Yoga and the Various Types of Yoga

Yoga is a philosophy that originated in India about 5,000 years ago. Over the many years, yoga has branched out into several types of yoga - each focused on a different aspect of development and growth.

Yoga - according to Oxford dictionary - is a discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures is widely practiced for health and relaxation.

The word "yoga" cannot be translated into English. In Sanskrit, it derives from the root "Yuja," which is to join or weld together.

Just as two pieces of metal are welded together to become one, so in the philosophy of Yoga, the spirit of the individual becomes one with the Universal Spirit through the regular practice of certain physical and mental exercises.

Yoga itself is not a religion, although the practice of yoga is used by many religions.

Some say that yoga is the art of life and its philosophy is meant to provide the principles that justify and explain that art.

In the West, yoga generally means the practice of physical postures (asanas) and breathing techniques (pranayama). The practice of various types of meditation is becoming more accepted in the West as well.

Physical yoga practice focuses on developing elasticity, improved circulation and mobilization of the joints.Through a series of yoga poses, known as asanas in Sanskrit, yoga releases tension in the muscles, and promotes a sense of well-being.

Breathing techniques and meditation focus on enhancing the lung capacity, achieving inner balance, stability of mind, mental clarity, relaxation, and peace.

The practice of yoga is the commitment to become established in the state of freedom.
~Patanjali, Yoga Sutras

Types of Yoga

There are seven major types of yoga, all with the same goal of bringing health and harmony but with varying techniques.

  • Hatha Yoga - practical branch of Raja yoga that includes asanas, pranayamas, and kriyas. Hatha means sun and moon. This is the yoga most known in the West.
  • Raja Yoga - the classical yoga, also called "royal yoga", concerned mainly with cultivating the mind through meditation.
  • Kundalini Yoga - focuses on psycho-spiritual growth and consists of different body postures, chanting of mantras, breathing patterns, and a variety of meditations.
  • Karma Yoga - focuses on service to others, non-violence and non-harming as means to awareness and peace.
  • Tantric Yoga - the path of self-awareness through religious and mystical rituals.
  • Bhakti Yoga - does not concern itself with the practice of asanas or breathing techniques. This is the path of self-transcending love and complete devotion to the Divine.
  • Jnana Yoga - the practice and development of knowledge and wisdom.

Yoga for Meditation and Relaxation

The most powerful yoga for meditation and relaxation is Kundalini Yoga. By definition, Kundalini yoga is an ancient and synergetic form of yoga that incorporates the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of yoga into a complete and fully integrated system.

Kundalini yoga has specific breathing techniques aimed at deep relaxation and a variety of meditation techniques. In a Kundalini yoga class, you will practice physical postures, breathing exercises, meditation, and relaxation exercises. You will chant mantras, practice guided imagery and affirmations.

Basic Yoga Poses

Glossary of Yogic Terms



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