The modern world has brought a wide range of goods and materials to human beings due to advancements in scientific technology. These goods and materials have reduced lot of physical work that people were manually doing previously. This may look like a blessing but it has also ushered in new and more complicated problems. The fast life that the present society expects from individuals, the need to succeed and be on top always, the materialistic view of life with self enjoyment as the sole purpose, etc. have produced severe strain on the body, mind and spirit of every individual. This ever increasing selfishness, agitation of mind, confusion, craving, and violence, etc. have been the cause of high amount of physical and mental stress in all of us. This is where the ancient practice and discipline of yoga that has originated in India is of great help to humanity. One of the most popular saints of recent times, Swami Shivananda of Rishikesh, Himalayas, India states that yoga is one of the most perfect and practical systems of self-culture.
Definition and Meaning of Yoga
Yoga is a generic term for a discipline that involves body, mind and spirit. The word, ‘yoga’ is derived from the root Sanskrit word, ‘yuj’ which literally means ‘to join’, ‘to attach’, ‘to unite’ and ‘to add’. Further, yoga can also have other connotations like ‘contact’, ‘connection’, ‘performance’, ‘application’ and ‘method’. In Hindu philosophical tradition, there are six types of schools, namely nyaya, samkhya, vaisesika, yoga, vedanta and mimamsa. Yoga is one of these six schools of thought and practice. It is generally accepted that Sage Patanjali was the first one to classify the various aspects of yoga and propound it as a sound practice to cam and lift the human body, mind and spirit. The yoga of Patanjali is also known as Raja Yoga or Princely Yoga and Patanjali have divided his yoga into eight parts, thus the name Ashtanga Yoga. If an individual practices yoga with a very high commitment, then that man is called as yogi and that woman is known as yogini.
Another major discipline in yoga is termed as Hatha Yoga, believed to have been formulated by Gorakshanatha and Matseyndranath and elaborated further by Yogi Swatmarama. Hatha yoga differs substantially from the Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali, since it focuses on shatkarma or six activities. The purpose of Hatha Yoga is to purify the body, resulting in the subsequent and automatic purification of mind termed as ‘ha’ and prana or vital energy termed as ‘tha’. Further, ‘ha’ also means the Sun and ‘tha’ the moon. Hence, the name Hatha Yoga has come into existence. Since Hatha Yoga poses concentrates more on the development of asanas or various types of body postures, it has become quite famous and what is in practice today as yoga is based on the principles of Hatha Yoga. However, over the years, various practitioners and teachers of Hatha Yoga have introduced their own variations and many schools of yoga exist today all over the world.
Other Branches of Yoga
Several other branches of yoga have also surfaced during the history of humanity. Lord Krishna in his famous Bhagavat Gita proposes three types of yogas for everyone, namely Karma Yoga (yoga of perfection in actions), Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion to a Supreme Power) and Jnana Yoga (yoga of superior knowledge about self). Other popular yoga schools are japa yoga (yoga of chanting specific mantras), nada yoga (yoga of sound) and tapa yoga (yoga of austerity and self-denial). However, kundalini yoga (yoga that helps in raising the dormant power, kundalini, at the end of the spinal cord at the bottom and uniting it with the Supreme Power situated at the top of the head, with that power passing through various power centres known as chakras) is also highly prominent among the practitioners of modern yoga along with Hatha Yoga.
Benefits of Yoga
There are several physical, mental and spiritual benefits that we can obtain if we practise yoga regularly after learning it from a highly trained and experienced yoga teacher, known as yoga guru or a yoga master. Yoga is now recognised all over the world as an authentic scientific practice that has the power to cure, control or prevent several diseases and physical ailments. Yoga has also been found to be highly useful in reducing or completely eliminating physical and mental stress that has become part of the modern society due to the various peer pressures in educational institutions, sports, workplaces and in society in general. Yoga provides increased energy, vitality, vigour, a high standard of health and longevity of life. Yoga calms the mind and body in a very delicate manner and lifts the spirit by coordinating the subtle forces inside us.
Latest Types of Yoga
Hence, today knowledgeable yoga teachers have developed different approaches to suit different categories and sections of the society. As such, at present we have yoga for kids, yoga for adults, yoga for athletes, yoga for seniors, yoga for patients with physical ailments, yoga for patients suffering from mental disorders, etc. Even further special classifications such as yoga for lower backs, yoga for pregnant women, and yoga for nursing mothers, meditation for stress related issues, etc. have also become quite common to address specific needs of such categories of people.
Select a Right Yoga Master
Whichever type of yoga practice that you undertake for yourself or your loved ones, it is important that you approach only a qualified and experienced yoga master, since several dubious yoga gurus and imposters also try to fleece people with yoga classes and make quick money. The consequences of training under such persons can be dangerous and even disastrous. Yoga is highly beneficial to all individuals if practised properly with caution under a competent yoga master, since it is the only practice that addresses all aspects of body, mind and spirit simultaneously, while other branches of science usually target only one of these three aspects.