There are many definitions to yoga, but to understand better, yoga is a group of mental, physical, and spiritual disciplines, a part of which, including breath control, adoption of specific bodily postures, and simple meditation, which is widely practised for health and relaxation purposes. It is an art of healthy living that connects the mind and body. The word yoga is extracted from the Sanskrit root uj,’ meaning o unite’ or o join,’ that is connecting man to his nature. Yoga originates from ancient India and is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophies.
ORIGIN OF YOGA
The origin of yoga is dated back thousands of years long before the first religions or belief systems were born. It is stated that yoga was as a result of immortal cultural outcome of Indus Saraswati valley civilization dating back to 2700 B.C. Lord Shiva ( the first teacher of yoga science) is referred to as the first yogi or Adiyogi, Guru or Adiguru, that is one who experiences the harmony of connecting nature to their being. Thousand years ago, Adiyogi poured his knowledge on the banks of the lake Kantisarovar in the Himalayas, into the saptarishis or seven sages. This seven sages carried the powerful yogic science to Asia, Middle East, Northern Africa, and South America. However, India had the fullest expression of the yogic system. There are a number of seals and fossils remains of Indus Saraswati valley civilization of motives and figures that suggest the presence of yoga in India. Yoga is also available in other traditions such as Vedic and Upanishadic heritage, Buddhist and Jain traditions and others in South Asia. This was seen in the pre-Vedic period. The classical period 500BC-800A.D was the most prominent period of yoga development. This was when commentaries of Vyasa on yoga sutras and Bhagawadgita came into existence. The period is dedicated to two religious teachers in India, Mahavir, and Buddha. 800 A.D-1700 A.D is the period referred to an as post-classical period where the teachings of great Shankaracharya, madhavacharya, and others contributed greatly during this period. They popularized the Hatha yoga practices during this period. The period between 1700 and 1900 A.D is called the modern period, in which Raja yoga was developed. Now in contemporary times, everyone considers yoga as a practice of preserving, maintaining and promoting good health.
ADIYOGI THE FIRST TEACHER OF SCIENCE OF YOGA
The first instructor of the science of yoga was called Lord Shiva. He was the greatest in terms of perception which made him a great master. He always carried a Trishul which is a trident to show people there are three dimensions, that is; yourself, your way of being, what one knows and what one does not know and what one does not know rules not what one know. Shiva was so complex and complete and never had teachings but methods which were 100% scientific. He gave 108 ways then later added 4 to make 112 ways of human nature to attain the ultimate meditation. This signified the mechanics of life which were pure science. When expounding the mechanics of life with the seven sages, he had a witness, a woman who was his wife. She tried to challenge him that she would find other ways of life other than the 112 ways, but she failed.
HOW SAPTARISHIS SPREAD YOGA IN MANKIND AND THE 7 DIMENSIONS OF YOGA.
Adiyogi (Shiva) used seven sapyarishis to spread the seven different dimensions to other parts of the world. Each saptarishis could not receive all the seven sage, instead each trained for a different dimension making seven different dimensions. Adiyogi must have found limitations in time while trying to build body strength which takes time. The different parts of the world ended up receiving a different dimension of yoga from the saptarishis. This resulted in a whole range of left unexplored by the average human beings.
HOW DID INDUS SARASVATI CIVILIZATION PROMOTE YOGA
Indus-Sarasvati civilization is named after two rivers that once flowed in Northern India. Today only the Indus River that exists which flows through Pakistan. The civilized population enjoyed sewage, multi-storey buildings as well as a huge public bath and standardized baked bricks for walls. This civilization was later destroyed, with some sources stating that it was invaded, while others claim it was due to climate change which led to the drying of river Sarasvati and the downfall of the two cities. The population ended up migrating to other fertile parts. River Sarasvati is a celebrated text in the Indo-European language. It provides the composition of the language Sanskrit in which most yoga scriptures are written in and is related to German, Spanish Greek, French, Latin, and English. Sanskrit is like an older brother to other Indo-European languages. Yoga, therefore, became the product of a mature civilization in the ancient world.
OBJECTIVES AND BENEFITS OF YOGA
All around fitness Yoga provides physical, mental and general health. This involves protection from injury and detoxifies the body. Hence covers all-around fitness. Weight loss Constant yoga helps us become sensitive to what we eat. This is very key when it comes to checking our weight. It has been known to be the best tool for weight loss. Stress relief. Practising yoga a few minutes a day helps relieve stress on the body and mind. Meditation helps to focus on calming a disturbed mind. Maintain better relationships Yoga can help improve relationships with friends, parents, and spouses. It helps the mind to stay happy, peaceful and contented which is then transferred to loved ones. Self-Regulation. Yoga reduces anxiety and stress, increases positive mood and decreases fatigue to help a person sleep better. Self-control Yoga creates self-awareness and disciple that led to better focus to achieve goals and self-control. Body alignment One of the main importance of Yoga is to achieve body alignment. It helps bones and joints to be kept in correct alignment, and this is very beneficial to one’s health and fitness.
