What is YOGA?
The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word "Yoga" was from the root word "yuj" which means "to join; to attach, bind or to unite". The philosophical meaning of yoga refers to the individual self being united to the universal self.
The ultimate purpose of Yoga is to unite the body, mind and soul.
The major scripts for Yoga found in Indian philosophy are:
Yoga is a pure science and art form and is not associated with any religion.
Different Styles of Yoga?
In the modern world, the practice of Yoga has been named based on different styles. In North America, many styles of yoga such as Ashtanga, Hatha, Iyengar, Vinayasa, Kundalini, Bikram are practised. Yoga has beneficial effects on both physical and psychological health.
Ashtanga yoga originates during 2nd century AD and was explained in the Yoga Sutras written by Sage Patanjali. Ashtanga yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a sequence of postures resulting in intense internal heat and excessive purifying sweat which results in detoxification of muscles and organs.
Ashtanga yoga has six different series through which a student progresses at his own pace.Patanjali describes in his Yoga Sutras, the eight limbs of Yoga: Yama (universal moral commandments), Niyama (self-discipline), Asana (posture), Pranayam (controlled breathing), Pratyahara (voluntary withdrawal of mind from the domination of senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (a state of super-consciousness).
The word "Hatha" originates from the Sanskrit language. "Ha" means "Sun" and "tha" means "Moon". Hence, Hatha refers to the balance of hot and cold or the masculine and feminine characteristics. Practicing Hatha yoga helps in creating a balance in our body by developing strength and flexibility.
Hatha yoga refers to a sequence of asana or postures, pranayama (breathing techniques), relaxation, and cleansing techniques. The first classical text which describes Hatha yoga is the "Hatha Yoga Pradipika" written by Swami Swatmarama, in the 15th century CE. The basic objective of Hatha yoga is to cleanse and purify the physical body to achieve complete harmony and balance.
The Hatha yoga pradipika is divided into four parts: first part explains the yama, niyama and asanas; the second explains the pranayama and shatkarms (internal cleansing); the third part deals with mudras (seals), bandhas (locks), nadis (channel through which the prana or energy flows) and the kundalini power., and the fourth part describes the pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption of blissful state)
Vinyasa refers to breath synchronized with movement i.e., alignment of breathe and movement which transforms static asana (postures) to a dynamic flow. It is also referred to as Vinyasa flow or flow yoga since the series of poses are performed in a smooth or dance like movement. The transition from one pose to another is performed along with inhale and exhale; hence, breathing is an important component. Vinyasa yoga originated from Hatha yoga but could be referred as free style Ashtanga yoga because it does not follow the rigid structure of Ashtanga yoga.
B.K.S. Iyengar has been teaching Yoga since 1936 (to 2014) and a disciple of famous T. Krishnamarya of Mysore. B.K.S. Iyengar has systemized over 200 asanas and 14 types of pranayams. The asanas were categorised with varying levels of difficulties starting from basic postures to more advanced and difficult postures which allows the practitioner to progress slowly from easy to more advanced postures. Iyengar Yoga encourages use of props such as wooden blocks, belts, chairs and blankets to help the practitioner to adjust or support during the practice.
Kundalini refers to the energy surrounded in the root chakra (or Mooladhara) chakra located at the base of the spine. Kundalini yoga is based on the writings from Kundalini Yoga by Sivananda Saraswati (1935). The practise of Kundalini yoga is believed to arouse the Kundalini energy from the base of spine through the seven chakras and penetrate the seventh or the crown chakra. The practise of Kundalini yoga consists of asana, pranayama, meditation and kriya which aids in the development of awareness, consciousness and strength.
Bikram yoga is founded by Bikram Choudhury. Bikram yoga is performed in hot environment (40oC, 104oF). It consists of a series of 26 poses and two breathing exercises. It provides flexibility, deep stretching, and flushes out the toxins from the body due to increased perspiration. The yoga session comprises of standing postures, backbends, forward bending postures and twists accompanied by kapalabhati breathing.
The Sanskrit term "vi" and "ni" refers to differentiation, adaptation and suitable application of yoga practices to each individual's needs and interest. Vini yoga session basically includes asana, pranayama, bandha, chanting, meditation and certain rituals. Vini yoga style of practise provides an approach including various methods of practice based on the requirements and interest of every practitioner providing the tools to individualize the process of self-discovery and personal transformation. Vini yoga practice evolved from the teachings by T. Krishnamacharya and T.K.V. Desikachar.
Vethathiri Maharishi (1911-2006), founder of World Community Service Centre, has founded over 300 yoga centres around the world, and was declared 19th Siddhar by Dravidian University. His life time work is called Vethathiriyam which focuses on science of living through kundalini yoga, meditation physical exercises, kayakalpa yoga and introspections. The practise is consolidated and taught at various centres with the title of Manavalakalai yoga. Simplified Kundalini Yoga (SKY) which is a physical, mental and spiritual practise is taught to develop strength, awareness, and consciousness. In Simplified Kundalini yoga, asanas, pranayama, acupressure and meditation are practiced which increases the body awareness to prepare the body and mind to handle the life better.
There are other kinds of yoga such as Raja yoga, karma yoga, Gnana yoga, Bhakthi yoga, Mantra yoga, and many more. The purpose of all yoga is the same, although the paths are different.
Raja yoga focuses more on mind than on the body. Raja yoga teaches one to achieve control over mind and to do so; one has to defeat the following: kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), moha (delusion), mada (pride), matsara (jealousy).
Karma yoga teaches one to perform his duty to the society without expecting anything in return.
Gnana yoga is the way of self-realization through knowledge.
Bhakti yoga is the total surrender of oneself to the Almighty.
Mantra yoga is the practice of chanting mantras which engages oneself in the vibration of cosmic sound in order to achieve the higher state of bliss.
Yoga involves every joint, muscle, bone and nerve.
Yoga is better than many other physical forms of exercise because yoga rejuvenates the body and mind.
Yoga activates glands while exercises help in building muscles.
Yoga elongates and improves breathing.
Yoga can be practiced at any age.
Many exercises need special type of equipments whereas yoga can be practiced anywhere with just a mat.
Benefits of YOGA
To attain peace or content, healthy mind is very essential. To have a healthy mind, healthy body is important. Various research studies have been conducted world-wide to understand the health benefits of yoga. Regular practice of yoga has significant health benefits for people affected with various ailments such as cardio vascular diseases, arthritis, respiratory problems, cancer, allergies and many other health conditions. Some of the benefits are lists below:
Who Can Practice YOGA?
Yoga can be practised by everyone. If you can breathe, you can do yoga. Yoga is not meant for any particular age, sex, religion or community. I believe that everyone born in this world should have an opportunity to practice yoga and enjoy its benefits. Generally, it is easier to learn the asana at a young age, because the body is very flexible. As we grow older, we tend to lose our flexibility.
For growing kids, yoga helps in proper development and for adults, yoga provides more balance and flexibility.
Yoga is ideal for seniors because it can be practiced even in sitting, standing and lying down position.