What is Yoga?
Yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word “Yuj” which means “to join”. And hence yoga means unity or oneness. At the spiritual level, yoga means union of all the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness. And at the physical level, yoga means balancing the mind and emotions and in turn turning the body an awesome place to live in. According to Maharishi Patanjali, “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah”. This is the Sanskrit definition and the translation to English is that Yoga is the removal of the fluctuations in the mind and hence Yoga is the suppression of the modifications of the mind. Swami Vivekananda emphasized the role of Yoga as the main means to accelerate the evolution of the soul. And evolution is a natural process. And using yoga the natural process of evolution can speed up. In Bhagwad Gita it is said that “Karmasu Yogasu Kaushalam”. This means that Yoga is dexterity in action. And yoga can lead to perfection in actions which in turn can provide a calmness to the human being. Dexterity means that all the actions are done with maximum efficiency.
Different types of Yoga
There are mainly two types of Yoga and then they are divided further into other types. So they are as follows:
- Ashtanga Yoga – Ashtanga means eight steps of Yoga, which includes, Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi.
- Jnana Yoga – This type of Yoga has been described in the Upanishads as a mean to obtain the meditative state and even obtaining the intuitive ability. The name itself explains the meaning as the word jnana means ‘knowledge and wisdom’ and that is the reason this type of Yoga is known as the Yoga of knowledge and wisdom. In addition, this Yoga helps to bring meditative awareness which in turn brings the human beings closer to their inner nature and that gives birth to intuitive faculties.
- Hatha Yoga – This is a generalized style of Yoga which includes many types of Yoga in it. It is an old system and it includes various asanas and pranayama. Both of them together help maintain good body posture and health. It can help the body to become more spiritual and in turn, it can be helpful for great meditation experience. In the Upanishads, this type of Yoga has a purpose for attaining mental purification and balance. Hatha yoga is the yoga of channeling all the pranas in the human body. Moreover, by yogic literature Hatha is the combination of two mantras, ham and tham and that corresponds to Pingala and Ida nadis respectively.
- Bhakti Yoga – This type of Yoga is also known as Bhakti Marga and it is a spiritual path or spiritual practice. Hinduism is also enforced in this type of Yoga. So the basic teaching of this Yoga is to believe in personal God. And one of the teachings of this Yoga is “See the Divine in everything”. Moreover, Bhakti Yoga is the union of the person with god through immense devotion.
- Karma Yoga – Karma is translated as ‘action’. And hence Karma Yoga is any action performed by beings to attain meditative awareness. This is the Yoga which provides the human being with a path of unselfish actions. The teachings of this Yoga are that a person must do the work and tasks without expectations of fruit or consequences. The fruit of the labor will be provided tot hat person as much as he/she deserves. And that’s what karma means. And hence it teaches the people to bring the attitude of selflessness in everyday life.
- Mantra Yoga – Mantra Yoga as described by the Upanishads is translated as sound vibration. The literal meaning is “the force that liberates the mind from bondage”. So according to Yoga the gross mind or the mental nature has two attributes which hold it in bondage. The first being mala which means impurities and the second is vikshepa meaning dissipation. And to overcome all these Mantra Yoga is helpful. As mantras are cosmic sounds which could be discovered in higher states of meditation after one starts to discover the source of existence especially the experienced yogis.
- Nada Yoga – This Yoga is all about sounds. There are multiple types of sounds like coarse, fine, sweet, etc. And all these sounds are considered to be playing a vital role in the human body to achieve a deeper unity of the soul and the body. The exact meaning of nada is union through sound and hence it is called the yoga of sound.
- Kundalini Yoga – This is the school of yoga which is influenced by the Shaktism and Tantra schools. Kundalini means a form of divine energy which is said to be located at the base of the spine. And hence this yoga is about the awakening of the Kundalini energy by doing some practices like mantra, tantra, yantra or meditation.
- Tantra Yoga – Tantra is the combination of two words, tanoti and travati, which mean expansion and liberation respectively. Therefore Tantra Yoga is the science of expanding consciousness and liberating the energy. Tantra is like a way of attaining freedom from the bondage of the world while still living in it. And for that one must know the limits of the body and mind. So one must work on different energies in the body to enhance the spiritual growth of the body and hence the physical wellbeing too.
