Yoga

What is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice. It involves various types of activities like breathing, stretching and exercise.

Yoga also means, the union between human consciousness and the ultimate, infinite consciousness.

History of Yoga

Yoga originated in ancient India. However, the exact origins of Yoga is debatable. Yoga finds mentions in scriptures and arts, that dates back to 3000 BC. There were several schools of Yoga. Soon, the practice of yoga became divided and scattered all over. Therefore, a confusion between what is yoga and what is not, emerged. There was no uniformity and literally, no one to put them in one piece.

Maharshi Patanjali formulated the Yoga Sutras about 2000 years ago. He was also known as the father of modern of yoga. Yoga was introduced to the western countries in the 20th century.

Maharshi Patanjali founded the eight limbs (ashta-anga) of yoga:

  • Yama (conduct)
  • Niyama (discipline)
  • Asana (posture)
  • Pranayama (controlled breathing)
  • Pratyahara (withdrawal from cravings)
  • Dharana (stance or concentration)
  • Dhyana (meditation)
  • Samadhi (union with ultimate consciousness)

Myths about Yoga

  • Yoga is related to Hinduism

Just because yoga finds its origins in India, doesn't mean that it belongs to Hinduism. Yoga has no religion. People have hardly realized the meaning of the question: what is yoga? Certainly, there are adulterated yogic practices. Each of them have got unique names depending on the religion in which it finds expression. However, yoga in its true essence is pure, boundless and impartial.

No one can claim any act of yoga as his or hers. Moreover, since yoga means union, therefore, it conforms with almost every religion in this world. Yoga is for the body and the mind. This body is made of the same material as of the earth. Since earth has no religion, neither does yoga. Besides, every single individual on this planet, irrespective of his/her religion, craves for his/her wellbeing, then, what is wrong if Yoga helps in achieving that goal.

 

  • Yoga requires flexing and twisting of the body

Unless, you are an advanced and absolute professional in yoga, there is no need for you to flex, twist or churn your body. In fact, for different body types, there are unique yoga exercises. The yogic practice which one can do may not necessarily suit another person.

Therefore, it is important to identify your body type and perform exercises accordingly. Additionally, one must always initiate with simple yoga that involves breathing and meditation. Gradually, as the body begins to get a grip over it, one can wish to pursue further discourses in yoga.

 

Benefits of Yoga

  • Yoga develops intuitive powers within us.
  • Helps in the secretion of 'feel good' hormones.
  • Enhances mental and emotional balance.
  • Promotes alertness and focus.
  • Improves decision-making skills.
  • Helps to improve cardiovascular functions.
  • Prolongs health and life.
  • Yoga helps to ward of stress.
  • It brings stability to life.
  • Helps in alleviating anxiety and phobias.

We know that yoga is widely practiced all over the world. This is also the reason why defining the types of yoga is impractical. Whether you read books, join any yoga class or browse the internet, you will find hundreds of varieties of yoga.

 

Types of Yoga

However, if we narrow it down to the most sought after, famous, feasible and widely practiced then it is convenient to say that there are 5 types or classes in Yoga:

  1. Hatha Yoga
    For: Beginner
    Incorporates: Slow and gentle yoga. Deep Breathing and Postures. Helps to balance the mind.
  2. Ashtanga Yoga
    For: Intermediate and Advanced
    Incorporates: Fast movements from one pose to another. Strict and Difficult postures. Ideal for weight loss.
  3. Kundalini Yoga
    For: Intermediate and Advanced
    Incorporates: This yoga is complex and difficult to perform. Basically aimed to awaken the dormant Kundalini energy that resides in the lower spine or root of the body.
  4. Iyengar Yoga
    For: Anyone with basic knowledge of postures
    Incorporates: Postures with the help of props like belts, straps and ropes.
  5. Bikram Yoga
    For: Beginner and Intermediate
    Incorporates: This yoga practice has more postures (approximately 26) compared to breathing exercises. Additionally, this is performed in a hot environment for more than an hour.

Also....

It's important to realize that the types of yoga are not exhaustive. There are several other types of yoga that are beneficial too.

One must always initiate with Hatha yoga and then they may proceed towards stricter forms of yoga. By now, the question of what is yoga is clear to all of us.
Moreover, identifying your body prior to selecting the type of yoga is essential. Yoga is an ancient practice of understanding our life. It's a source to transcend the limitations of human consciousness. Yoga doesn't belong to a specific country or people. It belongs to all. Moreover, we must realize that due to our consciousness, we are the only species on the planet who are capable in performing yoga.