Yoga: Introduction, History & Philosophy

Young people do yoga indoors

Introduction

Waking up every morning to face diverse challenges that may come your way can make mind and body unsettled. These are thoughts which occupy your mind like bills payment, raising kids, meeting the family needs, etc. sometimes, you feel so tired and you’re very sure you need some rest but then, you only sleep few hours and you’re. Even when you wake up without the help of an alarm or anyone, yet something kept telling you that you haven’t slept enough. At this point, there’s a need to make the body and mind correspond – this is where yoga comes in.

Yoga is a physical activity of the body that correspond with the spiritual mindset in order to improve the functionality of the body and mind. The physical activities involved in yoga may be in form of breathing techniques and physical postures while spiritual mindset development may be relaxation and meditation. These are few examples amongst the rest.

Yoga’s Brief History

Yoga began before the existence of any written account we study today and there’s no written record of the yoga inventor. The discipline of yoga was passed down from the yoga practitioners (yogis) to their students, hence the popularity and global reach came about the development of different yoga schools.

A Sanskrit root Yuj which means to “join together” or “to yoke” is the origin of the word “yoga”. While to some people, it means the union of the body and mind. The Sanskrit (Indo-European Vedas’ language), India’s religious texts of the ancient gave birth to yoga techniques and literature.

Indian Sage Patanjali produce a guidebook called Yoga Sutra, a 2,000-year-old treatise on the philosophy of yogic. The guidebook gives guidance on how to gain mastery on over the emotion and mind. It also advise on the framework on which spiritual growth of the entire yoga practiced in the contemporary age is based. The earliest written account of yoga is the Yoga Sutra, and it’s one of the oldest texts in existence.

Yoga is practiced by both male and female. A yogi or yogin is a male who practiced this discipline while a female practitioner is yogini. Initially, India yoga practitioners don’t practice fitness but focus on practices like pranayama – vital energy’s expansion through breathe, dharana – mental faculty’s placement/focus, and nada – sound. The popularity of yoga began in the West at the end of the 19th century. It comes up with postural yoga interest explosion in the year 1920s and 1930s, in India and later in the west.

Yoga’s Philosophy

In the ancient, reference was given to yoga in term of a tree with branches, trunk, roots, fruits, and blossoms. Each one of the six branches of yoga has uncommon characteristics and also symbolize and approach to life. The branches are:

  1. Raja Yoga: This is strict adherence and focused meditation on the eight limbs of yoga

  2. Jnana Yoga: This is wisdom and intellect through study

  3. Hatha Yoga: This is the mental and physical branch which involves the practice of pranayama and asana to prepare the body and mind.

  4. Tantra Yoga: This is a possible pathway of ceremony, ritual or consummation of a relationship.

  5. Bhakti Yoga: This is a devotion path to the right emotions and to cultivate tolerance and acceptance.

  6. Karma Yoga: This is a service path to willfully create a positive and unselfish future that may be caused by self-action.

Eight Limbs of Yoga

Traditionally, Raja yoga is referred to as eight limbs (ashtanga) yoga because there are eight paths that need attention. The eight limbs are:

  1. Asana: Combination of mind and body through physical activities.

  2. Pratyahara: Removal of a sense of perception, outside stimuli, and the external world.

  3. Yama: This is a sense of integrity and ethical standards. Yama is categorized into five, which are satya – truthfulness, brahmacharya – continence, ahimsa – nonviolence, aparigraha – non-covetousness, and asteya – non-stealing.

  4. Samadhi: The silent condition of joyful awareness.

  5. Pranayama: Act of controlling the breath, leading to the integration of mind and body.

  6. Niyama: Meditation practices, contemplative walks, self-discipline, and spiritual observance. The five nimaya includes samtosa – contentment, svadhyaya – the study of the holy scripture and self, saucha – cleanliness, isvara pranidhana – surrendering to God, and tapas – heat and spiritual austerities.

  7. Dhyana: A flow of uninterrupted meditation.

  8. Dharana: Concentration and one-pointedness of mind.

Chakras

Chakras simply mean spinning wheel which is a convergence of energy, feelings, thought, and the physical body – determinant of reality experience from personal desires or aversions, emotional reactions, a manifestation of physical symptoms and confidence or fear level. Physical, emotional or mental imbalances are triggered when energy is blocked in the chakra, manifesting symptoms such as poor digestion, anxiety, or lethargy. The theory is using asanas to free energy and to stimulate an imbalanced chakra.

