All about Yoga: philosophical foundations, modes of action and types
Yoga means harmony, union and is a movement theory with ancient tradition. It looks back on a history spanning several millennia. As a practice that is crossing with religions without a strict system of rules, Yoga describes a constantly broadening empirical science. In the following article, I’d like to explain to you all about yoga, so you, too, can start implementing it in your daily life.
It really is nothing that “outlandish,” and even seniors and people with disabilities can find a suitable and beneficial yoga routine.
Yoga is not only tailored for extremely active and flexible folks as many people believe. However, I have good news for the skeptics, because yoga is for everyone, and with time, you’ll gain more flexibility as well.
A dynamic development process characterizes this continuously up to this day. Yoga also has an equally diverse positive effect on the human body.
It mobilizes the self-healing powers, makes the body supple, strengthens the organs and calms the stress-plagued soul.
What is yoga? Origin and meaning
Yoga also describes an exercise system and a philosophical doctrine that originated several millennia ago in India. The term “yoga” comes from Sanskrit.
The common words “yuga” and “yui” mean “yoke”, “tie together” and “tense”. Written and pictorial traditions suggest that people already practiced Yoga in India three to four thousand years ago.
The first mention of the philosophical teachings was made in the Upanishads, a part of those important Hindu text collections called Vedas.
These deal intensively with many questions about the existence and the spiritual and religious consciousness of man. In this context, yoga describes a physical state and a constant unity with the soul characterizing it.
The original genesis of yoga is no longer completely comprehensible today. Science believes that this doctrine goes back to the so-called Rishis, who were masters and seers in ancient India.
Hindu Rishis asked important questions about man’s role in and relative to the world, as well as pre-birth and post-mortem events. Equally significant were the Rishi’s reflections on the soi-disant Higher Reality, which they sought to pursue by meditating.
Meditation is still an essential motivation of Indian yogis. They are not, as the Western world often falsely assumes, primarily about body positions and movements for the promotion of good health and long life into old age, but a comprehensive soothing of the mind.
Indian yogis achieve this by lingering in the lotus position for as long and as concentrated as possible, in order to become supple and serve as a dwelling place for a well-balanced soul.
Philosophical foundations of yoga
Most people in the Western world associate yoga exclusively with various physical positions and exercises called “asanas.” However, yoga is much more than just a theory of movement.
In an ancient script written in the time of Christ’s birth, someone defined a total of eight steps or Ashtanga.
The author of this text was Patanjali, an Indian scholar, who describes in it a path through which his disciples can reach the state of superconsciousness and become one with the Universal Spirit as part of their meditation. Patanjali defined the Yama as the first of the eight sections of this path.
It is the pursuit of the right behavior in social life, i.e non-violence, incorruptibility and mind control. This must follow the Niyama, which describes Patanjali as an individual pursuit of contentment, knowledge and spirituality.
Body control or asana is only the third step on the way to the universal spirit. Thereafter comes pranayama, various breathing techniques for energy control; Pratyahara, or the effort to direct one’s mind inward, as well as Dharana, the ability to concentrate.
Dhyana and Samadhi define as meditation and contemplation the last two sections of the path that symbolizes the philosophy of yoga.
At the heart of this ancient lesson is unity between body and mind and between the embodied and the divine soul. This unity between Jivatma and Paramatma is present in the life of yogis in every moment of everyday life and at any time of day.
Experienced yogis have recognized their true identity, which goes far beyond the sensory organs and the mind. They do not identify with their own physical, but with cosmic consciousness.
This condition makes yogis free from fears of illness, death, and the problems and unrests that characterize the daily lives of most people.
Yogis have overcome such obstacles and, thereby, achieved an invincible willpower, the detachment of material values and timeless existence.
History and spread of yoga
In the so-called Golden Age of Indian antiquity, people from all walks of life practiced yoga. As a partial aspect of Indian Ayurvedic healing, Hatha Yoga has been already very important at that time.
In the sixth century BC, the emergence of various religious teachings, including that of the Buddha, led to the spread of yoga, which continued in India until the Middle Ages.
Due to the conquest and colonization of India by the British, yoga has flourished because of its cultural significance. The late 19th century brought forth great masters who founded the first yoga schools in the following decades. At about the same time, a veritable fascination with India arose in Europe.
This was decisively influenced by the travels and works of famous writers such as Hesse or Nietzsche. As a result, many exercises and meditation techniques of yoga became more widespread in the Western world, and from the 1930s on, they also founded the first yoga schools in Europe.
Since the 1980s, yoga has been the subject of scientific research that deals intensively with the positive health effects of teaching. Yoga, in the Western world, has long since freed itself from the image of the hippie philosophy.
