Vedic Sanskrit word Yoga comes from the root word Yuj meaning The Path. Since Yoga stems from the Vedas, which comes from the root word Vid (meaning Wisdom), we can better understand Yoga as the path of wisdom. Yoga when understood in connection with Yuti implies Path of reason. While Vedas stand for knowledge; Yoga stands for practice (not just exercise).
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras define Yoga as चित्त वृत्ति निरोधक: (Chitta Vritti Nirodhakaha) or That which helps to overcome the limitations of the Emotions.
The Vedic Sanskrit word Aasana means “Seat” and not “Posture” or “Exercise.” Adi Shankaracharya defines Asanas as the bliss attained through realization of Brahman or the Ultimate Reality.
प्राणायाम (Pranayama), too, is made of two Vedic Sanskrit words, namely: प्राणा (Prana) meaning Life and आयाम (Aayama) implying Perspective. Pranayama is clearly about bettering one’s life by steadying the breath to calm the mind. As an elaborate science Pranayama empowers its practitioners to remain peaceful even under extreme situations. At any rate Pranayama is much more than “breathing exercises.”
The word Yoga was first mentioned in the Valmiki’s Ramayana, particularly in a chapter called बाल काण्ड (Bala Kaanda). It is a discussion between one of the seven revered Rishis named Vashistha and the then crown prince of Ayodhya, Rama. This conversation is also referred to as Yoga Vashistha.
It so happens that after completing his education, aged 16, Rama seeks permission from his father, king of Ayodhya, Dasharatha to travel across his kingdom. According to the legends it was a rudimentary ritual for the crown princes to visit the realm he is certain to rule in the future. It was to ensure that they developed deeper understanding about their land, his people, their culture along with the challenges the present.
In his long and tiresome journey, after witnessing pain and suffering of his people Rama returns disillusioned. On returning to his capital, Ayodhya, he expresses his desire to relinquish his position as crown prince and become an ascetic hermit. The concerned father, King Dasharatha, seeks the counsel of his Rajaguru (Royal mentor), Vashistha, who then counsels the young crown prince and dissuades him from the path of delusion and encourages to follow his Dharma to serve his people as a just king.
Across this elaborate discussion Rama asks several questions, including: Who am I? Why do I suffer? What can I do to heal the world suffering of stress, strain, suffering and depression? What is the objective of my life? How do I know what I need to do? Who is right? Who is wrong? How can we prevent conflicts? How can we ensure perpetually calm mind? How to establish peace in the society? How can we avert diseases? How to handle disasters?
Almost every question Rama asks to Vashistha are verily the questions stay relevant even to this day. While a great many things externally have changed; the human mind has continued to remain the same.
As Krishna says in Vyasa’s Mahabharata आत्मैवात्मनोबन्धु: आत्मैवरिपुरात्मन: (Atmaiva Aatmano Bandhuhu Atmaiva Ripuratmanaha) meaning A mind that is calm is your friend; a disturbed mind is your worst enemy.
The following quote from Yoga Vashistha is apt:
एकाकि बहुजनसंघो एकान्ते प्रप्ते शान्तता ।
मनेन साद्यते अर्थं मनोवैर्येन दरिद्रता ॥
Your mind manifests everything; it can make you lonely even in company or blissful even while alone. Calm mind earns you wealth; while a disturbed mind, even with money – will make you suffer life of a pauper.
The mind is always the key. No matter who you are, what profession you are in, the nature of your professional or personal life, until and unless you have sorted your mind no peace or sustainable prosperity is ever possible.
It is important to note here that: for the Rishis, happiness was not something to be experience in the future. Also, for them, happiness was not something you experience only when your object of desire is achieved. Happiness for them was something anyone could achieve – effortlessly – simply by knowing and understanding the nature of one’s true self. The Happiness is आनन्द: (Ananda) and सन्तोश: (Santosha). काम (Kama) always leads us towards sorrow and suffering.
Also, this true self is neither the body nor the mind. Which in practical sense is not a “medical issue.” Also, the mind is not brain. All the Vedic texts on Yoga explains how ailments of the mind, including stress, panic, fear, and depression can be averted just by realigning the thoughts by reworking on our perspectives while manifesting the healing powers of conversation.
Vedic words do not just stop at Yoga but also touches upon little known aspects such as wealth, management, leadership, politics, and diplomacy. Surprisingly, most “modern” academic institutions have limited to no practical knowledge to offer in this regard.
Simply by embracing such greater yet much needed Vedic knowledge disciplines, Yoga practitioners can, not just create a whole new avenue for sustainable revenue but also enable greater value creation. And since the Vedic counselling approach is about the balancing the mind through understanding and transcending thoughts – they do not pose any specific legal or medical challenges to practice. Although they will have to ensure that they do not claim this knowledge as alternative to psychology, psychiatry, or any other medical professions.
When presented and conducted well this knowledge would also give Yoga practitioners and professionals a cutting-edge commercial advantage over the conventional “health and fitness” businesses. Of course, this will never be easy for this evolution would take time and energy. Yoga teachers and practitioners will have to better their understanding of Vedic knowledge at deeper levels instead of creating some hotchpotch versions that principally abuses the knowledge.
Besides going to the original Yoga and Pranayama, there a host of possibilities for such Yoga teachers and practitioners to explore with other advanced leadership subjects like Kootaneeti as well. Applications of Kootaneeti is diverse. Much of its utility remains to be explored particularly in the areas of psychology and marketing.