What is Yoga?

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Yoga originates from Ancient India. Commonly speaking Yoga is a mental, spiritual or physical practice meant to attain state of permanent piece. It is also defined as “union with the divine”

According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali yoga is “the stilling of the changing states of the mind”. Patanjali’s work is one of the first, most popular and successful attempts to systematize yoga into formal philosophy. Essentially Yoga Sutras of Patanjali is a huge collection of 196 Indian aphorisms (texts, rules) on Yoga practice. They are the foundation of Raja Yoga (the highest state of practical yoga, also known as royal practice).

Raja Yoga is one of the 4 (four) Yoga forms (branches):

  1. Mantra yoga
  2. Laya yoga
  3. Hatha yoga
  4. Raja yoga

Yoga is part of the 6 astika schools of Hindu philosophy. Astika (means “it exists” equals to the western term “ortodox”) philosophical schools are:

  1. Nyāyá
  2. Vaiśeṣika
  3. Sāṃkhya
  4. Yoga
  5. Mimāṃsā
  6. Vedānta

These 6 astika schools accept and support the authority of the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures.
Whereas other 4 nastica schools does not. Some Nastica (means “it does not exist” equals to the western term “heterodox”) philosophical schools are:

  • Cārvāka
  • Ājīvika and the most notable ones:
  • Jainism and Buddhism

Yoga is very old

Patanjali worked around the early centuries CE and Yoga existed long before that. Around 1000 CE Hatha yoga emerged as a prominent (preferred) yoga style that marks the beginning of the development of full body postures. In fact it’s the Hatha yoga style, and its numerous contemporary variations, which we associate with the term yoga every time we hear it nowadays.

Essentially yoga is much more than simple set of body postures or physical stretching exercises. Modern understanding of yoga is quite simplified. I myself was quite astonished by the true aspects of yoga.

Yoga is a state of mind. Yoga is a way to achieve the divine.

Yoga is much more spiritual than physical by its origin, although every time I hear the word I imagine a group of people, laying on mats with twisted legs and arms in various strange postures.

Hatha Yoga

All we know today about Hatha Yoga is due to the extensive work Yogi Swatmarama has done somewhere around 15th century in India. His masterpiece “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” is believed to be the oldest text on the Hatha yoga to survive the hardships of time. Actually there are three more classic texts on Hatha yoga, but this one is unique by being the oldest one.

Hatha Yoga Basis

Traditional Hatha yoga follows the holistic way of living. It includes disciplines, postures (called asana), purification procedures (called shatkriya), gestures (called mudra), breathing techniques (called pranayama), and meditation.

The yoga practiced throughout the western world is mainly postures, i.e. Hatha yoga asana is understood as the physical exercise of posturing. Yoga is very much loved and highly appreciated and recognized for its stress-reducing capabilities.

Yoga of six parts

Hatha yoga and Raja yoga are the two branches (forms) of yoga that focuse on the physical part. Often they are referred to as sadanga yoga (“sad” – six and “anga” – limbs), i.e., yoga of six parts . Here are some popular meditative asanas:

  • Lotus Posture (padmasana)
  • Accomplished Posture (siddhasana)
  • Easy Posture (sukhasana)
  • Pelvic Posture (vajrasana)

Hatha represents the never ending battle between opposing energies: male and female, hot and cold, positive and negative. Through yoga hatha you may attempt to achieve that fragile balance.
Imagine your mind and body balanced via physical postures or yoga “asanas”, purification practices, controlled breathing, and the calming of the mind through relaxation and meditation.

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