Patanjali, the propounder of yoga, enunciates the purpose of yoga: “The purpose of yoga is to stop misery before it comes.” Whether it is greed, anger, jealousy, hatred, or frustration, all these negative emotions can be healed or re-oriented through yoga.
When you are happy, have you noticed a sense of expansion within you? When we face failure or someone insults us, we find that there is something in us that shrinks. Yoga is putting our attention on this something in us that seems to be expanding when we are happy and crushing or contracting when we feel unhappy. Often, we feel helpless about our negative emotions. Neither in school, nor at home does anyone teach us about how to handle our negative emotions. If you are upset, you remain upset or wait for time to heal it. Yoga has a secret to turn around this state of mind. It makes you independent. It empowers you to feel the way you want to feel at any time, instead of being a victim of your own feelings. Yoga also helps someone to be more responsible in life. This is called Karma Yoga.
We all play many roles in our life. We have an option to play the role either as a yogi or as a non-yogi; one who is responsible or one who is not. You can be a responsible teacher, a doctor with responsibility, a businessman who cares. Caring, sharing, and responsibility are the characteristics that yoga nurtures in us. All of us, the entire population has this within, but it needs some nurturing. Yoga can definitely make you more responsible, because it creates more energy and enthusiasm in you. When do you not like to take responsibility? When you are tired and stressed. If you have taken care of these two issues and you have enough enthusiasm and energy, you will definitely take more responsibility, and with a sense of lightness.
When you go to the root cause of conflicts, you will find that it is stress, mistrust, and fear of the other. Yoga helps you get over all the three. Fear of the other vanishes, because you have broadened awareness, broadened consciousness. You feel everyone is part of you and you are part of them. Fear of losing one’s identity or fear of losing existence, being extinct, is something that is very deep-rooted. Yoga is the best thing to remove these fears from the minds of people. Yoga has eight limbs and one among them is physical postures. But, the central teaching is maintaining an equanimous state of mind. When you can do any action with mindfulness, you are aware of what you are saying or doing, this makes you a yogi. Science is a systematic, logical understanding of what is. In the sense, yoga is a science, that it is a systematic understanding of the subject.
Knowing ‘what this is’ is science. Knowing ‘who am I’ is spirituality. But, both are science. All the science of yoga is already there in a baby and we have all been yogis. Babies make the Chin Mudra while sleeping. In any part of the world, when babies are lying down they lift their legs first, and then they go on their belly and try to lift their shoulders (cobra-pose). To some extent, every child has done asanas on this planet. The way we breathe is very different from the way a baby breathes. A baby has a stress-free and a happy mind. So yoga is just going back to our roots. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and an ambassador of peace.