousness where an individual feels in unison with the universe. In the state of Samadhi the lure for physical world fades and disappears, material possessions lose meaning, although it is not easy to achieve this state as one can only achieve this through years and years of dedication and practice.
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