The word Yoga is derived from a Sanskrit root that means union or communion, and traditionally includes inner contemplation, meditation, ethics, metaphysics, and devotion to God. Yoga means the disciplining of the sensate being and the mind so that all aspects of life are in balance.
Yoga is one of six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. In Indian thought all things are filled with the Supreme, universal spirit, including the individual human spirit. The philosophy was defined and codified by Patanjali, one of the world’s greatest sages, who lived in India around 200 A.D.
In his 195 Yoga Sutras (sayings), Patanjali provides an ethical plan for living a moral life and integrating Yoga into your life. The core of his Sutras is the eight-limbed path that is the framework for yoga practice. The eight limbs are the Yamas, Niyamas, Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. I’ll explain these in more detail in the next article. There is not a hierarchical order of importance; instead, all of the limbs form a holistic focus that helps the individual find their connection to the divine, bringing completeness.
Some of the many kinds of yoga include:
Hatha: A general term used to describe a collection of different styles. This is the most popular yoga. It includes traditional yoga postures for all levels meant to achieve balance between the mind and body. Many of the other types of yoga are derived from hatha yoga.
Iyengar: This is a practice geared strongly toward bodily alignment. Poses are held for longer periods, as opposed to "flowing" from one into the other.
Ashtanga: This is a fast-paced, flowing sequence of postures that gradually increase in difficulty.
Viniyoga: A gentle yoga practice in which breathing is synchronized with the poses.
Bikram: A series of 26 poses are performed in a heated room (the temperature can be anywhere from 90-100 degrees F) to make your body sweat. The heat in the room is meant to increase your body's flexibility, reduce the risk of injury and help you to detoxify.
Kundalini: Kundalini yoga is meant to awaken a powerful energy that is located at the base of the spine. The energy, once released, is said to bring a great sense of well-being and awareness.
Ananda: Includes a series of gentle hatha yoga poses designed to send energy toward the brain to prepare the body for meditation. This type of yoga is meant to promote spiritual growth and self-awareness.
Anusara: Meaning literally "to step into the current of divine will," anusara is meant to promote awareness and well-being along with body alignment.
Power yoga: This is for those looking for a vigorous workout and body toning.
Jivamukti: A physically intense yoga series that also involves chanting, meditation, and spiritual teachings.
Yoga is a way for us to achieve a sense of inner wholeness through a deepening connection with the divine that is our transcendental self, and with the divine that is all things. It is a way to quiet our mind, turning inward to get the sense of connection with each other and with the universe. Yoga is a spiritual path, but not a religion. This is an ancient practice with many and varied techniques which we each interpret and adapt to meet our own needs. Rather than having a goal to work toward, Yoga is a continuum of discovery that makes happiness possible.