We tend to take for granted the advances of modern science in the material world. We harness invisible forces and thereby have the benefit of electricity and all of the technology that is enabled by it. Similarly, we harness solar, wind, water and geothermal power to create energy. We communicate around the world instantaneously through wireless signals on the internet, mobile phones and television. We fly through the air at tremendous speed in vehicles which are heavier than air. All these things represent the harnessing by human concentration and focus of various capacities inherent in Nature. We dig out these secrets, organize the information we have gained, and then put the information to work for our needs in the outer life.
Similarly, the practice of yoga also seeks to understand and harness, not necessarily the purely material forces in the outer world, but the powers of mind, emotion and the nervous-vital sheath and the physical body to enhance the native powers of concentration, and develop latent capacities that simply need focus and attention to be brought forth, similar to what we see in the physical sciences.
Yoga has been unduly mystified through the ages by being made to appear to be something outside of the normal capacities of Nature. Sri Aurobindo takes exception to this approach: “All methods grouped under the common name of Yoga are special psychological processes founded on a fixed truth of Nature and developing, out of normal functions, powers and results which were always latent but which her ordinary movements do not easily or do not often manifest.”
“Rajayoga, for instance, depends on this perception and experience that our inner elements, combinations, functions, forces, can be separated or dissolved, can be new-combined and set to novel and formerly impossible workings or can be transformed and resolved into a new general synthesis by fixed internal processes. Hathayoga similarly depends on this perception and experience that the vital forces and functions to which our life is normally subjected and whose ordinary operations seem set and indispensable, can be mastered and the operations changed or suspected with results that would otherwise be impossible and that seem miraculous to those who have not seized the rationale of their process.”
“Yogic methods have something of the same relation to the customary psychological workings of man as has the scientific handling of the natural force of electricity or of steam to the normal operations of steam and of electricity. And they, too, are formed upon a knowledge developed and informed by regular experiment, practical analysis and constant result.”
As humanity expands its search for the motive springs of human action and conscious awareness, we see Western science move ever closer to achieving a common understanding with the core principles of Yoga, and we see practices such as various forms of biofeedback, mind and motivational training and even the focused intensity practiced by top-tier athletes for bringing the individual into what is called “the zone”, a mind-state that optimizes human potential in action.
The principles of Yoga clearly have stood the test of time and provide relevance for the future evolutionary development of humanity in its next stage, not as something mystical or abnormal, but rather, as a science grounded in the basic and fundamental powers of Nature as they strive to manifest in higher forms over time.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 1, Life and Yoga, pg. 3