Yoga has been a worldwide phenomenon for the past several decades. It is a lifestyle that generates millions of dollars. Yoga is adaptable, and people from all walks of life can benefit. Even those who do not practice Yoga know someone who is. Many practitioners describe their experience using words like balance, relaxation, peace, calm, and strength. What is Yoga exactly? How far has Yoga deviated from its ancient roots, and what are the benefits of this practice?
What is Yoga
The Sanskrit term for Yoga is “yoke.” Yoke means to draw, bind or unite. The goal of Yoga is to create a union between the mind, body, and soul. The process of combining the mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects within ourselves allows yogis to experience deep states such as freedom, peace, and self-realization.
The ancient system of mental, physical, and spiritual practices has been handed down from teacher to pupil. Yoga practices include breathing exercises, postures, and relaxation techniques. Chanting is also included. There are many yoga styles, each with its own unique focus.
The origins of the word “yoga” can be traced back thousands of years in the Upanishads. These texts date from approximately 800 BC to 400 AD. The word “yoga,” first used in the Rigveda, was the first to be used in its modern sense in the Katha Upanishad. This ancient spiritual text dates back to between the 5th century BCE and the 3rd.
The Yoga Sutras is one of the best-known texts on yoga fundamentals. They were written by Patanjali in the 200s BCE. In this foundational text, he defines Yoga in sutra 1.2 as yogas chitta-vritti-nirodhah. This “Yoga means the cessation from the whirling fluctuation of the mind.”
This halting of thought is the result of a consistent and dedicated practice of Yoga. This contemplative practice calms our mental chatter and connects us to our source, where we can experience our unity with everything around us.
The practice of Yoga is a meditational process that leads to self-discovery. It consists of a variety of practices which aim to control one’s mind, realize a detached observer consciousness and free yourself from the cycle of birth and death. It helps us see ourselves clearly and understand who we really are. We also learn to let go of things that don’t serve us. It helps us become aware of thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and change them when they don’t serve. It helps us make better decisions in life and live more fully.
Yoga is a practice that allows us to purify and transform our minds, bodies, and souls. It helps us to connect with the world around us and nature. It gives us greater access to inner resources that teach us self-awareness and compassion.
Yoga has eight limbs
In his classic work, The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlined the basic principles of Yoga philosophy as well as practice. He describes eight steps or limbs to reach the end goal of the yoga practice. Each limb is an individual spiritual, mental or physical practice. The eightfold path is divided into:
The Moral Codes of Conduct
Niyama The physical observances, and internal practices
Asana Asana The correct posture
Pranayama The correct breathing exercises
Pratyahara- The withdrawal from external distractions
Dharana – Mental concentration and focussing the mind
Dhyana – The meditation on a specific point
Samadhi- The cessation all mental activity in order to achieve a state or oneness
Yoga is a practice that has many benefits
Traditional Yoga has six branches. Each of these branches achieves unity through different yoga techniques. These different aspects of Yoga will resonate with practitioners differently based on their dispositions, skills, and abilities.
The following are:
The royal path (Raja) is centered on meditation practices
The Path of Action (the Path of Karma)- Focuses on daily action and service
The path of knowledge (Jnana )- Focuses on discriminative wisdom, self inquiry and the path to knowledge
The path of devotion (Bhakti )- Focuses on devotion to God
Tantra(the path of ecstasy). focuses on rituals and initiation.
The forceful path (Hatha )- Focuses on the energy and movement in the body
Modern Yoga in the West
The word “yoga” in the West, has become synonymous with a specific style of Yoga called hatha. This branch focuses on postures (asanas), breath exercises (pranayama), relaxation, stress relief, fitness, and wellness. This branch focuses primarily on the body, which is different from traditional Yoga where the emphasis is more spiritual and inward. Hatha has many different schools, each with their own style and philosophy.
Philosophy of life
Yoga goes beyond meditative exercises, it is a complete Philosophy of Life. Yoga is a method to help us connect to our highest truth and make decisions that are in our best interest. Yoga helps us to reconnect with our true nature as we remove layers of conditioning and habits. We can discover our true selves every time we sit or stand on a yoga mat.