Yoga: Merging History, Philosophy and Science

The author is Padma Awardee, former vice-chancellor and an internationally known neurologist
oga is just not mastering postures, increasing flexibility or strength. The current trend of different kinds of programmes is more dramatic, fascinating and probably market driven. The traditional yoga has always been to initiate transformation in the person by knowing more about the self and connect with the universe by attempting to use the huge potential of brain.

It is interesting to learn that brain is a unique organ of the body. While it constitutes only 2 per cent of the body weight, it receives 20-25 per cent of the cardiac output, consumes 20 per cent of the oxygen and glucose supplies, utilises 50 per cent of the overall gene pool and has neurons equal to the number of stars in the ‘Milky Way’. This amazingly complex structure is also the greatest generator of electrical energy. The left hemisphere of brain responsible mainly for language and logistic skills and the right hemisphere initiates the emotions of pleasure, relaxation of meditation and sexual orgasm and is dominant in taking the individual at higher levels of consciousness connecting with space as a step towards further relationship with the all the dimensions of the universe.

With the recognition of Indian Yoga by the United Nation and the June 21 being declared as an International Yoga Day, it has generated a huge enthusiasm worldwide and more particularly after more than a century of historical research.

It is great to learn from Georg Feuerstein that archaeologist discovered Indus Valley Civilization at the banks of River Saraswati, a culture, extended over 3,00,000 square miles, perhaps the largest civilization in early antiquity. The Rig-Veda depicts the various yoga scriptures indicating thereby that the yoga is the product of a mature civilization. Subsequently from this era, new offshoot of Jainism and Buddhism were evolved to attain spirituality and bliss through yoga meditation. Credit must go to Feuerstein for beautifully giving historical categorisation of yoga into Vedic Yoga, Preclassical Yoga, Classical Yoga, Postclassical Yoga and Modern Yoga respectively in the “march of history”.

Vedic Yoga also known as the Archaic yoga is reportedly to have been intimately connecting the ritual life of sacrifice of the ancient Indians with a purpose of moving closer to Atma or the Spirit in an attempt to reach Parmatma. By focusing their minds, they would transcend at the highest level of virtues of mind and connect it to the universe. This indeed lead to the roots of the yoga and many of these vedic yogis called as “Seer” or “Rishi” by connecting their mind with universe developed a spiritual vision, attaining the extra sensory perceptive powers like intuition, telepathy and learning beyond human comprehension. Interestingly, the concept of ‘3rd’ eye in human beings has found some support with the availability of some scientific data on existence DMT (N- dimethyltryptamine), the “spirit molecule” in pineal gland earlier described by Descartes as seat of the soul.

Preclassical Yoga described in the Upanishad prior to arrival of Mahaveer or Gautam Buddha (500 BC). Incidentally Geeta was composed around 500 BC as well. The Classical Yoga, the Raja-Yoga is the Patanjali’s Yoga-Sûtra written somewhere in the second century AD. He described what is termed as philosophical dualism, which scientist Descartes reproduced as dualistic theory of brain and mind. Brain being the physical structure and mind lying within the soul. The present neurological science of course challenges this and postulates that mind is within the brain. The post classical yoga of bliss and ultimate unity of everything is based with teachings of Vedanta. The new breed of yoga masters, in the post classical phase put the body into central position and attempt to exploit the hidden potentials of brain and mind axis to develop a unitary concept of brain, body and mind for rejuvenating the body and prolonging life. They exploited the yogic technique of physical posturing with Pranayam for energising the physical body and converting the brain neuro chemistry to reach towards higher evolution. The transformation of Ashoka, Kalidas and Valmiki from negativism and destructive nature into legends are some example. Swami Vivekanand is considered to be a propagator of the modern yoga after he was trained by Ramkrishan Paramhans. His yogic sermons brought the West, closer to East, and gave them an opportunity to peep into the rich cultural heritage of India and bring them closer to themselves.

Research has confirmed that, the more we use the mind, the more abundant our mental synapses get; and the less we exercise it the poorer these connections get. USE IT OR LOSE IT! With the pandemic appeal of yoga, one would recollect saying of Einstein, the greatest Physicist of this century—“Science without religion is lame and religion without science is blind”.