Yogis believe there is a purpose to life; the caveat is that to figure out what that purpose is, one needs to have a healthy body and mind. This is one of the aims of yoga and one of the first goals for a newbie yogi – Health.
You could be Richard Branson, Swami such and such, Husain Bolt or on your computer , health would be a bonus and the lack of it would hold you back, whatever your vocation- it will be enhanced by the vim and vigour of health.
“Health” in Hatha Yoga is a meatier concept than understood in regular exercise (gym, pilates, sport etc). Health is “when all organs function under the intelligent control of the mind”. Which is different from the popular one that views it in light of physicality and musculature – how lean or buff something looks or alternatively how far one can hit a ball versus the engineering of how someone feels.
Yoga techniques are different because they affect physical health, mental and emotional well-being, as well as skeletal and muscular alignment.
Yoga as laid out by different schools remains holistic – integral yoga. I don’t include diluted versions of yoga in this definition (power yoga, hot-yoga and the like) but the classical schools that have endured across the ages and have a guru-shishya parampara.
Some explain it as the four maargs of yoga;- Karma, Bhakti, Gyan and Raja that and deal with the different paths one adopts.
The path of a Karma Yogi is all about work in the context of selflessness. Whatever work he or she does is in the attitude of service without thinking too much about the fruits of the action. Work is service and work is yoga.
The path of Bhakti tackles it from the p.o.v. of temperament and emotion; where strong emotions are combined and transmuted into a feeling of love for the divine. Catholic choirs are a pretty typical example of Bhakti and focussing strong emotions.
Gyana Yoga is for intellectual types and a Gyani uses his intelligence and discernment to get to get to the truth. Scientists are a good example of Gyanis.
Raja yoga is known as the royal road and it deals with the mind and techniques to know and use the mind. Meditation is a Raja yoga technique.
Another describes it as the 5 points of yoga. A person is compared to a car – “a vehicle for the soul”. The analogy is used to explain what one needs to do to get this Car to function well i.e. Proper Exercise, Proper Breathing, Proper Relaxation, Proper Diet and Positive Thinking and Meditation analogous to a Lubricant, Battery, maintainance, Fuel and a Responsible driver in a car.
Some of the Southern school of contemporary yoga philosophy (in the lineage of Shri Krishnamacharya, Jois, and Iyengar) explain it as the eight limbs; which is also how it’s laid out in one of the classical scriptures of yoga i.e. the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.
“The Eight Limbs are a progressive series of disciplines which purify the body and mind – Yama (Don’ts), Niyama (Do’s), Asana (Posture), Pranayama (Regulation of Prana), Dharan (Concentration), Dhyan (meditation) and Samadhi (super-conscious state of oneness).”
The idea being that schools and teachers describe yoga differently and approach it differently, but at the end of the day it’s all and still yoga – an attempt at physical, mental and spiritual union-bringing the body, heart and head on the same page.; A step by step attempt at practical wholeness.
Yoga begins as a process of awareness. By practicing regularly a different understanding is created of the actual “extent” of the body i.e. how big “the body” is and how our emotional and mental health is tied in to our physical health and vice versa.
Where the practice of yoga takes you is a wholly personal journey but it is undoubtedly a step toward wholeness and a holistic tool for self-awareness.
As good old Swami Vishnu used to say “health is wealth, peace of mind is happiness, yoga shows the way”