What is Yoga.
History of Yoga:
Yoga predates written records, however stone carvings from the Indus valley dated to be over 5,000 years old show figures in apparent yoga like postures. Written records begin with the Brahmanas, a commentary on the ancient vedic philosophies around 900BCE and also the Upanishads (ca.400BCE), the Bhagavad Gita (ca.200BCE) and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (ca.200BCE).
Yoga is a Sanskrit (language of ancient India) word meaning “union”, this union occurring between the mind, body and spirit, and is intended to be a spiritual practice, as well as a physical one.
In the west, the word “yoga” is commonly understood to cover a range of physical postures, called “asanas” (related to Hatha yoga) and used as a form of exercise to gain and maintain fitness and health, however yoga philosophy has eight limbs.
The Eight Limbs of yoga practice are:
- Yamas (The five “abstentions”): nonviolence, truth, non-covetousness, chastity, and abstaining from attachment to possessions.
- Niyama (The five “observances”): purity, contentment, austerities, study, and surrender to God.
- Asana (literally means “seat”) In Patanjali’s Sutras refers to seated positions used for meditation. Later, with the rise of Hatha yoga, asana came to refer to all the postures.
- Pranayama (“Lengthening Prana”): Prana, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, “ayama”, to lengthen or extend.
- Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
- Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
- Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
- Samadhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.
Major branches of Yoga include:
- Hatha Yoga, focuses on Shatkarma, the purification of the physical as leading to the purification of the mind (ha), and Prana, or vital energy (tha).
- Karma Yoga, states that one can attain Moksha (salvation), by focusing on adherence to duty (dharma) while remaining detached from the reward.
- Jnana Yoga, The yoga of knowledge (of the absolute).
- Bhakti Yoga, The yoga of loving devotion to God.
- Raja Yoga. Introduced by Patanjali, begins with a purification of the mind (yamas) and spirit (niyamas), then comes to the body via asanas (body postures) and pranayama (breath).
Yoga is not a simple cure for health issues or a fitness regime. The goal of yoga is to create an internal environment that allows the individual to return to their own state of dynamic balance, or health.
Yoga teaches that a healthy person is a harmoniously integrated unit of body, mind and spirit. Therefore, for good health, one should have a simple, natural diet, exercise in fresh air, a serene and untroubled mind and awareness that man’s deepest and highest self is identical with the spirit of God.