Thanks to famous celebrities around the world practicing yoga, like Reese Witherspoon, Demi Moore, Robert Downey Jr., Colin Farrell, Jennifer Aniston, Kaley Cuoco, and Madonna, yoga has now become more of a fad and is also considered to be a safe and effective way to stay active and fit. But there’s a lot more to yoga than just being vigorous exercise.
Yoga involves Eight Basic Principles
- “Yama” means restraint and involves following characteristics such as ahmisa(compassion for all), satya( truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing) and brahmacharya (celibacy or regulated sex life).
- “Niyamas” means observances and involves: hri (remorse), santosha (contentment), dana(giving alms), astikya (having faith in the guru), ishvarapujana (worshipping the Lord), siddhanta shravana (studying scriptures), mati (to develop one’s spiritual will), vrata (sacred vows), japa (reciting mantras daily), and tapas (endurance).
- “Asanas” mean postures.
- “Pranayama” means controlled breathing.
- “Pratyahara” means withdrawal of senses.
- “Dharana” means collection and concentration of the mind.
- “Dhyani” means meditation.
- “Samadhi” means absorption and is the state of consciousness induced by complete meditation.
Yoga creates a balance between the mind, spirit and body and is said to cure unending illnesses like insomnia, asthma, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, indigestion, liver problem, depression, thyroid disorders and migraine.
Different Types of Yoga
There are more than twenty different types of yoga that are been practised around the world. Some of them have been developed a few decades ago while a few have always been a part of yoga history.
Ananda Yoga is of the most eclectic type of yoga that uses two basic principles of yoga; asanas and pranayam, to control the prana and chakras of a person to harmonize the body and uplift the mind. It aims to regulate a person with a greater level of consciousness. Silent affirmations are used in this form of yoga to reach higher awareness.
Though it involves asanas, Ananda yoga is more internal and prepares one for deeper meditation. This yoga embraces the energization exercises of Paramahansa Yogananda, based on Kriya yoga, which implies that a person uses his life energy around the six spinal centres.
Anusara Yoga was established as recent as 1997. The term “anusara” means flowing with grace. This yoga has enjoyed popularity in the USA and has also found followers in Europe and Asia over the years.
Anusara Yoga was founded by John Friend, an American. Prior to Anusara, John was associated with Iyengar yoga. Anusara yoga focuses on the positions and uses props. The classes of Anusara Yoga are said to be very light hearted and fun.
Ashtanga Yoga focuses on breathing while doing asanas. It involves calm breathing with a series of postures. The process produces a lot of sweat, generating heat which purifies organs, improves circulation and also calms the mind. Since a lot of muscle contraction is involved in Ashtanga yoga, its sessions always end with Savasana, also known as the corpse pose to loosen the muscles.
This style of yoga depends a lot on the focussing ability of the practitioner. Since this yoga can be physically draining, women are advised to avoid this type of yoga, during the first three crucial days of their menstruation.
Ashtanga yoga was originally a self- practice yoga, also called Mysore style. Every person practicing this yoga moves according to his or her own comfort and speed. Today, however, there are very few places where Ashtanga yoga is taught in the Mysore style.
Bikram Yoga is named after Bikram Choudhary who founded this type of yoga. It contains 26 postures that the yogi Bikram selected from Hatha yoga. These postures work on every part of the body, rejuvenating every cell. A lot of institutes also use heat to make your body flexible to perform yoga. Through the sweat, impurities inside the body are flushed out.
Hatha yoga was developed as a tool to help meditate. This yoga helps the body attain stillness that is involved in the process of meditation. This yoga aligns the muscles, skin and bones- specially the spine, so that the universal energy is allowed to flow freely.
Hatha yoga is called a stress reducing exercise by many. Hatha yoga primarily focuses on the preservation of the life force in humans, which is believed to be semen in men and menstrual fluid in women. It is believed that this physical essence is flowing out of the store in the head. Hatha yoga uses Viparita karani also called the reverser position, which involves standing upside down on the head, and using the force of gravity to keep the essence in the head.
Hatha Yoga is Quite Popular Among the Masses.
Integral yoga is based on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo, that the whole world is one being and is conscious. Through yoga, Sri Aurobindo taught people to gain what he called the “Supramental Truth Consciousness”, which helps them get rid of their animal instincts and evolves them into a divine race. There are several layers of consciousness before one achieves the “Supramental Truth”, therefore this yoga is a long process- not in terms of the everyay activity, but the span of the activity over a period of time. The main aim of this yoga is self development.
Ishta Yoga was founded by Yogiraj Alan Finger more than four decades ago. Ishta yoga aims at self development. Ishta is an abbreviation for “Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra and Ayurveda”. Rather than having rigid process and compulsory asanas, Ishta yoga can be made into a more personalized experience by the doer, choosing a practice which is customized according to the suitability of the doer.
Iyengar Yoga was developed by B K S Iyengar, who passed away recently. Iyengar systematized 200 Yogaasanas and 14 different types of Pranayamas. The asanas of Iyengar yoga allow the use of props to facilitate everyone to perform asanas without difficulty. The student is allowed to perform pranayama only when he has mastered the asanas. The regular practise of asanas and pranayama helps an individual physiologically, mentally, physically and spiritually.
