Yoga has aroused the curiosity of many, and if you have recently gained interest in this ancient science, then keep reading. We have put together a comprehensive guide on what is yoga, types of yoga, and a lot more than you can read through.
What is Yoga?
Yoga derives from Lord Shiva, the supreme Lord of Hinduism. According to Hindu scriptures, Lord Shiva is regarded as the Destroyer of all that is evil and negative. No wonder the science of Yoga is associated with him. After all, Yoga helps destroy all that is negative, such as stress, bad thoughts, and illnesses.
Lord Shiva is associated with infinite love, innocence, and positivity. One of Lord Shiva’s divine gifts to mankind is the knowledge and practice of Yoga.
The Origin of Yoga can be traced back to the Hindu holy scriptures, the Vedas. These Vedas were written by the divine seers known as “Rishis”. These divine seers or “Rishis” are believed to have obtained this knowledge from the Supreme Being, Lord Shiva.
Some researchers, who found yoga asanas or yoga poses engraved on the stones have traced the origin of Yoga to the Old Stone Age period. Hindu scriptures are much older than that and the discovery of the pillars submerged in the seas have proven that. So when the rest of the world was hunting for food, India was a developed and progressive nation with sound architectural monuments.
Further for the modern-day reader, doesn’t the concept of the divine origin of yoga make more sense? How on earth could anybody else get a clue that breathing in a certain way, or forming certain physical postures or yoga poses could cure certain inner physical and psychological ailments? Moreover, no seer or any person from the old stone age could have cooked up these yogic postures, breathing exercises and stated their physical and psychological benefits without the modern-day technology.
Types of Yogas
Before you start practicing yoga, it is very important for you to know what is Yoga. There are several types of yoga and you need to understand all of this before you enter the vast ocean of yoga.
The minute you hear the phrase ‘Raja Yoga’ the first question that pops in your mind is “What is Raja Yoga?” So, here we bring you a simplified explanation of that.
Raja yoga is the most beneficial form of yoga and focuses mainly on controlling the body through the mastery and absolute control over the mind. The word ‘Raja’ means ‘Kingly’, this is because the prime focus of Raja yoga is on the mind, and it refers to the mind as the king of the body. So, Raja Yoga is the process of realizing the supremacy of the mind over the body.
The ancient Hindu seers and rishis who aimed at merging with God – The Supreme King and The Infinite performed Raja Yoga. Several thousands of years ago, these seers recorded their scientific practices in writing. These ancient texts and records form the basis of Yogic meditation. However, 2000 years ago these written materials on Raja Yoga were put together and compiled by another well-known Seer by the name Pathanjali in his ‘Yoga Sutras’ and came to be known as ‘Pathanjali Yoga’.
Differences in the approaches of Raja Yoga and Pathanjali Yoga
Raja Yoga is an 8 step process while Pathanjali Yoga is a 2 step process and follows the last 2 steps of ‘Raja Yoga’.
The 8 steps of Raja Yoga
1.’Yama’ meaning a moral code of ethics or restraint.
2.’Niyama’ meaning a moral code of discipline.
3.’Asana’ meaning the postures.
4.’Pranayama’ meaning breathing practices.
5.’Pratyahara’ meaning withdrawal of senses.
6.’Dharana’ meaning concentration
7.’Dhyana’ meaning meditation practices
8.’Samadhi’ meaning ecstasy.
However, Pathanjali Yoga concentrates mainly on ‘Dhyana’ and ‘Samadhi’ – the last 2 steps of Raja Yoga.
In the simplest words, Hatha Yoga is that part of yoga which involves forcing your body to do something. This ‘something’ is usually forming a Yoga Asana or ‘Posture’ along with certain breathing techniques. This may include holding a particular Yoga asana or yoga pose, or by shifting through a series of yoga postures.
The secret knowledge of Hatha yoga is said to have been delivered to Goddess Parvathi by Lord Shiva on a lonely island. At this time, a fish (‘Matsya’ in Sanskrit) overheard this in absolute stillness and was later pardoned and transformed into a ‘Siddha’ (Seer) named ‘Matsyendranaatha’.
‘Matsyendranatha’ is said to have dispersed the knowledge of Hatha yoga to several others. ‘Matsyendranatha’ and several other seers such as Adi Natha and Gorakshanath have been mentioned in ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’, a renown text on Hatha Yoga.
Six Limbs of Hatha Yoga
- ‘Dhyana’ meaning meditation practices.
- ‘Dharana’ meaning concentration.
- ‘Samadhi’ meaning ecstasy.
- ‘Pranayama’ meaning breathing practices.
- ‘Asana’ meaning postures.
- ‘Pratyahara’ meaning the withdrawal of senses.
Texts on Hatha Yoga
- ‘Hatha Yoga Pradipika’ is a comprehensive manual on hatha yoga. It was written by Svatmarama, in 1350 A.D. and contains 15 yoga asanas.
- ‘Siddha Siddhanta Paddhati’ by Gorakhnath, a student of Sage Matsyendranatha.
- ‘Gherand Samhita’ by Gheranda.
- ‘Yoga Taravali’ by Adi Shankaracharya and many more.
Vinyasa yoga is a sub-set of ‘Hatha Yoga’, but the key in this form is transitioning. So, this form of yoga which involves the transition from one Yoga Asana or Yoga Poses to another. Along with the poses, you also need to focus on your breathing.
After all, ‘Vinyasa’ means a particular set of movements combined with the appropriate breathing techniques. Therefore, according to Experts, Vinyasa yoga is the most appropriate kind of yoga for weight loss. Vinyasa yoga is also the root of various yoga styles, and some of the styles that have evolved from it include the following.
Ashtanga yoga is a form of Vinyasa Yoga, which is yet another type of yoga. It was K.Pattabhi Jois who popularized this type of yoga. Jois was a student of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya.
Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya was also the teacher of B.N.S.Iyengar, a renown ashtanga vinyasa yoga guru credited with the Iyengar yoga fame.
Bikram Yoga or Hot Yoga
Bikram Yoga often dubbed as ‘Hot Yoga’, is yet another form of yoga that has evolved over time. This form is performed in an artificial atmosphere (around 105 F), hence we do not recommend it. This form includes a series of 26 Yoga Asanas or Yoga Poses, done for a period of 90 minutes.
Yoga is all about nature and connecting with it, so performing it in a pre-heated room with a temperature of 105 F does not appeal to us. We do not recommend this form of Yoga.
Bikram Yoga Poses again evolve from the ancient texts on Yoga with some modification. However, we find it annoying that this form of yoga is performed in a heated room. So, we do not recommend this form of Yoga and it is for you to decide.
As a matter of fact, traditionally Yoga comes from the Hindu scriptures and there is no mention of alteration in the room temperature. In fact, it is possible to generate enough heat from within the body by following certain Yoga Practices. In fact, this is how the Hindu Seers meditated in the snow-laden Himalayas.