Over the past few decades, a very common misconception has taken root in the minds of people. There is a belief that Yoga, is all about fitness and exercise. An added misconception is that Yogasanas (or Asanas) are simply body movements and poses that are complex to perform but make the body supple.
Yes, asana or postures do make the body supple. Just like stretching and other forms of body movements do. But Yoga and yogasanas are so much more than just fitness tricks.
In the West, somewhere around the 19th Century and 20th Century, Yoga was introduced by Indians to the people, so that they too may benefit from it. As expected it was a great success. But there began a commercialization of yoga, in order to make it more appealing to the public. Yoga went from being an art, to a training session.
This is something we need to understand, is extremely dangerous. Yoga isn’t something that should be performed with the wrong ideas or intentions. It has consequences of its own.
Yoga is a way of life. It is not a ritual to be performed, it is a habit that one makes a part of life. The ultimate aim of Yoga is to achieve liberation or Moksha. But yoga has a huge impact on our day-to-day lives.
Five basic principles of Yoga
• Asana (postures)
• Pranayama (Breathing control)
• Shavasana (Relaxation)
• Sattvic (Right Diet)
• Dhyana (Meditation)
It is only when these 5 basic principles are followed that one can call himself a practitioner of Yoga. When a person performs yoga, he surrenders himself to the universe and becomes one with the universal energy. It is a very potent source of life and should not be treated lightly.
Let us now look at some more important facets of yoga.
Schools of Yoga
In Hinduism, there are the following types of Yoga, which are to be practiced. Please note, here Yoga doesn’t talk about postures. Yoga is in fact a practice. As I mentioned earlier, it is a way of life. These schools of yoga were thus, part of life.
1. Jnana Yoga
Jnana means ‘knowledge’ in Sanskrit. In the ancient times, when there was a system of ‘Gurukul’ (students stayed with teachers and gained knowledge), this was the initiation of the student into education and the realm of knowledge. The teachings included information about everything under the sun. This Jnana yoga became the foundation for yogic understanding and knowledge.
2. Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti or devotion, is an essential aspect of yoga. Through this form of yoga, one expressed love and devotion towards God. Here God is the Supreme Being. It does not refer to any symbolic God, simply universal energy. The idea was to move the yogi, towards spiritual awakening.
3. Karma Yoga
Karma means Duty in Sanskrit. In the Hindu religion, the importance of performing ones duty or Karma, was of the highest importance. Disciplined actions and all duties had to be performed with great reverence. It is said to be the most effective way to progress in spiritual life.
4. Laya Yoga or Kundalini Yoga
It is the form of yoga performed by way of regular practice of meditation, pranayama, chanting mantra and yoga asana. It is called the yoga of awakening. One becomes aware of oneself and more conscious of the surrounding. It focuses on compassion to others and healing of the body, mind and soul.
5. Hatha Yoga
It is a system of physical techniques supplementary to a broad conception of yoga. There is a belief that Lord Shiva himself was the creator of Hatha Yoga.
This school of yoga is what deals with physical exercise and asana or postures. Hatha yoga is more known as a physical exercise in the world.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga has physical benefits, is something which is common knowledge. But the real power of yoga is seen through its benefits on the mental and other aspects of human life.