Modern Western yoga approaches are not based on any particular belief or religion. However, yoga has its roots in Hinduism and Brahmanism. Yoga was developed primarily by seers and asceticists living in southern India. Foreseeers observed nature, lived near the earth, and studied many aspects of nature, animals, and themselves. By observing and imitating the different attitudes and customs of the animal kingdom, they were able to develop elegance, strength and wisdom.
Through these very disciplined lives, the practice of yoga postures was developed. It was necessary to create a series of postures to keep the body supple and endure long periods of stillness when in Meditation.
What is Yoga Sutra, and how did the Philosophy of Yoga develop?
The Yoga Sutra is a compilation of 195 statements that essentially provide an ethical guide to living morally and embracing the science of yoga. Believed to have been edited by an Indian sage named Patanjali over 2000 years ago, it became the basis of classical yoga philosophy.
The word sutra means “thread” and refers to a particular form of written and verbal communication. Due to the concise style in which the sutras are written, students must rely on the guru to interpret the philosophy contained therein. The meaning of each sutra can be tailored to the specific needs of the student.
Yoga Sutras is a yoga system. However, there is more than one description of poses and asanas. Patanjali has created a guide to living well. The core of his teaching is “Noble Eightfold Path of Yoga” or “Noble Eightfold Path of Patanjali”. These are Patanjali suggestions for a better life through yoga.
Posture and breathing control, two basic yoga practices, are the third and fourth limbs of the eight limb paths to Patanjali’s self-actualization. The third practice of posture defines modern yoga today. If you take a yoga class, you may find that this is all you need for your lifestyle.
How do you choose the type of yoga right for you?
The type of yoga you choose to practice is completely personal preference and that’s why we’ve reviewed it here to help you get started. Others differ in rhythm and posture choices, meditation, and spiritual awareness. All are adapted to the physical circumstances of the student. So you need to determine which style of yoga is based on your individual psychological and physical needs. You may want to do vigorous exercise to focus on developing your flexibility or balance. Do you want to focus more on meditation or just focus on the health aspect? Some schools teach relaxation, some focus on strength and flexibility, while others focus on aerobic. We recommend trying a few different courses in your area. We’ve found that even among teachers of a particular style, there are differences in how students like the course. To really enjoy what you do and live longer, it’s important to find a teacher that’s right for you.
By learning poses and adapting to your body, you will be able to practice comfortably at home. All types of yoga have sequences that you can practice to target different parts of the body. The 15-minute approach in the morning marks the beginning of the day. Your body quickly becomes strong and supple and has the knowledge that you have the choice to develop your routine.
The Major Systems of Yoga
The two main systems of yoga are Hatha Yoga and Yoga Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga is based on the “Yoga Eight Limbs” developed by Patanjali at Yoga Sutras. Raja is part of the classical Indian system of Hindu philosophy. Hatha Yoga, also known as Hatha Vidia, is a specific yoga system founded by Indian 15th century yoga sage Svātmārama. Svātmārama has edited Hatha Yoga Pradipika, which introduces the Hatha Yoga system. Hatha yoga is derived from various traditions. It comes from Buddhist rules, including Hinayana (narrow road) and Mahayana Buddhism (big road). It also derives from Tantric traditions, including Sahajayana (voluntary course) and Vajrayana (related to sexuality). Hatha yoga has a variety of branches and styles of yoga. This form of yoga practices posture, breathing, and purification through the physical medium of the body.
Hatha yoga in Svātmārama, unlike Raja yoga in Patanjali, focuses on Shatkarma, which is “purification of the body,” as a path leading to “purification of the mind” and “vitality.” Patanjali begins with “purification of the mind and spirit” and “purifies the body” through posture and breathing.
The Major Schools of Yoga
There are about 44 major yoga schools, and many others claim to be doing yoga. Some elementary schools are Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga (as mentioned above). There are also pranayama yoga and kundalini yoga, descendants of groupers. Junana, Karma, Bhakti, Ashtanga and Iyengar are from Raja.
The Yoga Styles based on Hatha Yoga:
The word pranayama means prana, energy, ayama, and stretching. Respiratory regulation, prolongation, dilation, length, dilation and control explain the mechanism of action of pranayama yoga. Some pranayama breathing controls are included in hatha yoga exercises of a general nature (to correct dyspnea). This yoga school is built entirely on the concept of prana (life energy). There are about 99 different postures, many of which are based on or similar to physical breathing techniques. Pranayama also means the power of the universe or the power of the entire universe. It manifests itself to us through the phenomenon of breathing as a conscious creature.
Kundalini yoga is based on the Yogibajan tradition that brought style to the West in 1969. It is a very spiritual approach to hatha yoga that incorporates chanting, meditation and breathing. All of these are used to boost the energy of the kundalini at the base of the spine.
Raja Yoga / Ashtanga Yoga
Raja means royal or royal. It is based on directing vitality to balance the mind and emotions. This allows you to focus your attention on the object of meditation, God. Raja Yoga or Ashtanga Yoga is one of the four major Hindu yoga passes. Others include Karma Yoga, Junyana Yoga and Bacti Yoga. Raja or Ashtanga are derived from Patanjali’s “eight limbs of Yoga” philosophy.
Power Yoga has been devised through the teachings of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, a renowned Sanskrit scholar who inspired Western Yogis with his Ashtanga Yoga Style and philosophies. Therefore, it is often referred to as the western version of India’s Ashtanga yoga. Power yoga is vigorous and athletic and is therefore very popular with men. It works with the student’s mental attitude and perspective and incorporates the eight limbs of yoga into practice.
