What Is Yoga? – Ultimate Guide For Beginners

The discipline of Yoga is thought to have originated in India about 5,000 years ago. It has, of course, over the centuries, been adapted and modified across the world. The word yoga actually arises from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which basically means to unite or join. In its simplest sense, the pinnacle of Yoga would be to achieve ‘kaivalya’, which is often thought, in contemporary practice, to mean union.

Yoga Description

Wikipedia describes Yoga as ‘an Indian physical, mental and spiritual practice or discipline’. They go on to say that there are a number of different religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, that have various interpretations of how Yoga is performed.

The best-known types of Yoga are Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga. It is thought that this ancient form of exercise (in a physical way) can improve a person’s flexibility, strength and control.

What Does Yuj Mean?

The physicality of yoga is just the outer layer, it is the Yuj (remember that means to unite or join) of the mind and body that makes Yoga so beautifully rounded, hence the name of my website. Controlled movement and associated breathing can bring an inner calmness and so many people strive for this ‘time-out’ in their busy daily lives.

Studies have also shown that the practice can improve muscular–skeletal strength and it has a positive effect on mental health.

Isn’t Yoga Just for Backpackers and Hippies?

The main components of Yoga are based on a series of exercises or poses involving breathing and movement designed to improve suppleness and stability, both components of a good posture. Further health benefits can, therefore, be a reduced chance of injury and an increased likelihood of avoiding such things as back pain and hernias.

Today Yoga is a popular exercise and is practised a variety of places such as health clubs, hospitals and schools. People have embraced yoga and the stigma attached to the practice that it is linked to religion and higher beliefs (even though still important) is a distant memory. So much so that professional sports teams use it to increase their player’s prevention of injury, to keep them flexible and during strength training sessions.

Below is an example of a former professional soccer player from England who has sworn by its positive effects for years and in fact helped him at the top level until his 40s, an age when most players have been retired for several years.

Some of the Types of Yoga Practised Today

Hatha Yoga

One of the best-known types of yoga, Hatha yoga has similar origins to the fundamental form of the practise. It consists of a set of physical exercises which are known as asanas or postures. These asanas are in place in order to align the skin, muscles and bones. It is also important that during these postures the spine or the main channels along with others are opened to allow energy to flow freely.

Rāja Yoga

So if Hatha yoga is associated with series of movements, Raja yoga has its focus on the mind, you might call it ‘yoga for the mind’ if you like. It is sometimes also known as ‘Royal Yoga’, it is included in all forms of the discipline and is really something that will go beyond most of the styles of the yoga you will around today, almost beyond the mainstream of the practice.

Its focus on meditation and the benefits that this will bring for spiritual empowerment giving a person a ‘self-realisation’ and a ‘purposeful evolution of conscientious’. Basically meaning that one can gain enrichment and strengthened spiritual focus when carried out correctly. Also, it is thought that Raja yoga will increase awareness, self-confidence and give mental clarity to the practitioner and their relationship with the world around them.

Power Yoga

With an emphasis on strength and flexibility power yoga is normally credited to have been invented by 2 Americans; Bryan Kest of Los Angeles and Beryl Bender Birch of New York. It is described in the west as a fitness-based vigorous type of yoga, an extension of Vinyasa-style, which involves flowing synchronised movement whilst breathing correctly in the right places.

However, many people think of it to have been originally introduced based on the Ashtanga method which means ‘eight limbs’ in Sanskrit. The difference between the more traditional style of Ashtange and the more modern power yoga is that the latter practice doesn’t follow a set series of poses, therefore classes of this type can widely vary, it is still a great way to get into yoga for a person who likes a ‘gym’ style workout.

Iyengar Yoga

Named after its inventor Bellur Iyengar, this style of yoga is based on Hatha Yoga that has attention to precision, detail and alignment with an involvement of posture and control of breathing. Through this practise, one can gain mobility, stability and strength.

In Iyengar yoga there are many different classical poses of yoga ranging from easy to more complex positions, it also places an emphasis on the use of the spirit, body and mind. This type of yoga often uses props, such as blankets or blocks, to assist in the creation of the poses. Due to the fact that one may feel an improvement in posture and because of the attention to the alignment of the body, Iyengar yoga is very good for people who experience back pain.

So there you have it, a quick summary giving you a brief idea of what yoga is about. This post could have gone on forever as there are contested views as to the origins of each type and style of yoga. I merely wanted to give a synopsis of the practice.

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