Yoga is an exercise form with a wide range of styles and intentions that appeals to all levels of ability.
The purpose of Yoga is Meditation in Motion: Traditionally, yoga was practiced and developed to open the body and clear the mind. It was intended for you to sit and meditate without dwelling on a stiff back or congestion in your thought process.
The original context of yoga was spiritual development practices to train the body and mind to self observe and become aware of their own nature. The purposes of yoga were to cultivate discernment, awareness, self-regulation and higher consciousness.
Some physical benefits of yoga include:
• Increased flexibility.
• Increased muscle strength and tone.
• Improved respiration, energy and vitality.
• Maintaining a balanced metabolism.
• Weight reduction.
• Cardio and circulatory health.
• Improved athletic performance.
• Protection from injury.
The serious yoga practitioner embodies discipline, focus and deep concentration. She or he is devoted to the perfect expression of the asana (poses) and they challenge their mind and body to achieve a higher state of being. And so you could ask, ‘does that mean there is an ultimate goal of yoga?’ Can’t one simply practice recreationally and gain benefit from it? The answer is yes, however, the practice of yoga has the unique ability to offer the student a never ending possibility of attainment. The more proficient one becomes the more she or he may press themselves to go beyond their present level of ability. And you may wonder, what is the ultimate goal or level one can reach…
There is. It is called: moksha
Moksha means “the liberation from worldly suffering and samsara (the cycle of birth and death through reincarnation). This is the release from sequential lives on earth and leads to enlightened relationship with a creator. Although, different schools of yoga have differing beliefs about this enlightened relationship.
According to Hindu monist schools like Shivaism and Jainism, at the point of moksha there is a realization of identity with the Supreme Brahman. for the bhakti schools of Vaishnavism, the realization of identity is made with Vishnu.
But in all the schools of yoga the goal of the practitioner is the attainment of perfect tranquility and spiritual insight while meditating on Brahman (the Hindu concept of Divinity). It is in this state that you will be lead to moksha and eternal peace.
For serious yoga practitioners, moksha is more than just sweat on the mat and a few classes weekly. Required is a self-disciplined life based on the Five Principles of Yoga: Proper Relaxation, Proper Exercise, Proper Breathing, Proper Diet and Positive thinking and meditation. The rules and guidelines of this sell-disciplined life are called yama and niyama. Yama (social ethics) and niyama (personal practices) are the first steps in building a conscious relationship with the world and with yourself. They are considered the first part of the Eightfold Yoga Path of Patanjali (individual development of the body, mind and soul). Many contemporary yogis and yoga instructors simply refer to them as the “do’s and don’t’s” of being human.
The disciplined yoga life is guided by the understanding that many of life’s problems are self-imposed limitations. Poor habits, unfounded beliefs and frivolous living all contribute to a confusing murky world. Yama and niyama help practitioners prioritize their inner and outer worlds so that balance and proportion are restored to all aspects of one’s life.
Some yoga masters describe the ultimate goal of yoga as being consciously conscious; meaning the sense of personal self and the sense of unlimited spirit and consciousness are united. They regard the union between the practitioners’ various parts into a whole as the most important aspect of yoga. It becomes reflected in the asana where all the parts of the practitioner’s body are in sync with one another. All is situated in the most effective way for best circulation and meditation. The whole embodies every part.
Moksha is a noble ambition that has been shared by people throughout history. Yama and niyama guide the lives of yoga practitioners all over the world. Although this is historically considered yoga’s ultimate goal, yoga is a highly personal activity and pursuit. So as yoga is personalized to fit the individual that becomes a person’s own ultimate goal in yoga.