Jnana (sometimes spelled “Gnana”) means wisdom, and a Jnani is a wise man. They are sometimes referred to as the” yogi of discernment.” This form of yoga focuses on studying inner life and adhyatmic subjects, practicing certain relaxations, and contemplative, meditative kriyas. The primary purpose of jnana meditation is to withdraw the mind and emotions from perceiving life and oneself in a deluded way so that one may behold and live in attunement with reality or Spirit. This form of yoga focuses on Meditation to work towards transformation and enlightenment.Karma yoga
Karma means “behavior”. Karma yoga is based on the discipline of action based on the teachings of the sacred Hindu text Bhagavad Gita. This selfless service yoga remains separate from rewards and focuses on observance of duty (Dharma). Karma is the whole of our actions in both our present life and our previous births.
Bhakti yoga has many phases to its practice. Bhakti means “devotion,” and Guna Bhakti is to worship according to your nature. A practitioner of Bhakta Yoga is not limited to any one culture or religious denomination; the approach is more to the inner life than the wholly devotional. The self within worships the self of the universal nature. Bhakti yoga is the state of being in contact with our existence and being and the existence and being of all things. It doesn’t matter if you believe in something or you don’t, and the only quality is the openness to the mind and heart, unexpected and unknown. Those who have read about Quantum physics, where every atom in the universe is connected to the underlying reality, will be able to liken this to the philosophy behind Bhakti yoga.
Iyengar Yoga was developed in India by B.K.S Iyengar, born 14th December, 1918. At 16, he was introduced to yoga by his Guru Sri T. Krishnamacharya. Iyengar Yoga is now one of the most popular styles practiced in the west. Instructors are very knowledgeable about the anatomy and precise body place for each posture. There is less focus on pranayama or breathing techniques and mediation, thus why the practice is widespread in the west. Iyengar Yoga emphasizes the correct placement of the feet to ensure the spine and the hips are in alignment. Iyengar has developed many different props and techniques to cater to individuals in their practice.
Integral Yoga or Purna Yoga
Integral yoga is a yoga of synthesis, harmonizing the paths of karma, jnana, and bhakti yogas. Swami Satchidananda developed it. It is also considered a synthesis between Vedanta (Indian system of philosophy) and Tantra (Asian beliefs and practices using the principle that the divine energy creates and maintains the universe, channeling the energy within the human microcosm). It has also been explained as a synthesis between Eastern and Western approaches to spirituality.
Postures are gentler than other forms of yoga, and classes typically end with extended periods of deep relaxation, breathing, and Meditation. Integral yoga is a comprehensive approach to hatha yoga.
Sivananda Yoga offers a gentle approach. It includes Meditation, chanting, and deep relaxation in each session. Students are encouraged to be healthy, which provides for being vegetarian.
Bikram yoga was founded by Bikram Choudhury and taught by Bishnu Ghosh, the brother of Paramahansa Yogananda. Bikrams Yoga is taught generally in a room with a temperature set between 95 and 105 degrees. The heat helps soften the muscles and ligaments. There are approximately 26 postures, and this yoga produces a real workout because the heat is quite intense. This yoga, therefore, places more emphasis on the physical performance of the postures, not on the sides of relaxation and Meditation.
Noteworthy Yoga Teachers
All styles share a common lineage. The founders of two of the significant types of yoga, Raja/Ashtanga and Avenger, were all students of the same great teacher named Krishnamacharya.
Shri T. Krishnamacharya was born in the village of Muchukunte, Karnataka State, in 1888. His formal education, mainly in Sanskrit, included Degrees from several universities in North India. He studied for seven years under a distinguished yogi in western Tibet: Rama Mohana Brahmachari, who instructed him on the therapeutic use of asanas & pranayama. Then he returned to South India and established a yoga school in the palace of the Maharajah of Mysore. He passed away at the age of 101 years in 1988.
Integral Yoga and Sivananda Yoga were also founded by students of another great teacher named Sivananda. Swami Sivananda Saraswati was born in Kuppuswamy in Pattamadai, Tamil Nadu, India. A Hindu by birth, he is a well-known proponent of yoga and Vedanta (a principal branch of Hindu philosophy). He is reputed to have written over 300 books, on these and related subjects, during his life. In 1936 he founded the new religious movement “The Divine Life Society” on the bank of the holy Ganges River. He died on the 14th of July, 1963.
Which type of Yoga is right for you?
These are not all the types of yoga available. However, from the short explanations of each, you can see that Yoga practice can differ dramatically. Each one uses the physical postures and breathing to strengthen the body for Meditation, an inherent part of yoga practice.
This is where the student needs to understand what they want out of their yoga practice and choose a style that will cater to this. If you try one and don’t think it is physical enough, try another, as it will be different if you start one that is too demanding. Then again, switch around until you find the practice for you. Some of us want to work on the body, and some want more focus on a method of searching for self-realization; whatever the reason, I am sure there are enough styles out there and more developing each day to cater to our needs.
You are never too old to start yoga. I have met people in their seventies, beginning for the first time and experiencing life-changing effects. What is the first thing they do if you’ve ever sat and watched your cat or dog awake in the morning? Stretch. If we stop for just a moment and watch what we can learn from nature and the animal kingdom, we will realize that the simple act of stretching has been lost through our evolution.