The word yoga means “union” in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India where yoga originated. We can think of the union occurring between the mind, body and spirit.
What is commonly referred to as “yoga” can be more accurately described by the Sanskrit word asana, which refers to the practice of physical postures or poses.
Asana is only one of the eight “limbs” of yoga, the majority of which are more concerned with mental and spiritual well being than physical activity. In the West, however, the words asana and yoga are often used interchangeably.
Ancient Yogis had a belief that in order for man to be in harmony with himself and his environment, he has to integrate the body, the mind, and the spirit. For these three to be integrated, emotion, action, and intelligence must be in balance. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance and it is done through exercise, breathing, and Meditation – the three main Yoga structures. Yoga is considered to be the oldest physical discipline in existence.
Bhakti Yoga is a system of Yoga in which love and devotion are given emphasis. Some of the Bhakti Yoga traditions do not preach the traditional Yoga asanas, pranayama, mudra or controlled meditation. In its place they lay emphasis on love of God, love of God in man and surrender to God’s will. Some people are naturally inclined by temperament to be devotional and to love God and God-as-the-world.
Hatha Yoga is an important Yoga type. Hatha Yoga is an easy form of Yoga and is very popular in the United States and other western countries. Hatha Yoga is said to be the basis of all Yoga systems. The word Hatha is made of two words, “Ha” and “Tha”, Ha means “sun” and “Tha” means “moon.” Thus, Hatha Yoga refers to positive (sun) and to negative (moon) currents in the system. The most suitable way to practice Hatha Yoga is to begin with a calm and meditative bent of mind.
Another popular Yoga type is the Jnana Yoga. Jnana Yoga emphasizes the use of the mind to surpass the mind i.e. to discern the mind. The aim of Jnana Yoga is to endeavor ceaselessly to explore knowledge and to know and understand. Jnana Yoga is eight-limbed, and its other seven limbs are detachment, self-discipline, longing for freedom, hearing the truth, reflection upon that truth, and meditation. Jnana Yoga aims at attaining liberation through knowledge and not by rituals and ceremonies. Knowledge attained by Jnana Yoga is through understanding of judgment and experience.
Karma Yoga lays emphasis on selfless action and service. The underlying message of Karma Yoga is very clear- humans must always work in harmony with the great power that controls and runs the universe. If we follow this we are no longer egotistically motivated. At the same time we no longer maintain obsessive desires in relation to the future. With the eradication of compulsive or obsessive desire, we are able to live in the present and at the same time can plan for the future. This planning about future is independent of boundation to the future.
Kundalini Yoga system is remarkably different than most of the religious systems of the world. Most of the religious traditions look forward to maintaining celibacy to attain spiritual growth. It is mainly because of this attitude that the thought, sexual involvement is detrimental to a greater development of self, has come into being. On the other hand, Tantra yoga suggests that sexuality can be a very powerful force that should be harnessed for increased self-awareness and consciousness. Thus, Kundalini Yoga is curious, in that it not only allows sexual feelings and contact, but uses sexual experience as a means to enlightenment and knowledge.
Mantras are words, phrases, or syllables which are chanted attentively and thoughtfully to attain certain goals. In the Mantra Yoga meditation one has to chant a word or a phrase until he/she transcends mind and emotions. In the process the super conscious is discovered and achieved. The rhythm and the meaning of mantras combine to conduct the mind safely back to the point of meditation- the higher consciousness or the specific spiritual focus. Different syllables, phrases and words posses their unique healing potential. Hence they are chanted at a specific time. As a tool to achieve stillness, the mantra is to be discarded at the moment stillness is achieved. Sometimes mantras are also applied to modify circumstances. In the chanting of the mantras it is of immense importance that they are pronounced properly or else all their intended effect would not come. For such purposes it is important that the proper pronunciation is imparted.
Purna Yoga or integral yoga is said to be an improvisation over the traditional Yoga systems of India. It was thought that the traditional Yoga system revolved more around salvation and next life rather than the present one. The integral Yoga lays more emphasis on the importance of Karma in day today life. Purna Yoga gives Yoga a positive and dynamic form. Integral Yoga suggests three levels of integration- the integration of the inner, the integration of the human psyche with its external environment, and the integration of the psyche with its ultimate spiritual Ground. Purna Yoga is a world-affirmative and body-positive spirituality that skillfully combines self-transcendence with love, compassion, and veneration for all life.
An important branch of Yoga, Raja Yoga is a one stop solution for complete and holistic healing. Raja Yoga possesses the positive power of influencing the life of human beings. Raja Yoga synchronizes the physiological system as a whole as well as transforms all spheres (physical, mental, emotional, intellectual, occupational, social and spiritual) of human existence. Raja Yoga therapy is truly a holistic treatment as it heals the principal mechanisms and the control of the whole person. Raja Yoga helps an individual to mitigate emotional and mental conflicts. Raja Yoga also brings lasting peace and satisfaction in one’s life. All these virtues make Raja Yoga a way of living.
Various forms of yoga according to specilization
Iyengar yoga which is the most widely recognized approach to Hatha yoga, is characterized by precision performance and the aid of various props, such as cushions, benches, wood blocks, straps, and even sand bags.
Astanga yoga involves synchronizing the breath with a fast-paced series of postures — a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, a light and strong body, and a calm mind.
Bikram yoga is a system of 26 postures that are performed in a standard sequence in a room heated to 100-110 degrees Fahrenheit. This approach is fairly vigorous and requires a certain level of fitness on the part of students.
Viniyoga focuses on practicing a posture according to one’s individual needs and capacity. Regulated breathing is an important aspect of Viniyoga, and the breath is carefully coordinated with the postural movements.
Kripalu yoga is a three-stage yoga. In the first stage, postural alignment and coordination of breath and movement are emphasized, and the postures are held for a short duration only. In the second stage, meditation is included into the practice and postures are held for prolonged periods. In the final stage, the practice of postures becomes a spontaneous “meditation in motion.”
Integral yoga made a debut at the Woodstock festival in 1969, where yoga expert Swami Satchidananda taught thousands to chant, “om.” This style aims to integrate the various aspects of the body and mind through a combination of postures, breathing techniques, deep relaxation, and meditation, and function is more important than form. In this style of yoga, breathing and meditation are emphasized as much as the postures.
Sivananda yoga includes a series of twelve postures, breathing exercises, relaxation, and mantra chanting.
Ananda yoga is a gentle style that is designed to prepare the student for meditation, involving consciously directing the body’s energy to different organs and limbs.
It includes Hatha, Raja, Karma, Jnana, Mantra and Bhakti Yogas as well as other branches and presents them in a unified package that is flexible enough to be applied according to individual needs.
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