Yoga is an ancient Indian body of knowledge that dates back more than 5,000 years. The word Yoga came from the Sanskrit word yuj which meansto unite or integrate. In other words, Yoga is about the union of a person’s own consciousness and the universal consciousness.
Breathing techniques were developed based on the concept that breath is the source of life. In Yoga, students gain breathing control as they slowly increase their focus on breathing. By focusing on their breathing, they prepare their minds for meditation.
There is a general misconception that during meditation, a person’s mind has to go blank, but this doesn’t have to be so. In meditation, students bring the activities of the mind into focus resulting in a ‘quiet’ mind. As a result, they design physical poses and breathing techniques that develop awareness of the body.
In summary, Yoga helps people to focus, and relieve themselves from everyday stress.
6 Types of Yoga
Hatha Yoga or Yoga of Postures
Hatha Yoga is perhaps the most popular branch of Yoga in the West. This branch of Yoga uses physical poses or Asana, Breathing Techniques or Pranayama, and Meditation to obtain better health, as well as spirituality. There are many styles within this path – Iyengar, Integral, Astanga, Kripalu, and Jiva Mukti to name a few.
For those who want a peaceful mind, and a healthy body to go along with it, Hatha Yoga may just be the thing for them.
Bhakti Yoga or Yoga of Devotion
Bhakti Yoga is the path most followed in India. This is the path of the heart and devotion. Yogis who practice this branch see the One or the Divine in everyone and everything. Bhakti Yoga teaches a person to have devotion to the One or to Brahma by developing a person’s love and acceptance for all things.
Raja Yoga or Yoga of Self-Control
Raja means royal. This path is considered to be the King of Yoga and this may be due to the fact that most of its practitioners are members of religious and spiritual orders. Raja Yoga is based on the teachings of the Eight Limbs of Yoga found in the Yoga sutras. A Raja Yogi sees the self as central, and as such, respect for oneself and for all creation are vital to this path. They achieve self-respect by first learning to be masters of themselves. For those wanting to learn discipline, Raja Yoga would very likely suit their need.
Jnana Yoga or Yoga of the Mind
Jnana Yoga is the path of Yoga that basically deals with the mind, and as such, it focuses on man’s intelligence. Jnana Yogis consider wisdom and intellect as important and they aim to unify the two to surpass limitations. Since they wish to gain knowledge, they are open to other philosophies and religions, for they believe that an open and rational mind is crucial in knowing the spirit.
Karma Yoga or Yoga of Service
Karma Yoga is the path of service, for in this path, it is believed that a person’s present situation is based on their past actions. So by doing selfless service now, the person is choosing a future that is free from negativity and selfishness. Karma Yogis change their attitude toward the good and in the process, change their souls, which leads to a change in their destiny.
Tantra Yoga or Yoga of Rituals
Tantra Yoga, which is perhaps the most misunderstood of all the paths, is about using rituals to experience what is sacred. Although sex is a part of it, sex is not the whole of it since this path aims to find what is sacred in everything we do. Tantra Yogis must possess certain qualities like purity, humility, devotion, and dedication.
|Benefits of Yoga|
|Increasing flexibility – yoga has positions that act on the various joints of the body including those joints that are never really on the ‘radar screen’, let alone exercised.|
|Increasing lubrication of the joints, ligaments and tendons – Well-researched yoga positions exercise the different tendons and ligaments of the body. Surprisingly it has been found that the body which may have been quite rigid starts experiencing a remarkable flexibility in even those parts which have not been consciously worked on. Why? It is here that the remarkable research behind yoga positions proves its strength. Seemingly unrelated non strenuous yoga positions act on certain parts of the body in a unified, or integrated, way. When these positions are done together, they work in harmony to create a situation where flexibility is obtained relatively easily.|
|Massaging the organs of the body – Yoga is perhaps the only form of activity which is believed to massage all the internal glands and organs of the body in a thorough manner, including those – such as the prostate – that hardly get externally stimulated during our entire lifetime. Yoga acts in a wholesome manner on the various body parts. This stimulation and massage of the organs in turn is thought to strengthen the immune system, or body defense system.|
|Detoxification – By gently stretching muscles and joints as well as massaging the various organs, yoga is thought to provide optimum blood supply to various parts of the body. This helps in flushing out toxins, as well as providing nourishment, leading to an increased zest for life.|
|Toning the muscles – Muscles that have become soft or out of shape, weak, or flabby are stimulated repeatedly to shed excess flab (become less flaccid) and thus,become better toned.|
By Kathleen R Watson M.D.