What is Yoga?

The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yield, join or unite.  Practitioners believe that this implies joining and integrating all aspects of the individual to achieve a supreme level.  The uniting of mind and body and soul to achieve a happy balance and useful life is the underlying goal of the practice of yoga.

Practitioners believe that yoga is a scientific system of physical and mental practices.  The system originated in India more than 3000 years ago with a purpose to achieve our highest potential and experience health and happiness. Scientists have proven that using yoga individuals can extend their health and productive years as well as improve the quality of their life.

Different types of Yoga

The system of yoga goes well beyond contorting the body into difficult poses.  In fact, there are six different branches.  The Hatha, is one which is most familiar in the Western world and uses physical poses, breathing a meditation to health.  Bkakti Yoga is the path of yoga followed most in India.  Those who practice seek the “One” or the divine in everything and everyone.

Raja Yoga means “loyal”.  This is considered to be decaying yoga and maybe because most of its practitioners are members of religious orders. Raja yoga is based on the teachings of eight limbs of yoga. Individuals who practice this type of yoga see themselves as central and achieve self-respect by learning to be masters of themselves. Jnana Yoga is a path that deals with the minds and focused on intelligence. The ultimate goal is knowledge and they are open to philosophies and religions for they believe that an open and rational mind is crucial.

Karma Yoga is the past service and believes that your present situation is based on your past actions. Based on this belief, they perform selfless acts of service now to choose a future that is free of negativity. Tantra Yoga is probably the most misunderstood of all types. It is about using rituals to experience what is sacred. Individuals who practice Tantra yoga must possess purity, humility, devotion and dedication.

In the Western world yoga is used more frequently to attain physical health and stamina. Used as a way to keep the body fit, it can help improving health through stretches and toning muscles as well as an exercise for the spine and the entire skeletal system. While stretching is involved in yoga ultimately it is about creating balance in the body by developing both strength and flexibility through the performance of poses or postures. These poses can be done in quick succession which creates heat through movements. They can also be done more slowly to increase stamina and improve the alignment of the posts.

The classes taught at the local YMCA or health club only touch on the surface of the entire practice. Western civilization has been more interested in in the physical fitness and flexibility which individuals who practice yoga are able to attain while those who live in the East appear more interested in the entire practice of yoga. Serious schools have grown around each of the different paths described above. Usually the schools are established by teachers are gurus and reflect their own methodologies and ways of practicing either one path or integrating several.

Whether an individual attempts to learn an entire path of yoga or only integrates the flexibility and physical strengthening poses in order to improve their health, integrating yoga into their daily routines will only help to improve their health, overall well-being and emotional satisfaction.
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