Yoga, one of the conspicuous contributions of ancient India to the world is an amalgamation of Physical, Mental and Spiritual practices and its origin is speculated to date back to the Vedic era. Yoga started gaining popularity in the west as an exercise during the 1980s and its fame is mounting each day and people are fascinated by its aura. That may be the reason the UN general assembly declared June 21 as international Yoga day recognizing that “yoga provides a holistic approach to health and wellbeing”.
A few terms that we always hear in relation to Yoga are Ashtamga Yoga, and Hata Yoga. The hata yoga is referred to as “six-limbed” yoga, as well as Ashtamga Yoga is known as the “eight-limbed” practice. The practices that the two systems generally share in common with one another as well as with the Buddhist yoga system are posture, breath control, and the three levels of meditative concentration leading to Samadhi. In the Ashtamga Yoga, these six practices are preceded by behavioral restraints and ritual observances (Yama and Niyama). Hata Yoga considers excess food, excess sleep and excess physical activity as hindrance to attain the benfit of yoga. So to avoid these factors Hata yoga also recommends the practice of Yama and Niyama even though it is not considered mandatory.
The Yogācāra (“Yoga Practice”) school of Mahayana Buddhism is known to be the earliest Buddhist tradition to employ the term yoga to denote its philosophical system. Yoga was considered as the “union” or identity with the celestial Buddha named Vajrasattva—the “Diamond essence” (of enlightenment). The behavioral restrictions and ritual observances included in Yama and Niyama is not expalined in Buddhist Yoga practice under the same name. But the concept and idea behind these are followed in Buddhism also. The concepts under Yama and Niyama in Ashtamga Yoga are incorporated in Buddhism under the notions of Pancha Sheela (the five rules of good conduct), Arya Ashtamga Marga (the noble eight fold path) and Brahma Vihara (the four qualities).
Swami Vivekananda in his famous oration at the Parliament of the Worlds Religions at Chicago has mentioned- “Buddhism was the fulfillment, the logical conclusion, the logical development of the religion of Hinduism (and it’s Philosophy). The great glory of the Master lay in his wonderful sympathy for everybody, especially for the ignorant and the poor. Some of Buddha’s Brahmin disciples wanted to translate his teachings into Sanskrit, but he distinctly told them, ‘I am for the poor, for the people; let me speak in the tongue of the people.’ And so to this day the great bulk of his teachings are in the vernacular of that day in India”. Buddha always wanted the concepts and practices to be simple, in a way common man could understand. This influence can be observed in Buddhist yoga and Meditation techniques also.
Muni Yoga is such a unique and patented combination of several procedures envisioned to improve the quality of life and enhance spiritual and overall progress of the individual. It comprises of 3 stages- Preparatory procedures, Main Procedures and Complimentary steps. The preparatory procedures include practising Pancha sheela (Rules against stealing, Killing, sexual misconduct, untruthfulness and intoxicating agents), Arya Ashtamga Marga (Right livelihood, Action, speech, effort, mindfulness, concentration, understanding and thought) and to be endowed with the qualities of Brahma Vihara – Karuna (to be compassionate to poor, diseased and those in trouble), Maithri (universal love and brotherhood), Mudita (enjoying others success) and Upeksha (equanimity). Buddhist techniques like walking meditation, Anapanasati meditation, Rakshana Mantra (Buddhist way of preventing thoughts that obstruct Meditation) along with Yogasanas, Kapalabhati, and Pranayama constitute the main procedures. The walking meditation and Anapanasathi meditation are two interesting segments of the program. Lord Buddha proclaimed- “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” Meditation helps to drag the mind in the present which constantly wanders in the past and future. The practice of focusing one’s attention changes the brain in ways to improve that ability over time. Meditation can be thought of as mental training, similar to learning to ride a bike or play a musical instrument.
The walking meditation
In Buddhist Monasteries, walking meditation is taught before sitting meditation. On an average 45 minutes of walking meditation is very beneficial, whereas in routine practice 10 minutes prior to sitting meditation is ideal. This helps in attaining a quick concentration of mind. It refers to the observation of the phenomena of walking. If walking fast one should observe the alternate movements of the right and left legs and if slow, should perceive the lifting of foot, moving forward, bringing it down and then firmly placing it on the ground. At every stage one should focus mind without looking at the feet and change direction at 20 steps.
Buddha has given forty objects of meditation which are suitable for different types of people and breathing is one among them which is suitable for anyone. Anapanasati is to feel the sensations caused by the movements of the breath in the body. The meditator has to sit straight with his spine erect and observe his own normal breathing by concentrating on the tip of the nose or abdomen. It has been scientifically demonstrated that anapanasati slows down the natural aging process of the brain.
Yoga is not just asanas and meditation, Ashtanga marga of yoga talks a lot about self-discipline, love and compassion (Yama & Niyama) and Buddha also talks about the same in a simple way. Concluding with the words of Swami Vivekananda- “The separation between the Buddhists and the Brahmins (refers to ancient Indian philosophy which includes yoga) is the cause of the downfall of India. Let us then join the wonderful intellect of the Brahmins with the heart, the noble soul and the wonderful humanizing power of the Great Master”.
Dr Divya P MD(Ay), PGD HSR,
Muniyal Institute of Ayurveda Medical Sciences,
Dr M Vijayabhanu Shetty , Chairman, Muniyal Ayurveda
Mrs Jyothsna K G MSc (Yoga Therapy), Lecturer Muniyal Institute of Ayurveda Medical Sciences