Is Yoga the way to a purposeful life?

In her book Árt of Choosing, Sheena Iyengar explains how different nationalities decides. An american believes in freedom, and in the ability to choose. An asian is very much comfortable, if her mother is comfortable with the decision. Too many brands suffocates a Russian, where as it is a delight for the American. In her experiment, she served coke, pepsi, soda and water to a group of Americans, and all of them unanimously agreed that they had the option of choosing among four brands, where as when the same experiment was repeated with a group of Russians, they unanimously said they had only two brands to choose from – that is soda and water.

Going by these, In India, all of us believe in one religion or other – and invariably vast majority of the Indians believe in God, from time immemorial. If we look at the successful Indians of the modern day, majority of them believe in God, and family. Take the case of the God of Indian cricket, Sachin Tendulkar; he believes in God, and he has a beautiful family. The same is the case with Ambani’s, Shah Rukh Khan, Bachans, Premji’s, Narayana Murthy, Rajiv Gandhi, Kapil Dev….. the list is long. Here the fundamental question is..can an Indian be happy if he is uprooted from his natural beliefs and value systems, and made to believe in value systems foreign to him. Surely, knowingly or unknowingly we are adopting the foreign habits and values…and these can really make the current generation a very unhappy generation. Going back to the roots, and protecting the ancient wisdom is the only way of out for being happy.  Ashtanga Yoga throws some light here. It’s practice can liberate us from the perils of materialism and lack of meaning of life, and lead us to a very clean, lean and agile way of living. For a layman like me (in Yoga), the word yoga meant only the physical exercise part of it (Asana). Contrary to that, Yoga is built on the following eight pillars, and the Ásanas’ are just one of them. Here are the eight pillars of Yoga;

  1. Yama (The five “abstentions”): non-violence, non-lying, non-covetousness, non-sensuality, and non-possessiveness.
  2. Niyama (The five “observances”): purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender to god.
  3. Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
  4. Pranayama (“Suspending Breath”): Prāna, breath, “āyāma”, to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
  5. Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
  6. Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
  7. Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
  8. Samādhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.
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