- Lava Yoga – Lava Yoga is similar to both Kriya and Kundalini Yoga. The techniques of Lava Yoga are more meditative as compared to the Kriya and Kundalini in nature. They deal with various expressions of consciousness and then combining them for the manifestation of energy.
- Kriya Yoga – It is an ancient meditation technique of energy and breath control. It is part of the actions that people do to follow the spiritual path. It accelerates spiritual growth.
- Raja Yoga – This type of Yoga can be divided further into bahiranga and antaranga. The first group means external yoga which contains the first four stages: Yama, niyama, asana, and pranayama. These change the external personality, behavior, and actions that are related to the interactions of the world. And the latter four stages: pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi constitute towards the internal yoga. Here all the work related to mind is done and hence peaceful union within the mind. It is a mental process of observation, analysis, reflection, contemplation, meditation, and achievement. And hence Raja Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga are the same.
Ashtanga Yoga means eight-limbed yoga. And hence the practice consists of following eight spiritual ways as follows:
- Yama – This means the moral codes that a person follows.
- Niyama – Niyama means personal code of conduct or personal discipline. Yama contribute towards the well controlling of the mind.
- Asana – This means to do different postures with the body. This must be followed by the person in order to make the body healthy and strong. And after the body is well stabilized the person can work well with the mind.
- Pranayama – Breath control is meant by this practice. These are referred to as external cleansing practices.
- Pratyahara – This practice means withdrawal of the senses. It forms the foundation of internal cleaning practices. And it helps the mind to become more arrested in a single direction, hence results in bringing deep relaxation.
- Dharana – It means concentration. It is an internal cleaning practice which helps the person to focus on a certain task at a time. And give full efficiency towards it.
- Dhyana – Dhyana means meditation. Meditation is a state of mind. When the focus is uninterrupted, then the person achieves the Meditation state. It helps the mind to stay calm.
- Samadhi – This means absorption into the universe. After doing all the above the purification is complete and hence the mind control occurs.
Benefits of Yoga Asanas
- Asanas help to control emotions.
- Stimulate the circulation of blood. And that could lead to good postures and a healthy body.
- The muscles are stretched and hence they will be youthful.
- It enhances the physical fitness of the person and hence one does not get tired easily.
- Asanas promote losing of the excess body fat.
- Asana increases the concentration of the mind.
- ● They promote healing of various body problems like constipation, stomach illness, and
- Asanas regulate and purify the nadis (psychic path).
- Asana stimulates the chakra and the distributing energy all over the body.
Benefits of Pranayama
- Pranayama increases the capacity of the lungs.
- It provides relaxation towards the nervous system of the body. As when more oxygen is filled then the body feels relaxed.
- It awakens the spiritual energy from within. A certain sound like Om can also be made while doing pranayama.
- Pranayama leads to loss of excess body fat by doing a type like Kapalbhati.
- This promotes maintaining a balance between the two hemispheres of the brain.
- Reduce fatigue and stress and prevents the body from burning out.
- Awakening of the vital energy.
- Higher consciousness.
- The Shiva Samhita (3:44) states:
Benefits of Meditation
- It can help the human body to get rid of the addictions if any. The bad addictions should be removed as they cause much harm.
- It enhances self-awareness and hence the person starts paying more attention towards himself/herself.
- It helps to control anxiety.
- The stress is reduced by doing meditation regularly.
- It can promote the emotional health of the person. And hence one could feel more satisfied and calm emotions after doing meditation.
- Mediation improves the sleep of the person. It enables the person to have a deep and more fulfilling sleep.
- It can also help to decrease blood pressure in the human body. And the reduction of the blood pressure could lead to prevention concerning many diseases.
- So in all, there are many benefits that are physical, mental, spiritual, etc.
Benefits of Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra means yogic sleep. It is the practice of Pratyahara.
- Yoga Nidra leads to a reduction in the stress level.
- It enhances the sleep pattern of the person.
- It helps the person to relax the mind after all the yoga asanas and pranayamas.
- It helps in releasing the tension from the body and hence the person feels more calm and fulfilling.
- It is also a way to remove depression and anxiety.
- One of the most important benefits is that one could connect with himself/herself. This is the best thing one can do. And yoga Nidra promotes that.
In a nutshell, this was everything about Yoga. Here we discussed everything from the meaning of Yoga to the types of Yoga. And then we saw the benefits of different yogic practices and why it must be done. So do Yoga and have a healthy and happy life.