Jivamukti Yoga was founded in 1984 by David Life and Sharon Gannon in New York. Jivamukti yoga is very intense. Every session of Jivamukti focuses on a theme. Every workout of Jivamukti Yoga involves chants and philosophy. One has to have knowledge of Shastra (religious Sanskrit scripture of yoga), Bhakti (devoting oneself to God), Ahimsa (non-violence), Nada (chanting and music) and Dhyana (meditation).
Tri Yoga revolves around asana, pranayama and mudra. Triyoga is marked by very free flowing spinal movements.
As the students achieve harmony between the body, breathing and the mudra, they experience the flow of prana.
Triyoga was founded by Kaliji also known as Kali Ray.
Kripalu Yoga was founded by Amrit Desai who was inspired by Sri Kripalvananda. This yoga lays great emphasis on meditation and breathing pace. It focuses on prana or the flow of energy attuned, by reaching a more unclogged state of mind and body.
Kundalini Yoga was developed more than 50 million years ago in India. But it gained prominence in the west through Yogi Bhajan in 1969. Kundalini means coiled, and is said to be a power which is coiled up in the lower end of spine. Once it is awakened, it empowers its practitioners with extraordinary perceptions and abilities. It is also one of the few yoga techniques that don’t prohibit sex. This is one of the different types of yoga that people do not know about, as it not as popular as the rest.
Power Yoga is more a style yoga, modelled to attract westerners to the concept of yoga. The term was coined in the 1990s and the yoga was modelled on the lines of Ashtanga yoga. Unlike yoga, power yoga doesn’t adhere to poses, but is more like a workout. It doesn’t involve chanting and meditation. It is but one of the recent additions in the different types of yoga that was supposed to draw more people to the concept of yoga.
Restorative yoga uses props to attain overall relaxation. There are many asanas for the overall body, but what is unique to restorative yoga is that some asansas are focused on specific organs of the body.
Sivananda Yoga involves yogic breathing and relaxation at regular intervals while performing asanas. It is based on the five philosophies of asana, pranayama, sava asana, vegetarianism and dhyana-vedanta.
Svaroopa Yoga focuses on releasing the tension in the spine muscles through various yoga poses. It emphasises on releasing blockages in the body. Unlike many other yoga types which make use of Shava asana at the end of poses and some at regular intervals, Svaroopa yoga starts with the Shava asana.
Viniyoga involves achieving a balance between the breathing pattern and spine movements. It is believed that Viniyoga is very effective in relieving one from back aches. Vinyasa yoga also involves performing asanas in sync with your breathing. That’s why Vinyasa yoga is also one of the different types of yoga that is called Vinyasa flow yoga. Rather than having strict asanas and poses to adhere to, Vinyasa yoga is very flexible and depends on the individual nature of the teacher or the instructor. Vinyasa yoga is said to be good practice for yoga beginners.
White Lotus yoga is an amalgamation of asanas and pranayama meditation.
Yin yoga is a more elongated version of yoga, where yoga asanas and poses are held for a longer time. It aims to affect the ligaments, joints and bones of the body rather than affecting the muscular tissues of the body. It is a more meditative yoga.
Benefits of Yoga
All round Fitness:
Yoga asanas help you stay free from diseases, not just because of their organ specific asanas but also due to the meditation and pranayama practices. Adhi Mukho Svasana is a great asana for overall health.
Yoga asanas are very complex and that is why they can only be mastered over a period of time. Though it is no child play at first, once you do master the various asanas of yoga, your body becomes very flexible and agile. Asanas such as Uttanasana, Paschimottanasana, Supta Badda Konasana, Sucirandhrasana, Utthita Parsvakonasana and Virabhadrasana help attain flexibility.
Yoga is designed for the overall happiness of humans. While asanas tend to the physical bliss of the body, meditation and pranayama can help relieve stress. Focusing on the breathing helps your mind shift attention and gain a larger perspective of your own life. Breathing exercises like Kapalabhati and Bhastrika, and asanas such as Malasana (Garland pose), Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand), help in stress relief.
Since yoga involves a lot of stretching and unusual poses, the fat that otherwise gets accumulated in various parts of the body gets burnt out through yoga. Various asanas such as Ardha Chandraasana, Veerbhadrasana, Utkatasana, Vrksasana, Uttanasana, Surya namaskar, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Badhakonasana, Kumbhakasana, Halasana, Setubandhasana etc. help in reducing weight.
Since one is required to sit in a proper posture in asanas, the overall posture of the body also gets better. With the tension in the muscles and primarily in the spine, (which is a problem area for many) reduced and eventually gone, people are able to maintain a perfect posture for their bodies.
Due to limitless intake of junk food and stress, people start to age before their time. Asanas help in reducing wrinkles, pimples and are also effective for the old. Yoga also helps in bowel movements, which results in better skin. Performing the Kapal Bhati breathing technique also helps to attain glowing skin.
Better Blood Flow:
With improper blood flow, a lot of people experience swelling in various parts of their body. The breathing exercises of yoga help the oxygen reach the blood and also helps in keeping blood pressure normal.
Yoga also helps in developing a better immune system. Since various yoga postures directly heal cells, tissues and organs, asanas such as Matsyasana, Ustrasana, Dhanurasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana and many others help in achieving better immunity.
While yoga practice is picking up worldwide, a lot of people are still stuck to their treadmill routine. Yoga, unlike any other form of exercise has helped many people battle deadly chronic diseases, and has also cured paralysis!
There are so many types of yoga available today. This means that one just has to chose the type of yoga more in sync with one’s lifestyle and what one wants to achieve and bask in all its benefits.
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