Yoga, the Sanskrit word for “union”, is a practice that uses posture and breathing techniques to induce relaxation and improve strength. Ancient Yogis had a belief that in order to be in harmony with oneself and environment, men has to integrate the body, the mind, and the spirit. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance. The form includes Exercise, Breathing and Meditation which forms the 3-pillar of strength for yoga. See below for the health benefits of yoga, and the branches of yoga.
Yoga Poses: See the complete list of Yoga Poses
Benefits of Yoga:
Yoga has numerous health benefits:
- For healthy bones, muscles, and joints
- Yoga strengthen your feet, legs, hands, and abdominals, lower back, legs, and shoulders.
- Yoga’s improve your flexibility, helping joints, tendons, and muscles stay limber.
Cardiovascular Benefits of Yoga
People suffering from hypertension can benefit from yoga tremendously, as hatha yoga can lower your heart rate and blood pressure.
Yoga benefits mental health
- Yoga reduces anxiety and stress, resulting in better health, better mood, and better concentration throughout the day.
- Yoga has been used to help treat a wide variety of emotional and mental disorders, including acute anxiety, depression, and mood swings.
Branches of Yoga
Hatha Yoga or Yoga of Postures: This branch of Yoga uses physical poses or Asana, Breathing Techniques or Pranayama, and Meditation to achieve better health.
Bhakti Yoga or Yoga of Devotion: Bhakti : 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.
Jnana Yoga or Yoga of the Mind: 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.
Karma Yoga or Yoga of Service: Karma Yoga is the path of service which teaches a person’s present experience is directly affected by his past actions. Selflessness is a primary requirement for karma practice. Performing a selfless service eliminates egoistic and negative behavior and enables a person to influence his destiny.
Tantra Yoga or Yoga of Rituals: Tantra Yoga is about using rituals to experience what is sacred. Tantra Yogis must possess certain qualities like purity, humility, devotion, dedication to his Guru, cosmic love, and truthfulness among other things.
Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini yoga focuses on awakening the energy which is found at the base of the spine. The basic method of awakening involves deep concentration on the chakras (psychic centers) which exists in every individual and forcing their arousal. Kundalini yoga involves physical postures, chanting and meditation. The Asanas are coordinated with breath control.
Swara Yoga: Swara is a Sanskrit word which means ‘sound’ or ‘note’. Swara yoga focuses on controlling and manipulating the flow of breath in the nostrils. It involves studying the nostril’s breath flow at all times of the day and seasons.
Kriya Yoga: Kriya is a Sanskrit word which means ‘activity’ or ‘movement. Kriya yoga consists of meditation techniques that help with a person’s spiritual growth. The mere goal of kriya yoga is union with the Divine. The spiritual energy deep in the spines is affected by Kriya yoga as energy is drawn up and down the spine.
Mantra Yoga: Mantra yoga involves chanting a word or phrases repeatedly until the mind and emotions are transcended and the super conscious is revealed. In Vedic Sciences it is said that any person who can chant or sing Vedas can achieve the ultimate salvation or union with supreme consciousness only by chanting the mantra. Mantra Yoga helps eliminate a number of disorders, including psychosomatic ailments and the problems of anxiety, stress and tension besides prevent the mind from wondering.
Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga: Ashtanga yoga started by Patanjali Yoga Sutra around 5000 years BC. The basis of ashtanga yoga is the Yoga sutras (Sanskrit Verses) of Patanjali. The ashtanga yoga basics include paying attention to each of the eight limbs, which are:
- Yama (principles or moral code);
- Niyama (personal disciplines);
- Asana (ashtanga yoga postures)
- Pranayama (yoga breathing);
- Prayahara (withdrawal of senses);
- Dharana (concentration on objects);
- Dhyan (meditation);
- Samadhi (salvation).