There are seven important chakras with their own associations

1.      Ajna: This is the command or third-eye chakra which represents a meeting point between two active streams in the body. Although traditionally, ajna is described as white, it corresponds to the colors indigo, violet or royal blue. Practitioners with the pituitary gland, growth and development are associated with chakra.

2.      Anahata: This is the unstruck or heart chakra allied to the colors pink or green. Key issues with Anahata has to do with complex emotions, tenderness, equilibrium, compassion, well-being, rejection and unconditional love.

3.      Muladhara: At the base of the coccygeal region’s spine is the root support or root chakra. It holds the instinctual urges around sex, food, sleep, and survival. Also, it’s the realm of fears and avoidance.

4.      Sahasrara: Pure consciousness is represented by the thousand petaled or crown chakra. This chakra is situated at the head’s crown and it’s denoted by the color blue or red. Sahasrara includes the inner wisdom matters and the death of the body.

5.      Svadhishthana: The practitioners proclaims that one’s own base or pelvic chakra represents the home of the reproductive organs, the adrenals, and the genitourinary system.

6.      Vishuddha: This is the especially pure or throat chakra symbolized by the color blue or red and it’s associated by practitioners with the habitat of speech and hearing, and also the endocrine gland controlling metabolism.

7.      Manipura: This is known as the jewel city or navel chakra which is symbolized by color yellow and associated by practitioners with the digestive system, together with personal power, opinion formation, introversion, fear, and anxiety.

Types of Yoga

Contemporary, yoga has come in modern forms which have to do with exercises that focus on breathing, flexibility, and strength to boost both physical and mental well-being. Yoga comes in diverse styles without a style superseding the other. The most important is choosing an appropriate class for your fitness level. The types and styles of yoga may include the followings:

1.      Iyengar Yoga: focus on how to find the right alignment in every pose. This involves the use of props such as blankets, blocks, bolster, straps and chairs to achieve it.

2.      Jivamukti Yoga:  Jivamukti Yoga started in 1984 and it means “liberation while living”. It incorporates spiritual teachings and practice of vinyasa style. Each class with a theme that can be explored in yoga scripture, meditation, chanting, pranayama, music, and asana – can be physically enormous.

3.      Hatha Yoga: This is a common term for any yoga type that teaches physical postures. A class of yoga labeled hatha is often a gentle introduction to the primary yoga postures.

4.      Ashtanga Yoga: This is popular in the 1970s and it’s base on ancient yoga teachings. Every movement of the six established sequences of postures links to breath.

5.      Kripalu Yoga: This is a teaching for the practitioners to understand, accept and learn from the body. In this class, every student looks inward to find their own level of practice on a given day. Breathing exercise and gentle stretches begin the classes, followed by rounds of individual poses and relaxation.

6.      Viniyoga: Regardless of physical ability, viniyoga intend to be adaptable to any person. Teachers of viniyoga are highly trained and must be experts on yoga therapy and anatomy.

7.      Kundalini Yoga: This is a word of Sanskrit which means coiled. It is a meditation system directed towards the release of kundalini energy. A class usually start with chanting and end with singing. In-between features pranayama, meditation, and asana, designed to create a unique outcome.

8.      Yin: this is also known as Taoist yoga – a meditative and quiet yoga practice. Yin yoga allows the release of tension in basic joints; knees, hips, ankles, neck, shoulders and the entire back. In yin, muscles should be relaxed while gravity does the work.

9.      Restorative Yoga: This is a method of yoga that depends on relaxation. A class is spent in only four to five simple poses with the use of props like bolsters and blankets to take you deep in the relaxation process without exerting any effort while holding the pose.

10.    Bikram Yoga: This type of yoga takes place in a room that is artificially heated at a temperature around 105 degrees, and 40% humidity. Bikram involves a round of 26 poses and a sequence of two breathing exercises.

11.    Prenatal Yoga: These are the postures of yoga especially for pregnant women. It is designed to help women in all stages of pregnancy. It also supports getting back into shape after delivery.

12.    Power Yoga: This yoga type is adopted from the traditional Ashtanga system in the late 1980s and it’s solely an active and athletic yoga style.

13.    Sivananda: This is a five-point philosophy base system that holds proper breathing, exercise, diet, positive thinking, and relaxation work in conjunction to form a healthy lifestyle of yogic. It uses the twelve basic asanas, supported by savasana poses and sun salutations.