Yoga is an act whereby a person assumes a physical posture in Sanskrit called asana. There are more than fifty different postures in yoga. The purpose of yoga is to facilitate liberation from reincarnation (rebirth) as taught in pagan religions, and yoke (yoga) together the individual soul with a pagan Deity. By the practice of yoga the agitated mind is said to be brought under control. In the meditation-yoga system, the mind is controlled by focusing on obtaining to Samadhi, Lotus, Supreme Self, Godhood. At this level of attainment in meditation and yoga, the individual knows that he is a real entity having a life that will go on in spite of the destruction of the body. Meditation is an integral part of yoga practices and all that has been said about meditation is equally applicable to yoga. Szurko, an ex-yogic master, explains:
The importance of asanas (physical postures), pranayama (breath control)…to the yogi pursuing liberation lies partly in the belief that the body is the microcosm of the universe; that is to say, whatever exists in the universe may be found in the body, which is a “universe in miniature.” Thus the yogi finds within himself all bodies; all truth; heaven and hell; all the expanses of space and the whole of time as well as of eternity; spirit, the gods, and Deity itself. It follows in yogic theory that the person who masters this “universe within” will become, to the same degree, master of the cosmos.
The knowledge of the universe is believed to be found in Self; and that all healing is to be found in Self. Yoga is less of a treatment for illness and more for preventative measures. The Hindu believes that yoga exercises decreases congestion and blockage of energy and facilitates its flow. Sitting straight during meditation or even without meditation, it is believed, will allow for release of the congestion and blockage of the universal energy making it flow smoothly through various organs. These exercises will supposedly stimulate the chakras (energy centers) which, in turn, allow the energy to flow freely and maintain health.
The above concept has been accepted by western mysticism and magic in whole and forms the philosophical basis of most alternative medical therapies yet to be discussed.
The positions of the yoga postures are important in its concept because each position is proclaimed to direct prana or universal energy to specific parts of the body. In Hatha yoga the spine is to be kept straight so that the latent kundalini, or serpent force, supposedly coiled up at the base of the spine from birth, will be able to ascend through the chakras (energy centers of Hinduism) toward the top chakra. All of these acts are directed at “stilling the mind.” Hatha yoga is the most popular in the US. “Ha” means sun and “tha” is moon. Breathing through the nose in the left nostril will bring in the moon energy and in the right nostril the sun energy. Both sun and moon energy then travel downward through special (nonexistent) passages, one on each side of the body, and go to the bottom chakra at the coccyx area. This energy will then ascend up through the body by the help of yoga postures and exercises until the energy comes into full force at the top chakra, signifying that eternal life has been attained.