Yoga - Introduction

Yoga darsana (Yoga philosophy) is one of the six Indian philosophical systems. Patanjali’s ‘ashtanga-yoga’ (eight-step yoga) is the basis for the yoga that is practiced today in many parts of the world. Originally practiced almost exclusively in India only, yoga presently is very popular in many parts of the world. In U. S. alone, it is estimated that over 10 million people practice yoga on a daily basis. Yogananda Paramahamsa, Maharshi Mahesh Yogi, B. K. S. Iyengar, Pattabiraman and others did contribute significantly in promoting yoga to the West. Hatha Yoga Pradeepika (Manual of Hatha Yoga) is widely used as the source book by many yoga practitioners.


The word ‘Yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ (meaning to unite) and serves one to unite one’s self (the Individual Self) with the Cosmic Self (The Absolute or Paramatman). This is a holistic science involving the body (the physical), prana (breathing), mind (mental), intellect (vijnana) and the bliss (atman) kosas (or sheaths) of the ‘pancha kosa’ (or five sheaths) of the human personality defined by our ancient masters. The ashtanga yoga of Patanjali consists of the eight steps – Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi (see the detailed discussion under Chapter 1 of the Upanishads elsewhere in the website).


The SVYASA (Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana) organization in Bangalore, India is a pioneer in yoga research and yoga therapy. Dr. Nagendra, the Director, Mr. N. V. Raghuram and others are fully involved in promoting yoga research and yoga therapy at SVYASA. Mr. Kallur Chakrapani is a yoga instructor at SVYASA-LA (Los Angeles Chapter). For further information about SVYASA, please visit their website‘’


Variously practiced under Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga and other names, yoga is widely practiced in many countries in the world. In the US, yoga is practiced primarily thru Asanaas, Pranayama & Meditation. However, yoga is more than all of these and is a complete science combining physical exercise, pranic, mental, intellectual and bliss aspects including spirituality. The yoga promoted by SVYASA is fully validated by research at its yoga research centers. The lectures and practices conducted by Mr. Kallur Chakrapani, yoga instructor and public relations officer for SVYASA-LA, and Dr. R. Narayanaswami during a 4-Sunday class on yoga and Surya Namaskar in July/August 2009 in Westlake Village, CA is based on the yoga practices approved by SVYASA. Mr. Chakrapani provided the lecture and practice sessions on yoga. The lecture and practice of Surya Namaskar, with mantra, were provided by Dr. R. Narayanaswami. These notes serve to supplement the class discussions and practice sessions (see Yoga Practice – Module 1 and Yoga Practice – Module 2 in pages 5 thru 8) during the 4-week session.


How does Yoga differ from other forms of exercise, such as jogging, aerobics, cycling, tennis or nautilus-type workouts?

Most forms of exercise involve a limited range of repetitive movements. As a result, some muscles and joints get a lot of work, while others are not worked enough. These imbalances pull the body out of alignment, causing a loss of efficient functioning of the whole system. For those who do these exercises, yoga is a healthy complement, enhancing their athletic experience. Yoga emphasises the balanced development of strength, stamina and flexibility, and matches outer movement with inner awareness. Yoga students learn to identify and relax tension in their bodies so they do not tire as easily. They learn to pay attention to the condition of their nerves, glands and organs, as well as to the musculo-skeletal system. They learn how to honor, rather than abuse, their bodies.

What are the benefits of doing yoga over other forms of exercise?

Yoga helps you to:

Improve posture, support and nourish vital organs, boost the immune system, calm and balance the nervous system, encourage balance and harmony in the glands of the body, become more flexible in body and in life, radiate your innate beauty, clears the cobwebs in the brain, reduces stress, connects one to the Infinite, lose weight, balance hormones, age gracefully, transform from the inside out, connect to the world in a compassionate manner.