The origins of Yoga are about 4000 years old and based in a Far Eastern spiritual practice designed to realize ones own Divine Nature. In the western world today it is mostly seen as a form of exercise although all forms of Yoga are still based in the three traditional techniques of Eastern Yoga. These three fundamentals of Yoga are the Asanas (Sanskrit for Postures), the Pranyama (the Sanskrit for breathing or breath control) and meditation. Yoga increases the strength of your muscles, your flexibility, helps you relax and calm yourself and centre your thought.
Different Types Of Yoga
Raja Yoga: This form of Yoga focusses on achieving unification or oneness ( Samadhi ) through the ahstangas of Yoga (Yama, Niyama etc). Anyone competent enough to achieve the goal of Samahdi through this method is believed to be a Raja(King of Yoga). A most famous example is Swami Vivekananda.
Bikram Yoga: Bikram Yoga also know as Hot Yoga is a system of yoga that Bikram Choudhury synthesized from traditional hatha yoga techniques and popularized beginning in the early 1970s.Bikram’s classes run exactly 90 minutes and consist of a set series of 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. Bikram Yoga is ideally practiced in a room heated to 105°F (≈ 40.6°C) with a humidity of 40%, and is the most popular form of hot yoga (a series of yoga poses done in a heated room).
Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga is a system of yoga popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois, and which is often promoted as a modern-day form of classical Indian yoga. Pattabhi Jois began his yoga studies in 1927 at the age of 12, and by 1948 had established an institute for teaching the specific yoga practice known as Ashtanga (Sanskrit for “eight-limbed”) Yoga.
Power yoga and vinyasa yoga are generic terms that may refer to any type of vigorous yoga exercise derived from Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga.
Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual discipline for developing strength, awareness, character, and consciousness. Practitioners call Kundalini yoga the yoga of awareness because it focuses primarily on practices that expand sensory awareness and intuition in order to raise individual consciousness and merge it with the Infinite consciousness of God Brahman. Considered an advanced form of yoga and meditation, its purpose is to cultivate the creative spiritual potential of a human to uphold values, speak truth, and focus on the compassion and consciousness needed to serve and heal others
Hatha Yoga: Hatha Yoga was first defined in the 11th century Buddhist text Vimalaprabha, which defines it in relation to the center channel, bindu etc. This system is designed as preparatory stage of physical purification that the body practices for higher meditation or Yoga. It is based on asanas and pranayama (breathing techniques, also known as shatkarma). Hatha Yoga became popular in the west beginning in the second half of the 20th century, and is often referred to simply as “Yoga” in the context of health and physical exercise.
Bhakthi Yoga: In Bhakthi yoga a person seeks to reach the ultimate state of oneness or attunement through the sheer power of devotion and faith. Bhakthi does not concentrate on the traditional methods of pranyama, yogasnas or mudra, and instead preaches attention to a loving god, unquestioning devotion to god’s will and a sharing of gods love towards humanity.
Jivamukti Yoga: In 1986 Sharon Gannon and David Life developed the Jivamukti Yoga method because they believed that traditional western Yoga practices focussed only on the physical aspects of Eastern Yoga and not the spiritual.
Ananda Yoga: This discipline is a preparatory one for entering a state of meditation. Gentle postures, correct body alignment and focus on breathing are all used towards the end of preparing the Yogi for a meditative state.
The Effects Of yoga
There are a number of different paths that are intended to lead a person to a higher state or realization of Moksha(the oneness with ultimate reality). It refers to a gradual ‘yoking of the self’ through strong spiritual discipline so that each subsequent session of Yoga brings one a little closer to a full state of acceptance of themselves and their place in the universe. The ego is seen as an aspect which limits our ability to accept our place in the universe and something which is gradually toned down. The traditional yoga Margas, or path to salvation, would involve a long and dedicated apprenticeship to a Yoga Guru.
The Benefits Of Yoga
Yoga has a number of specific benefits. One of the most well known and commented on is an increased level of flexibility. Yoga will work through all the muscle groups and grant increased range of motion through the attention it plays to some muscle groups which are often overlooked by other exercise programs. Yoga also works the internal glands and body organs in a thorough manner. This is a very impressive ability when we consider that Yoga can act on glands and organs such as the prostate which are unlikely to receive any regular external stimulation.
Another advantage of yoga is a toning of the muscles. Excess flabbiness is shed from muscles which have become flaccid and weak. The circulation is greatly improved by the poses of Yoga which will assist the body by clearing knots and blockages. This, combined with the valuable skill of learning to breath properly result in an increased flow of blood to the vital organs and about the body.
Anyone who suffers from stress can easily bear witness to the destruction that it causes. For anyone who has had to live with stress – or live with someone who lives with it – the effects are quite distressing. It rips the enjoyment out of things you had come to rely on. It can lead to you taking your anger and annoyance out on undeserving friends and family, with harsh words or worse. Learning yoga can be an excellent way to beat stress and get your smile back – something that some sufferers can easily end up thinking will never happen.
Yoga helps to beat stress in three major ways; the first is the exercise itself. Exercise in general causes the body to release endorphins – the brain’s own happy chemicals that allow you to feel chilled out. Yoga also works to release muscle tension, which lets the body feel more relaxed – a message it will soon pass on to the brain.
The second beneficial element of yoga for stress relief is the effect of breath control. Breath control, or Pranayama, is a part of the exercise regime of yoga that can be taken separately from the exercises themselves. When you know how to control your breath – yes, it sounds stupid but bear with it – you can find yourself quickly adapting to take deep breaths when you are feeling stressed. This normally leads to the stress lifting very quickly.
Finally, yoga helps you to clear your mind. One major cause of stress is constant thoughts of what you should be doing, what you will have to do tomorrow, and how you are going to deal with situations. Once you learn to clear your mind through meditation, you will be much closer to a stress-free life.
One of the major aspects of any keep-fit regime for its practitioners is the importance of weight loss. There can be no doubting the focus that seems to be placed on the weight-loss aspect – a lot of people are overweight and unhappy about the fact. Many will look at yoga and wonder how it can impact upon a weight-loss program. The truth of the matter is that the classic forms of yoga which are recognizable to most people may not directly assist weight loss. However, if performed correctly, yoga can certainly be a foundation stone in a keep-fit program with weight loss as a major plank.
For anyone seeking to lose weight, it is vital to eat healthily so that you get the nutrients you will need and then add exercise to burn calories. Most of the popular forms of yoga practiced in the West are not cardio-vascular exercises (the kind which raises your heart rate in order to burn calories). They do, however, increase your core strength and breath control and this in turn will make it easier to do running, jogging and other forms of cardiovascular exercise that will burn fat.
If the demands on your time are such that you cannot add two types of exercise to your weekly regime, then you may be interested in Vinyasa or “flow yoga” – a style of exercise which is markedly more athletic than the classic forms and involves more exacting poses. A spell of this form of yoga will get you much closer to the weight loss you are seeking.