History, Meaning & Types of Yoga

By Patricia | October 10, 2008
The Types Of Yoga & Their History

Today everyone from the track team star, to the Wall Street broker, and the soccer mom is “into” yoga. Yoga is everywhere – on your television, in magazine and internet articles, in your gym, in the bookstores. But what exactly is yoga? Where did it originate from? And what is the history and meaning behind this philosophy?

The word “Yoga” comes from the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit. It means “union.” The practice of yoga therefore refers to the union of the mind, body and soul. Yoga focuses on establishing this perfect harmony through a series of postures, breathing techniques and meditation. It takes into consideration both a person’s emotional and physical health. In that context, it is truly the perfect fitness routine.

Yoga Philosophy

Yoga is a 5000 year old fitness discipline that originated in ancient India. While no one knows the exact beginning of this form, it is known to have existed as far back as the ancient Indus valley civilization. In archeological digs ancient seals have been found depicting yoga postures. While yogis practiced and developed yoga for centuries, passing it down the generations from teacher to students, the sage Patanjali is considered as the father of the formal yoga philosophy. This is what saw the emergence of classical yoga.

Classical yoga is described as an eight stage process. This includes forms of ethical discipline, breathing techniques, postures and meditations. Yoga is said to be the longest surviving philosophical system. Little wonder that in spite of being a traditional disciple, it is open to modification and change. It is constantly evolving, incorporating newer elements along with the age old ones. There exist six major types of yoga and hundreds of different schools. The main types of yoga include Hatha Yoga (yoga of postures), Raja Yoga (yoga of self control), Karma Yoga (this is a yoga of service), Bhakti Yoga (this is a yoga of devotion), Jnana Yoga (this is a yoga of the mind) and Tantra Yoga (yoga of rituals). Hatha yoga is the most popular practiced form of yoga in the world. It incorporates a gentle and moderate set of postures with breathing techniques and meditation.

Benefits

The benefits of yoga exercises are multifold. Yoga postures are designed to strengthen and align the body. The various postures stretch and work all the major muscle groups of the body. This strengthens and tones the muscles. Yoga helps strengthen the spine and increases flexibility. It also improves the body’s alignment which in turn improves bodily functions. Yoga postures also boost immunity and increase blood flow to the various organs, glands and tissues in the body. The breathing techniques and meditation on the other hand help maintain mental health and mental discipline.

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