Introduction to Yoga
The aspect of yoga that most people are aware of is "Hatha Yoga" or the yoga of postures. Yoga, however, is a school of thought that aims to attain unity of mind, body and spirit; developing a strong, healthy and flexible body is but one aspect of this ancient science. Yogis revere the body. However, they do this because they realize that a weak and tired body is a hindrance towards spiritual progress. By being mindful of the breath while they practice the various postures, they train themselves to discipline their minds. By disciplining their minds, they are able to abide by the principles which Yoga stands for.
First amongst these principles is "Ahimsa", or non-violence in thought, deed, and action not only to other human beings, but also to all living creatures, and most importantly to our own selves. Remember this when you tend to push yourself into a forward bend! You will be able to do it over a period of time, just be easy on yourself now.
Anyone can practice yoga. You don't need any special equipment, clothing, classes just the will to pursue a healthier and happier lifestyle. The yoga postures and asanas exercise every part of the body, stretching and toning the muscles and joints, the spine and the entire skeletal system. And they work not only on the body's frame but on the internal organs, glands and nerves as well, keeping all systems in radiant health. By releasing physical and mental tension, they also liberate vast resources of energy. The yogic breathing exercises known as pranayama revitalize the body and help control the mind, leaving you calm and refreshed while the practice of positive thinking and meditation gives increased clarity, mental power and concentration.
Yoga is a complete science of life that originated in India many thousands of years ago. It is the oldest system of personal development in the world encompassing the entire body, mind and spirit. The ancient yogis had a profound understanding of man's essential nature and of what he needs to live in harmony with himself and his environment. They perceived the physical body as a vehicle, with the mind as driver, the soul as man's true identity, and action, emotion and intelligence as the three forces which pull the body-vehicle. In order for there to be integrated development these three forces must be in balance. Taking into account the interrelationship between body and mind, the yogis formulated a unique method for maintaining this balance - a method that combines all the movements you need for physical health with the breathing and meditation techniques that ensure peace of mind.
The classical techniques of Yoga date back more than 5,000 years. In ancient times, the desire for greater personal freedom, health and long life, and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this system of physical and mental exercise which has since spread throughout the world. The word Yoga means to join or yoke together, and it brings the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.
The whole system of Yoga is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation. The exercises of Yoga are designed to put pressure on the glandular systems of the body, thereby increasing its efficiency and total health. The body is looked upon as the primary instrument that enables us to work and evolve in the world, and so a Yoga student treats it with great care and respect. Breathing techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body. The Yoga student gently increases breath control to improve the health and function of both body and mind. These two systems of exercise and breathing then prepare the body and mind for meditation, and the student finds an easy approach to a quiet mind that allows silence and healing from everyday stress. Regular daily practice of all three parts of this structure of Yoga produce a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.
Yoga in Your Life
Many people are first drawn to yoga as a way to keep their bodies fit and supple - good to look and live in. Other come seeking relief or help for a specific complaint, like tension or backache. Some are merely impelled by a sense that they are not going to getting as much out of life as they could be. Whatever your reason, yoga can be a tool, an instrument for you - giving you both wat you came for, and more. To understand what yoga is all about you need to experience it for yourself. At first glance it seems little more than a series of strange physical postures, which keep the body lean and flexible. But in time, anyone who continues with regular practice becomes aware of a subtle change in their approach to life - for through persistently toning and relaxing the body and stilling the mind, you begin to glimpse a state of inner peace which is your true nature. It is that constitutes the essence of yoga - this self realization that we are all seeking, consciously or unconsciously, and towards which we are all gradually evolving. If you can bring your mind and thoughts under control there is literally no limit what you can do - since it is our only our own illusion and preconceptions that holds us back and prevent us from fulfilling ourselves.
There are many different lineages - branches - paths of Yoga for different personalities. These stand for various yogic approaches or features of the path. Once you start a path you usually try to stick with it.
Below is a descriptive list of forty such terms. Not all of these form full-fledged branches or types of Yoga, but they represent at least emphases in diverse contexts. All are instructive insofar as they demonstrate the vast scope of Hindu Yoga.
