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What is Yoga?
It is often suggested that yoga originated in India circa 2000 BCE.
Definition of Yoga:
Yoga is a generic word (such as health, fitness) and means union (from the root Sanskrit verb: Yug ~ to join). It is often interpreted as the union of mind, body and soul, and can provide perfect harmony and balance.
Forms of Yoga:
Karma Yoga - the yoga of action, the path of selfless service, working for others as an offering to God. e.g. Mother Teresa
Bhakti Yoga - the yoga of devotion, to realise the truth by devotion to and love of God in a presonalised form. e.g. Ghandi
Jnana Yoga - the yoga of knowledge, the philosophical approach, the most direct of the four paths.It is the intellectual approach to spiritual evolution
Raja Yoga - the yoga of mind control, the scientific approach, systematically the mind is analysed. Royal path (Hatha is a form of Raja yoga)
The Royal path is broken into eight steps which are:
~ Yama (with 5 abstinences: ahimasa - non harming; satya - truthfulness; asteya - non-stealing; brahmacharya - moderating the senses; aparigraha - non possessiveness)
~ Nyama (with 5 observances: shaucha ~ self-purification; santosha ~ contentment; tapas ~ self-discipline; svadhyaya ~ self-study; ishwara pranidhana ~ self-surrender)
~ asana (seated posture ~ usually translated as posture)
~ Pranayama (the practice of breath awareness)
~ Pratyahara (the practice of withdrawal of the senses)
~ Dharana (the practice of concentration)
~ Dhyana (effortless meditation)
~ Samadhi (enlightenment)
Hatha yoga is generally interpreted as the yoga of (physical) action and is practiced in most western classes. Swami Vishnudevananda and BKS Iyengar are partly responsible for bringing yoga to this side of the world. Hatha yoga is a form of Raja yoga and usually Hatha yoga consist of the following elements:
~kriyas (neti ~ nasal cleaning; nauli ~ abdominal churning; dhauti ~ upper digestive tract cleaning; basti ~ colon cleansing; kaphalabati ~ cleansing of lungs and bronchial tubes, tratak ~ steady gazing)
~ Theory and philosophy
Hatha also means balance - HA means the sun and THA means the moon and can represent male and female energies. Much Hatha work is on the physical body as a preparation for the deeper practices like meditation and pranayama which are more often experienced as part of Raja yoga pathway.