It is today regarded as an established alternative healing method and sport alike. The use of Yoga in countless mental and physical illnesses can significantly alleviate the symptoms.
Positive effects on human health
In India, many organizations use yoga as a form of therapy targeted to cure people from systemic and chronic diseases, such as cancer, paralysis, mental illness, diabetes or allergies.
Today, science has proven that practicing yoga has a positive effect on health and well-being on many levels.
US researchers at the University of Illinois have shown in a study that already twenty minutes of exercise can significantly improve brain activity. Especially on memory and the ability to concentrate yoga has a very positive influence.
Yoga exercises stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which reduces blood pressure, slows and deepens breathing, and flows blood into vital organs.
As a result, yoga causes a significantly reduced release of stress hormones and supports a comprehensive relaxation.
Yoga improves circulation
The heart receives protection against chronic stress, thus, it benefits greatly from this effect. The important nutrient supply increases, as well, through the improved blood flow. Various asanas also cause a pressure relief or stimulation of various hormone-producing glands.
Thus, it is possible to balance the hormones with yoga in the long term. This explains why regular yoga exercises promote a well-balanced sleep-wake cycle, sustainably strengthen the immune system, improve libido, and counteract fatigue syndromes and migraines.
Even healthy people who practice yoga regularly benefit from a significantly improved overall well-being in the long term.
This is due to the fact that yoga, as a sport, is based solely on the concentrated work with one’s own body and weight. This systematically promotes a harmonious interaction between physiological and psychic energies.
This, in turn, leads to a significantly improved sense of balance and enhanced energy, which makes it possible to master everyday challenges much more efficiently.
As the movements increase the activity of the heart, it naturally pumps more nutrient-rich blood into the cells.
Significant effects of this physiological process are improved digestion, more elastic muscle fibers, ligaments and tendons. It also promotes a strengthened spine, which gradually reduces postural tension, neck and back pain.
Types of Yoga and their benefits
There are countless good reasons to take advantage of the positive effects of yoga. Depending on the individual expectations and possible ailments that you wish to heal or alleviate with yoga, and within these kinematics, there are various types and styles available. They offer various yoga classes in institutes and schools.
In the Western world, several styles of Hatha Yoga, in particular, have become established as popular species.
These consist of statically held or dynamic asanas. Breathing exercises and methods of deep relaxation supplement these. Hatha Yoga is suitable for anyone who wants to learn this movement theory from the ground up.
Ashtanga Yoga, which is based on the eight-part path of the Patanjali, is just as common in the West. It contains several, sometimes very demanding series of exercises, which usually have to be learned over a period of several years. Ashtanga has developed countless new forms in recent decades.
The most well-known is Power Yoga, which is dominated by a pronounced workout character. Vinyasa Flow, which focuses on the connection between breath and body movement, is also derived from the Asthanga.
This form is especially suitable for people who combine strength, movement and meditation and want to build conditions in this way.
Another form that has emerged from the Ashtanga is Iyengar Yoga. In this method, the practitioners pay special attention, so that they perform the asanas with precisely aligned joints.
If necessary, they use aids such as chairs, blocks or straps. Therefore, Iyengar is also ideal for elderly or physically disabled people and for the regeneration of the body after injuries.
Everyone can practice yoga
Beginners who are more interested in the spiritual aspect and background of yoga will find the right match in Anusara or Sivananda. For advanced students who want to deepen their knowledge, Anti Gravity Yoga offers a challenging opportunity.
They carry out these exercises with hanging towels or cloths. Bikram and Hot Yoga are growing in popularity among people who like to combine yoga with sports. One practices these exercises in warm to hot rooms.
As a result, muscle tension gets solved, and the increased mobility and the detoxification of the entire organism set in faster, too.
The hormonal yoga developed, by Dinah Rodrigues, aims to eliminate hormonal imbalances in the female body. This method stabilizes the estrogen level. Therefore, they use it successfully for menopausal symptoms as well as hormone-related infertility.
Scientific studies conducted in the US and Brazil have shown that using hormone yoga for several months can increase ovarian productivity by as much as 75 percent.
Now that I’ve hopefully helped you understand all about yoga and its benefits, I would like to know what ‘s your stance on it? Are you an avid yoga practitioner, are you contemplating picking up yoga, have you tried it already and want to share your experiences with it, or are you even a yogi?
Whatever it is, please let us all know in a comment below. You know that I’m always looking happily forward to hearing/reading from you. Also, don’t forget to sign up on our website and grab your free ebook along the way.
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In the meantime, I’m sending you much love, happiness, harmony and an abundance of all good things. Always keep in mind that you are beautiful, precious, unique and endlessly loved regardless of what others might say. Thus, keep on shining. ~Namaste -Before thy spirit, I bow~