Yoga means Union. It is a physical and mental disciple from India used to unit the Individual Consciousness (Soul) with the Supreme Consciousness (Absolute - Universal Soul).
The average person thinks of Yoga as a physical exercise of stretching and posing. This is only a small part of the whole system of yoga. This part is know as Hatha Yoga.
Hatha Yoga is the path of physical and mental purification and is part of the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga which is part of Raja Yoga which is part of the 4 Paths of Yoga. Through practice the Yogi purifies and controls their mind and energy.
Traditionally Yoga was taught in a Guru System (Master to Disciple) (One to One). Each disciple was taught based on individual needs and levels. In modern times systems and series have been developed for the general public. Further, through marketing many different names, brands and styles have developed.
5 Points of Yoga
Proper Exercise -Asana (poses)
Our bodies are meant to be used. Walking, climbing, running, gathering, etc… are natural for us to do. During this modern age we have become very inactive. With the use of cars, trains and other conveniences our physical bodies are not getting exercised. Office workers sit for hours at a time at a desk on a computer while their physical bodies become stiff and tense full of aches and pains.
Asanas (steady pose) are used in Yoga to strengthen, stretch and flex the body making it strong and subtle. Yoga Asanas don’t just exercise muscles, bones and joints, but they also exercise the internal organs of the body. By massaging, stretching and compacting the organs, toxins are released and the organs or refreshed and rejuvenated.
The main benefits of Asanas are for the Spirit (Soul). Yoga is a spiritual practice which has been handed down by saints and sages. The Asanas and combination of them in a series have great benefits to the soul.
Proper Breathing -Pranayama (breathing exercises)
Yogis believe that life is not measured in years, but rather that life is measured in breaths.
It is very rare to find someone who is breathing correctly. Breath is usually shallow, short and quick. This is due to incorrect posture and tension.
There are 3 areas of the body used for breathing; naval, chest and shoulders. A full yogic breath uses all three areas.
Pranayama are breathing exercises that control the breath and prana (universal energy).
Proper Relaxation - Physical, Mental and Spiritual
Our Physical, Mental and Spiritual Bodies are full of stress and tension. Relaxation is needed for the bodies to recharge and rejuvenate.
Diet is one of our basic needs for survival. Water and food should be pure and in the closest form from nature as possible. Yogis believe that vegetarian is natural for humans and killing is bad for their karma.
Positive Thinking and Meditation
Our thoughts control our experience of life. If someone has a negative state of mind they will have a negative life. On the other hand if someone has a positive outlook, their life will be full of positive situations and experiences.
Two people eat a piece of cake from the same cake. The first person liked the cake, but the second person didn’t. The cake is the same just the experience is different.
We all know the famous “the glass is half-empty or half-full”. It’s all in the state of the person’s mind which determines their view.
Meditation is a state when the individual soul is connected to the Universal Soul, which is the ultimate goal of yoga.
4 Paths of Yoga
Karma yoga is the path of Selfless Service. The yogi serves others with no desire for reward.
Bhakti yoga is the path of Devotion through spiritual practices such as prayer, chanting, singing and worship. Most religions are forms of Bhakti Yoga.
Raja Yoga is the “Royal Road” to Control the Body, Mind and Spirit through various practices.
The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga (Ashtanga Yoga)
1) Yamas - Restraints (Don’ts)
Ahimsa - Non-Violence
Satyam - Truthfulness
Brahmacharya - Control of the Senses
Aparigraha - Non-Covetousness (desire)
2) Niyamas - Observances (Do’s)
Saucha - Purification
Santosha - Contentment
Tapas - Austerity (simple living)
Swadhyaya - Study of Sacred Texts
Ishwara Pranidhana - Following the Will of God
3) Asanas - Postures (Hatha Yoga)
4) Pranayama - Control of Breath (Hatha Yoga)
5) Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the Senses
6) Dharana - Concentration
7) Dhyana - Meditative State
8) Samadhi - Superconscious State
Jnana Yoga is the path of Knowledge and Wisdom through the study of Philosophy.