Meaning of Yoga

What is Yoga:

Yoga is called the set of disciplines and practices of physical, mental and spiritual type, whose objective is to achieve the balance between the body and mind to achieve enlightenment and transcendence, according to the Hindu tradition.

The word yoga means ‘union’, ‘effort’ and comes from the Sanskrit root “yuj”.

The essential objective of yoga is the reunification of the being with the Whole and the access to the supreme consciousness that leads us to enlightenment. To do this, a series of positions are proposed, called asanas, which are combined with the practice of breathing exercises, called pranayama.

Currently, yoga has become popular in the West becoming a discipline based on Hindu theories, but more focused on physical practice. In this sense, modern yoga is rather a system of exercises that seeks for the person to achieve integral balance.

Among its benefits, yoga helps the individual to have a more harmonious relationship with their body, to control their mind and emotions. It also provides greater physical flexibility, greater concentration and relief of muscular tension if it is practiced under the guidance of experts.

Most important types of yoga

There are several types or schools of yoga, depending on whether they are more focused on the physical part (postures or asanas), the breathing (pranayama), study or meditation. These are only some of them.

Raja yoga

It is a practice based on the teachings of Patanjali (3rd century BC), author of the Yoga-sutra, one of the foundational texts of the discipline. It emphasizes meditation and strict adherence to an 8-step progression of mind and body purification to achieve enlightenment:

  1. Yamas: they are the ethical principles of yoga (no violence, no stealing, no possessing, telling the truth).
  2. Niyamas: they are techniques of corporal and mental discipline that include practices of physical purification, austerity, detachment, satisfaction and study of the texts and of oneself.
  3. Asanas: they are the body postures, but also the mental calm that is required for the practice.
  4. Pranayamas: are the breathing techniques that help regulate the vital energy of our body.
  5. Pratyahara: it is a state of introspection, in which we abstract from sensory perception.
  6. Dharana: it is to focus the mind by concentrating on a fixed point.
  7. Dhyana: it is the ability to dominate the mind once concentration (dharana) has been achieved.
  8. Samadhi: it is when consciousness manages to transcend reality and reaches full happiness.

Hatha yoga

Hatha means "to force", in Sanskrit, and refers to the discipline required in this practice. According to this current, the physical body contains the spirit, so it must be kept clean and balanced with vigorous practice of asanas, breathing exercises, purging, cleaning the nostrils, etc.

Bhakti yoga

It is a type of devotional yoga. Its focus is spiritual practice as a method to achieve the integration of the individual to the Whole. This is achieved through daily prayer, worship, chanting, and actions, which are focused on devotion to divinity (Krishna) and the experience of unconditional love.

Jnana yoga

Also known as yoga of knowledge, it is based on the use of the rational mind to understand the principles of yoga through study, research and reflection. The goal is to continually question the nature of reality and inquire into the self to discover transcendental truth.

Karma yoga

It is a practice that seeks the spiritual liberation of the individual through selfless action. Karma yoga considers that everything we do in our life generates consequences (karma) that keep us tied to an infinite cycle of life, death and reincarnation (samsara). To get out of the cycle, the way is to act generously, without expecting a reward. In this way liberation will be achieved.

Iyengar yoga

It is characterized because the sequences of postures (asanas) are executed slower and for a longer time than in other styles. In addition, it requires the use of characteristic elements (wooden blocks, chairs, ropes), to help the practitioner complete the posture. Its name comes from its creator, B.S Iyengar, a yoga teacher from India, famous for bringing yoga to the West in the mid-20th century.

Kundalini yoga

Also called yoga of consciousness, it is a style that was spread in the West by Yogi Bhajan in the seventies. Kundalini yoga integrates pranayamas, asanas or body postures and chanting of mantras (sounds that, according to Hinduism, have spiritual powers). Much emphasis is placed on breath control and meditation.

History of yoga

The origin of yoga is located in India, in the Indus Valley. Its age, however, is difficult to determine, but it is speculated that it could be about three thousand years old.

Yoga is one of the three main doctrines of Hinduism along with the samkhya and the vedanta. Each one proposes different paths for the liberation of suffering and the reach of transcendence:

  • Through metaphysical knowledge (samkhya).
  • Through movement and meditation (yoga).
  • Through the recognition of the illusion of reality (vedanta).

The main theorist of yoga was Patanjali, a Hindu thinker believed to have lived during the 3rd century BC. C and who is considered the author of the Yoga-sutra, a text composed of aphorisms about yoga. It is worth clarifying that Patanjali was not the creator of this discipline, he was only one of the first to compile and systematize the techniques and traditions of yoga.

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