The unitive discipline of nonbeing, meaning the higher yogic practice of immersion into the Self without objective support such as mantras; a concept found in the purAnas.
The unitive discipline of the inner self; sometimes said to be the Yoga characteristic of the Upanishads
The unitive discipline of fire, causing the awakening of the serpent power (kundalini-shakti) through the joint action of mind (manas) and life force (prana). Agni Yoga is a synthesis of all yogas, especially Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga. Agni is the Sanskrit word for Fire - the Creative Fire of the Cosmos - the Fire that is found in varying degrees at the foundation of all Yogas.
The unitive discipline of the eight limbs, i.e., Raja-Yoga or patanjala-Yoga
The unitive discipline of "noncontact," which is the nondualist Yoga propounded by Gaudapada in his Mandukya-Karika; cf. Sparsha-Yoga
The Yoga of love and devotion. The Way of Transcendent Love which sees the whole universe, animate and inanimate, as being pervaded by divinity. Also very much involved with service (refering Karma Yoga), and way of the heart. The unitive discipline of love/devotion, as expounded, for instance, in the Bhagavad-Gita, the Bhagavata-purana, and numerous other scriptures of Shaivism and Vaishnavism
The unitive discipline of the higher mind, first mentioned in the Bhagavad-Gita
The unitive discipline of meditation
The unitive discipline of the "pot" (ghata), meaning the body; a synonym for Hatha-Yoga mentioned in the Gheranda-Samhita
The unitive discipline relative to one's teacher
The unitive discipline of the force (meaning the serpent power or kundalin-shakti); or forceful unitive discipline. Hatha Yoga ensures good physical and mental health. This is for those who are more into the physical. You must utilize this to the best advantage by deep meditation on the Atman or inner Self. Self-realization should be your goal. This should be achieved by the constant remembrance of God, by righteousness, by a life of virtue and by the practice of Yoga. Hatha Yoga is the system most famIliar to the westerner. This branch of yoga uses physical poses, breathing techniques and relaxation methods to explore the inner structures of the body, mind and spirit. It provides the framework for the experiences of physical, mental and spiritual wholeness. By combining physical postures, awareness practices and breathing methods, the mind becomes quiet and the body wIll be refreshed and rejuvenated. Through the yoga postures we focus our attention inward finding integration, balance, compassion and love. Yoga affects every aspect of our being.
The unitive discipline of Hiranyagarbha ("Golden Germ"), who is considered the original founder of the Yoga tradition
The unitive discipline of mantra recitation
The unitive discipline of discriminating wisdom, which is the approach of the Upanishads. Jnana Yoga is the yoga of the philosopher and thinker who wants to go beyond the visible, material reality. These people are triggered by readings. The Jana Yogi finds God through knowledge. Jnana Yoga is summed up in the Upanishads by the following statement: "In the method of reintegration through knowledge, the mind is ever bound to the ultimate end of existence which is liberation This method leads to all attainments and is ever auspicious.
Karma Yoga achieves union with God through right action and through service (Bhakti Yoga). Karma Yoga can also be summed up in a statement by Sri Bhagavan Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita: "Worshipping Him with proper actions, a man attains realization". One key to Karma Yoga is the performance of right action and service for its own sake, without consideration of the immerdiate or apparent results. The unitive discipline of self-transcending action, as first explicitly taught in the Bhagavad-Gita.
The unitive discipline of the Kaula school, a Tantric Yoga
Founded in 1968 by Kriyananda, a direct disciple of paramhansa Yogananda, Babaji Nagaraj, the great Himalayan master, offers to sincere seekers the opportunity to learn his "Kriya Yoga", the scientific art of perfect God-Truth Union. The unitive discipline of ritual; also the combined practice of asceticism (tapas), study (svadhyaya), and worship of the Lord (ishvara-pranidhana) mentioned in the Yoga-Sutra of patanjali
Kundalini Maha Yoga. is an ancient universal science, perfected over thousands of years. Anandi Ma is an advanced disciple of Dhyanyogi and one of few people who can perform Skaktipat. Through Shaktipat the disciple can excel quickly in their spiritual journey towards Self Realization -Enlightenment. The unitive discipline of the serpent power (kundalini-shakti), which is fundamental to the Tantric tradition, including Hatha-Yoga.
