Deepak Chopra, M.D. & David Simon, M.D.
Every day in cities across North America, Europe and Australia, millions of people roll out their yoga mats in studios, community centers, gyms, and even at corporate-sponsored classes at work. In the U.S. alone, nearly 40% of health and fitness clubs now offer classes to meet the flourishing demand. Although yoga is commonly portrayed as the newest fitness trend, it’s actually the core of the Vedic science that developed in the Indus Valley more than 5,000 years ago.
When scholars state that yoga is an ancient practice, they’re not referring to the bends, twists, inversions, and other postures that most Westerners think of as the realm of yoga. In fact, yoga began as a philosophy rather than as a physical discipline. The term yoga is first mentioned in the sacred Indian text, the Rig Veda, which dates to approximately 500 B.C. The Rig Veda defines yoga as a union or "yoking" of the material and spiritual worlds, and it doesn’t describe any physical postures other than the traditional cross-legged meditation pose.
Another 300 years passed before the legendary sage Patanjali composed The Yoga Sutras, where he systematically described the eight branches or "limbs" of yoga. The third branch, Asana, means "seat" or "position." When people hear the word yoga, they usually think of this branch, which refers to the postures that help us achieve flexibility, strength and balance. At a deeper level, asanas provide a path for experiencing full mind-body integration and awareness of the flow of life energy in our body.
Even if yoga only enhanced physical fitness, the time spent in practice would be fully justified. However, yoga offers much more than just a way to exercise the body: Yoga helps us cultivate an inner state of body-centered consciousness that allows us to walk calmly amongst the chaos. Yoga teaches
As Arjuna wrestles with his moral dilemma, he turns for advice to his charioteer, who is actually Lord Krishna in disguise. What follows are seven hundred verses that describe the essence of yoga — awakening to our true Self, which is infinite, unbounded consciousness. Krishna tells Arjuna to go beyond the duality of good and evil, “When your mind has overcome the confusion of duality, you will attain the state of holy indifference to things you hear and things you have heard. When you are unmoved by the confusion of ideas and your mind is completely united in deep samadhi, you will attain the state of perfect yoga.”
Arjuna’s story is a metaphor for the classic conflict between heart and mind, between internal warring forces. Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna that good and evil, pleasure and pain, loss and gain are two aspects of the same for...