What is the meaning of Jnana Yoga and why is it practised?

The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’ that means to join or unite. This ancient practice of yoga seeks to unite one’s mind and body in harmony through deep breathing and physical asanas.

According to yogic principles, every person’s true nature and individuality is based on four things namely body, mind, emotions, and energy. Every person, irrespective of their nature, should follow the four paths of yoga to achieve moksha or the ultimate liberation. These include:

  1. Karma yoga or the path of action, which could be mental or physical.
  2. Bhakti yoga or the path of devotion towards all humans and animals.
  3. Raja yoga or the path of discipline, which brings focus into the seeker’s mind.

Meaning of Jnana yoga:

The fourth path is Jnana yoga, also known as jnana marga or Gyan yoga where ‘jnana’ means knowledge or wisdom. Jnana yoga basic concept is one’s taking the path of awareness through absolute consciousness through the practice of Svadhyaya (self-study). Since this path of yoga emphasises introspection, it is considered to be amongst the most challenging means of self-development.

Different Names of Jnana yoga:

  • English Name: "spiritual knowledge" or "wisdom."
  • Sanskrit Name:  Jnana yoga

The objectives of practising jnana yoga include:

  • Introspecting into one’s being by asking questions such as ‘who and what am I’ and what is my self (soul).
  • Attainment of the supreme knowledge that helps you realise your selfish desires, limitations, ego, illusions, and ignorance. 
  • Jnana yoga focuses on helping a person achieve liberation from suffering through experiential knowledge of the absolute divine truth and universal consciousness. 

Jnana yoga basic concepts entail getting rid of everything superficial and attaining self-realization. Since this requires a lot of will and determination, jnana yoga is considered to be one of the most difficult yogic practices.

How is Jnana Yoga practised?

The practice of Gyan yoga doesn’t involve you getting into any physical asanas of yoga. Instead, jnana yoga practice requires you to:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position. You may assume poses such as Padmasana, Ardha Padmasana, Sukhasana, or Vajrasana. Since these poses keep your spine straight, they are very helpful in gaining the benefits of jnana yoga practice.
  2. Open up your palms and touch the tips of your thumb and index finger. Straighten the rest of the fingers of both hands. Rest your palm on your knees facing upwards. 
  3. Calm your mind and free it of all emotions, feelings, and worldly thoughts. You can do this by taking a few deep breaths and gathering your thoughts. Even if your mind strays, you needn’t be harsh on yourself. Instead, guide your mind gently towards mindfulness.
  4. Once your mind is devoid of thoughts, follow these six steps that help in stabilizing your emotions and helping you differentiate the real ‘you’ from all that is transient. You can even ask yourself existential questions about your inner self.
  • Shama or calmness involves not reacting to any external stimuli or action.
  • Dama or strength, which doesn’t let your mind fall, pray to any sensory stimuli.
  • Uparati, which means fulfilling all your worldly duties wholeheartedly.
  • Titiksha, which is enduring all pain and suffering in silence.
  • Samadhana, which is a single-minded focus on the supreme liberation and nothing else.
  1. Once you have followed the above-mentioned steps, meditate for as long as you feel comfortable.
  2. End this session by the process of palming. This involves rubbing your palms vigorously together. Once they are warm, place them on your closed eyes for a few           seconds. Remove your palms and open your eyes gently.

What are the benefits of Jnana Yoga?

There are tremendous jnana yoga benefits, not just for your mind but also for a healthy body. Here are some of the most important jnana mudra benefits:

  • One of the most important benefits of jnana yoga is that by means of channelling the flow of energy in your body and coupling it with conscious breathing, it improves your blood circulation. When your circulation improves, your organs, such as kidneys, liver, and heart, function better. This, in the long run, helps prevent serious diseases of these organs.
  • One of the most important components of jnana yoga practice is stilling your mind and keeping all thoughts away. This is an excellent technique of mindfulness that reduces stress and anxiety. Reduced stress not just keeps you happier but also has several benefits for your body. These include a lower risk of hypertension, headaches, heart diseases, high blood sugar levels, etc.
  • When you practice jnana yoga mudra, which involves touching the tips of your thumb and index finger together, it works as a technique of acupressure. This helps in making your pituitary and pineal glands healthy and reducing the risk of hormonal imbalance and thyroid.
  • Regularly practising jnana yoga benefits in improving your concentration and focus. This enhances your focus and creativity.
  • One of the most important jnana mudra benefits is that it prepares your body in reacting to the stressors of stress and anxiety attacks. 
  • By inducing self-realization, jnana yoga helps you realize your full potential and achieve your personal and professional objectives. 

How to do this yoga safely and avoid injuries?

Though jnana yoga looks like a very simple practice that doesn’t involve any physical postures, people believe that there is no scope for injury. 

However, certain things need to be kept in mind for safely practicing jnana yoga:

  • Never practice jnana yoga without learning it from an experienced practitioner. This will help in preventing exhaustion and stress.
  • In the mudras of yoga, you should never overstretch your limbs to avoid muscular pain and stiffness.
  • Sit with your back erect. Slouching may lead to pain and soreness. 
  • Don’t practice jnana yoga if you are feeling stressed or anxious. This may lead to palpitations and an increase in your stress levels.

The takeaway

Self-realization and experiential knowledge are extremely important, especially in the chaotic times that we live in. By calming your mind, jnana yoga helps in safeguarding you from the serious ill effects of stress. Not just this, jnana yoga also frees you from baggage and illusions, which is essential to let your personality and inner self shine through.

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June 10, 2022

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