The unitive discipline of the "hanger," meaning the uvula, which is deliberately stimulated in this yogic approach to increase the flow of "nectar" (amrita) whose external aspect is saliva
The unitive discipline of absorption or dissolution of the elements prior to their natural dissolution at death
The great unitive discipline, a concept found in the Yoga-ShikhA-Upanishad where it refers to the combined practice of Mantra-Yoga, Laya-Yoga, Hatha-Yoga, and Raja-Yoga
The unitive discipline of numinous sounds that help protect the mind, which has been a part of theYoga tradition ever since Vedic times. Mantra Yoga finds union with God through the proper use of speech and sound. It is the power of the word to create or destroy that Mantra Yoga emphasizes. It utilizes the focus intent to make every word you speak be in harmony with God And with your own soul.
The unitive discipline of the inner sound, a practice closely associated with original Hatha-Yoga
The unitive discipline of the fifteen limbs (pancadasha-anga):
(1) moral discipline (yama)
(2) restraint (niyama)
(3) renunciation (tyaga)
(4) silence (mauna)
(5) right place (desha)
(6) right time (kala)
(7) posture (asana)
(8) root lock (mula-bandha)
(9) bodily equilibrium (deha-samya)
(10) stability of vision (dhrik-sthiti)
(11) control of the life force (prana-samrodha)
(12) sensory inhibition (pratyahara)
(14) meditation upon the Self (atma-dhyana)
(15) ecstasy (samadhi)
The unitive discipline of the pashupata sect, as expounded in some of the puranas
The unitive discipline of patanjali, better known as Raja-Yoga or Yoga-Darshana
The unitive discipline of wholeness or integration, which is the name of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga
The royal unitive discipline, also called patanjala-Yoga, Ashtanga-Yoga, or Raja-Yoga
In the year 1970, Shri Mataji Nirmala Devi introduced for the first time a simple, yet powerful method of spiritual ascent, whereby one's natural balance and integration can be easily achieved. SAMADHI YOGA
The unitive discipline of ecstasy
The unitive discipline of insight, which is the name of certain liberation teachings and schools referred to in the Mahabharata
Samnyasa-Yoga: The unitive discipline of renunciation, which is contrasted against Karma-Yoga in the Bhagavad-Gita
The unitive discipline of sexual congress (maithuna) in Tantra-Yoga
The unitive discipline of hatred, as mentioned in the Vishnu-purana, which illustrates the profound yogic principle that one becomes what one constantly contemplates (even if charged with negative emotions)
Sapta Yoga is based on the ancient Yogic text, the "Gheranda Samhita." It is both a spiritual practice and a therapeutic art, successful in removing the causes of numerous diseases highly resistant to orthodox Western healing methods. It is taught by Yogacharya Dr. Sushil Bhattacharya, director of the patanjali Yoga Center in Kathmandu, Nepal.
The unitive discipline of the seven limbs (sapta-anga), also known as Sapta-Sadhana in the Gheranda-Samhita:
(1) six purificatory practices (shat-karma)
(2) posture (asana)
(3) seal (mudra)
(4)sensory inhibition (pratyahara)
(5) breath control (pranayama)
(6) meditation (dhyana)
(7) ecstasy (samadhi)
The unitive discipline of the six limbs (shad-anga), as expounded in the Maitrayaniya-Upanishad:
(1) breath control (pranayama)
(2) sensory inhibition (pratyahara)
(3) meditation (dhyana)
(4) concentration (dharana)
(5) examination (tarka)
(6) ecstasy (samadhi)
The unitive discipline of the adepts, a concept found in some of the Tantras
The unitive discipline of contact; a Vedantic Yoga mentioned in the Shiva-purana, which combines mantra recitation with breath control; cf. Asparsha-Yoga
The unitive discipline of the Tantras, a kundalini-based Yoga
The unitive discipline of the "deliverer" (taraka); a medieval Yoga based on light phenomena
Yantra Yoga is the path of union with God thorough geometric visualization. A yantra is a geometric design. They are highly efficient tools for contemplation, concentration, and meditation. The unitive discipline of focusing the mind upon geometric representations (yantra) of the cosmos.