Yoga originated in Asia, but in recent times, it has spread to all parts of the world. It can be best defined as a mental, physical, spiritual practice in discipline. The introduction of yoga to the Western world began with the Indian yoga experts from the success of Swami Vivekananda during the last decade and first decade of the 19th & 20th century. Yoga is famous for not only providing strength and flexibility to the body, but also for its spirituality and meditative principles.
A. Ashtanga Yoga (Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga – Eight limbs / step yoga)
The eight limb or steps of yoga are divided as per the yoga principles of the great sage Patanjali. Let us look at the eight concepts:
Principles or Yama
Personal disciplines or Niyama
Yogic postures or yoga positions or Asana
Breathing exercises or Pranayama
Withdrawal of senses or Pratyahara
Concentration on object or Dharana
Meditation or Dhyan
Salvation or Samadhi
Introduction To Ashtanga Yoga
Ashta means eight and anga means limb.
History of Ashtanga Yoga
Yoga can be traced back to 5000 years of BC as per the description in Vedic philosophy as well as tantras.
1.The principles or moral code can be called as YAMA, and the types are as follows:
A principle of non-violence – Ahimsa
The principle of Truthfulness – Satya
A principle of nonstealing – Asteya
Celibacy or Continence – Brahmacharya
The principle of non-possessiveness or non-hoarding – Aparigah
The ‘Yama’ refers to the outside world and its influence on you. It’s about the attitude towards others, things, peoples, places, ethics, morals, our sense of integrity, consciousness towards surroundings and our life’s behaviors.
2.The types of Personal Disciplines or NIYAMA are as follows:
Purity – Shoucha
Contentment – Santosh
Endurance, known as Tapa
Self-study, or in other words as Swadhyaya
Dedication in simple words, the yogic word is Eshwar Pranidhan.
It involves looking inside ourselves, our own personal observances, how we could relate ourselves with our ‘Yama’ and behaviors.
3.Asana:The Asana’s are important aspect of Yoga;it’s the physical dimension of approaching the yogic science. You build physical strength, discipline, focus and sense of calmness through different levels of performing yogic Asana’s. Yoga Asana’s will make you to start respecting your body more and gain incredible flexibility. You will is strengthened through hard postures and advanced Asana’s. You’ll learn to be more humble, in peace with yourself and healthy on continuous and sincere practice of Yoga Asana’s.
4.Pranayama: The ‘Pranayama’ is an important aspect of yogic science. It has incredible body-healing, mind-healing science behind it. Literally, ‘Prana’ means Life-Force or Life-Energy that flows within our body. the base of Pranayama is ‘Breath Control’ that helps in sorting the nervous system’s uneasiness, stress, tension and gives a complete mental wellness upon disciplined continuous practice. Asana combined with Pranayama gives a complete wellness & health to you without a hint of doubt. A simple ‘Deep Breathe’ has a wonderful effect and imagine how the complete Pranayama would give you.
5.Pratyahara:The term ‘Pratyahara’ goes in to the ‘Withdrawal’ and ‘Retreat’ kind of mode from everything around. It is like moving away from external distractions and retreating to your inner-self and valuing it. It’s about detaching from your surroundings and still be aware of your senses.
6.Dharana:It’s more like a preparation stage that makes you ready for more concentration. Once you withdraw from outside distractions, anger, hate and others you can now focus on inner distractions like our thoughts, our believes, our attitudes and become more conscious of ourselves. Instead of thinking about what’s about to happen on work on Monday, try to concentrate on your inner voice or do deep breath and focus on it.
7.Dhyana:The ultimate point of Yogic science is to reach the part of Dhyana, where you transcend yourself in to the calmest void state which gives a wonderful consciousness level to you. It takes hard discipline, practice and life style changes including food we take. Yoga is a practice which over time gives perfection so as soon as you start don’t think that you can’t perfect it/ do it. Yoga takes time especially Dhyana is difficult to master. So enjoy the benefit of each stage and practice to perfect.
8. Samadhi: The stage of ‘Samadhi’ is the last stage where one remains conscious yet devoid of everything around, the stage that gives enlightenment and eternal peace to the soul. This stage is mastered only by those who renounce the worldly affairs and for others Dhyana level is well enough to cross the ocean of life. Asana and Pranayama will prepare you well enough to reach the levels.
B. Hatha Yoga
It has been used to define the practice of asana or postures. ‘Ha’ defines the vital or pranic force which governs the physical body; ‘tha’ defines the mental or Chitta force – both these force have to combine to lead a successful life. In general, the techniques are mainly to purify the body systems as well make the mind focus for kundalini and chakra practices.
The system of Hatha Yoga involves the use of asana with the shatkarmas (6 of them – mental and physical detox techniques); bandhas (the psycho-physiological energy is released), usage of mudhras as well as pranic awakening practices or Pranayama. The GURU fines your personality to assist you achieve the highest state of meditation and awareness.
C. Mantra Yoga
You recite a mantra (specialized words of Sanskrit). All the verses or words used in Vedas are known as mantras. It is assumed that when practiced with concentration, recitation of a special word can make you achieve salvation.
D. Bhakti Yoga
In simple words, it is an act of complete faith or extreme devotion. All religions are found on the principles of Humanity.
The most important factor to be taken in consideration – the person following the path should have very good emotional bond with the object or person he/she has faith in. Flow of emotional energy can make an individual reach the higher state of mind. In other words, this practice can bring one to self-realization.
E. Karma Yoga
The best way in which you show devotion to your work. Everyone lose their identity while performing the work, and only the selfless work remains in place. If you are working in intention with awards or promotion, it cannot be called Karma Yoga. Non-attachment in the work, as well becoming the perfect instrument to attain super consciousness can be defined as the ultimate aim for Karma Yoga.
F. Swara Yoga
Swara is the Sanskrit word, meaning note or sound. The method you can control the consistent flow of air by nostrils can be defined as ‘Swara Yoga.’ In this technique, the association of breath is made with different elements and activities of nature such as the moon, sun, seasons such as winter and summer; Also to be taken in account are the mental and physical conditions of individuals. This technique also contains more theory and practices relating to breathing techniques.
G. Jnana Yoga
As the name suggests – Jnana means ‘Yoga.’ The intellectual knowledge is converted to practical wisdom. You discover the connection to nature as well as the universe. You use learning to attain the crust of meditative state and also inner knowledge.
In this technique, you find the answer to questions using meditation or by the instructions of a MASTER.
Few of the techniques followed are:
- Realization and not simply belief
- Experience of knowledge
- Experience inner wisdom
- Self-awareness continuing to self-analysis.
H. Kundalini Yoga (From the Tantras)
This technique is associated with awakening of the chakras or psychic centers. Do you know that these ‘energy centers’ are in every individual? The number of chakras in the human beings are 7.
In Kundalini Yoga, all the chakras are awakened as well the activities linked with these energy centers.
I. Kriya Yoga
The word ‘kriya’ means movement or activity and points to the movement or activity where you attain consciousness. You practice a method in which you attain the highest state of perfection. Your body flows even without your knowledge.
Out of the 70 kriyas, only 20 have remained in practice.
J. Raja Yoga
Eight stages of yoga described by Sage Patanjali is known as Raja Yoga.
Refinement of personality and human behavior is attained by the use of niyamas (disciplines) and yamas (restraint). You can win over physical health as well as vitality by pranayama (breathing techniques) and asanas (postures); By making use of sensory withdrawal (pratyahara) and concentration (Dharana) you resolve as well manage the emotional and mental conflicts of your life; By using meditation (dhyana) and absorption in the universal identity (Samadhi) you develop the creative aspect of consciousness for awareness.