What Is Yoga?
Yoga is a discipline, a part of which includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.
The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit verb "Yuj" (to unite) which refers to merging of individual Consciousness with universal Consciousness. It can be defined as "'mastery over the modifications of mind'.
Yoga is not a sequence of only physical postures. It is a multi layered awareness including the practice of Pranayama (the art of breathing) and meditation which are also included under yoga.
There are many pathways to achieve a calm state mentally emotionally and physically. However yoga is proven over history that it is a pathway to inner peace and greater happiness and understanding of life and self.
In yoga there are the four pathways (identify it -own it - give into it - and let go of it )
Jnana Yoga - the Path of self analysis.
Raja Yoga - the Path of self control.
Bhakti Yoga - the path of self surrender.
Karma Yoga - the path of self sacrifice.
There are numerous perceptions related to Yoga, where it comes from, what it is all about, and how to practice a range of techniques.
Generally, it is recognized as an ancient system of philosophies, principles and practices . It is a system that recognizes the multi-dimensional nature of the human person, and primarily relates to the nature and workings of the mind, based on experiential practice and self-inquiry.
In Yoga, the body, breath and mind and yourself are seen as a union of these multi-dimensional aspects of each and every human being. The system and various techniques of Yoga cultivate the experience of that union, leading to greater integration of being, internal peacefulness, and clarity of the mind.
It is a system that is designed to cultivate health and happiness, and a greater sense of self-awareness and higher consciousness.
The foundations of this ancient system are generally traced back to a great Indian sage known as Patanjali, who presented a written summary of the approach in what is known as the Yoga Sutra. It is said that it dates back many thousands of years before this was first documented in 500BC and was always passed verbally as a wisdom.
This complete system of documented Yoga is often known as Raja Yoga - the Highest or Royal Path.
Throughout the centuries and in modern times a number of alternative approaches to Yoga have developed, based on one or more of the ideas found in the foundations of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra.
Today, the most popular of these more recent approaches is generally known as a form of Hatha Yoga, and is considered to be the beginning or early stages of the process towards fullness of what Yoga offers.
Yoga cultivates health and well-being (physical, emotional, mental and social) through the regular practice of a range of many different techniques, including postures and movement, breath awareness and breathing exercises, relaxation and concentration, self-inquiry and meditation.
Yoga is an approach to life that values appropriate effort, based on balance and harmony, within each person and with each other.
The most widely recognized form of yoga today is an integration of several yoga practices, primarily body movement, traditionally known as postures or asanas. They serve to strengthen and invigorate the body, helping all physical systems to work properly. These include the skeletal and muscular structures as well as the circulation, respiratory, glandular and nervous systems.
The postures are performed with awareness, with a focus on the breath and the internal experience, leading to greater mindfulness and mental ease.
Yoga is a remarkably effective practice on its own or can be part of other physical training such as aerobics, weight training, running, swimming or other sports.
Yoga at its heart is a practice of mindfulness and with regular practice, this mindfulness can be incorporated into other activities and areas of life.
Meditation is the yogic practice of being connected to the deepest part within. A wide range of meditation techniques are designed to help you observe and explore the world of thoughts and feelings, and go beyond to an experience of deep peace and contentment.
Meditation is usually an integral part of yoga and many yoga teachers may offer classes dedicated to the practice of meditation. Participants usually practice either on cushions on the floor, or seated on chairs.
A dedicated meditation class typically includes:
An introduction possibly including breathing exercises, relaxation and some inspirational readings
A number of mental focusing and meditation practices
Returning to an outward focus and brief discussion