TACTICS OF YOGA
Experience your senses The sense of taste, smell, hearing, seeing and touch can all be intimately be experienced. Feeling the pain, the moment and pleasure can help achieve this. It helps us to stop clinging to the past. Be in the present In the now moment we are able to veer away from the past and focus in the present. We forget our fears and embrace our future. Transforming from within Noticing what is within us, we begin to create our experiences. We start with ourselves then we are able to transfer this to others. Subscribe to the five-minute rule Try each posture for five minutes, this will help feel your body and know whether you can move to the next or stop. Make yoga your lifestyle not your hobby Make up a yogic lifestyle by practicing all the eight limbs posters instead of restricting yourself to one limb which seems like a fun activity other than a way of life.
DO’S AND DON’T’S WHEN DOING YOGA
Try to eat healthy foods (cut on processed food) Use a blanket or a mat for your poster. Perform yoga on a clean body. Always lay on your back after you are done with the postures. Wear loose clothing with supportive underwear. Do yoga regularly. Short walks after yoga would help instead of interring straight into busy work.
Don’t eat before yoga, wait 2 or 3 hours after large meals. Don’t do yoga under direct sunlight. Don’t shower or drink water for 30 minutes after yoga. Don’t do strenuous exercises after yoga. Women who are experiencing their periods should not do yoga and 3 months and above pregnant women should refrain too.
INTRODUCE BRIEFLY ABOUT EACH YOGA TYPE
Bikram yoga :- It is a form of yoga that became popular in the 1970s by Bikram Choudhury in California. The practice involves repeating the same 26 poses in set cycles over a 90-minute class. It is usually done in a hot room at body temperature or above. It is designed systematically to move freshly oxygenated blood to each body organ. The poses include cobra pose, triangle pose, tree pose, and eagle pose.
Power yoga :- It is a general term that explains a vigorous, fitness-based approach to vinyasa style. It is also referred to gym yoga. It incorporates the athleticism of Ashtanga with a series of poses done in sequence. Emphasis is put on strength and flexibility. Power yoga brought yoga in the gyms as a way to work out.
Hatha yoga :- The term is derived from Sanskrit a’ meaning sun and ha’ meaning moon. It aims to unite the active and receptive qualities of a human being. Hatha yoga uses physical alignment and breathing control to achieve a balance between the universe and the active body. The Hatha popular tradition is to reinforce strength, balance, and flexibility.
Vinyasa yoga :- It is a type of yoga that links breath and movement to attain a balance of the mind and body. When inhaling upward, movements are applied while exhaling downward movements are practised. Vinyasa is linked to accepting change to achieve balance and completeness.
Restorative yoga :- It is a practice that is all about slowing down and opening your body through passive stretching. Muscles are allowed to relax as it is the props that support the body instead of the muscles. Poses are usually adapted from seated yoga with the addition of blankets, blocks and bolster to eradicate any straining.
Ashtanga yoga :- It originated from a system of Hatha in the 20th century. It is a dynamic flowing style that connects the movement of the body with the breath. It is recommended that postures are held for five to eight breaths or more if possible. It is considered a vigorous, orderly practice and is more suitable in students.
Anusara yoga :- It means flowing with grace, going with the flow or following your heart. This tries to explain that life is a gift. Anusara provides guidelines on how to align your body, heart, and mind. It has over 250 poses with postural routines.
Iyengar yoga :- It is a type of yoga that emphasis on detail, precision, and alignment in the performance of posture and breath control. The practice develops stability, mobility, and strength. It makes uses props such as belts and blocks. It is based on the 8 limbs of yoga. Kundalini yoga It is also called yoga of awareness, originally known as laya yoga. The primary aim of this yoga type is to awaken the kundalini energy that is believed to be on the base of the spine. Breathing exercises are used as well as mediation to awaken that energy.
Yin yoga :- It is a slow-paced design of yoga with postures that are held for longer periods. It applies moderate stress to the connective tissues of the body. Yin yoga aims at cultivating awareness of inner silence and bringing to light a universal, interconnecting quality.
Sivananda yoga :- It is based on Swami Sivananda teachings. It involves regular periods of relaxation and breathing techniques. Its goal is to ensure that the body retains its vitality over the years by lowering risk of diseases. It requires vegetarian eating to be able to achieve its effects when practised.
Postnatal yoga :- It addresses the physical, emotional and mental challenges after being a new mother. After delivering a baby challenges such as weight gain are experienced. A new mother would greatly benefit from postnatal yoga. It helps tune their bodies, relieve stress and regain their figure.
Breathing yoga :- It is fundamental to the physical and mental practice of yoga. Practitioners aim to unite the mind, the body and breath. It starts by practising three-part breath to deepen their breathing and bring it under control. Later they learn more complex yoga breathing techniques.
Jivamukti yoga :- It means seat connection relationship to the earth, which implies all of life. It is a path of enlightenment through compassion for all beings. It maintains that a person’s connection to others should be mutually beneficial. Where they receive help as much as they give others.
Karma yoga :- It comes from the Sanskrit term meaning action or deed. It is the path of action or selfishness service towards others. It helps to develop spiritually. Karma involves volunteering your time and effort as an attitude to action.
Prenatal yoga :- It is a style of yoga designed for pregnant women to practice regardless of their due date. It offers benefits through stretching, controlled breathing, and mental focus. It also helps increase strength and flexibility of the muscles required during birth. It is special to accommodate pregnant women.
SUITABLE ENVIRONMENT FOR YOGA
A quiet, pleasant and comfortable place A place like your garden or backyard would be suitable. A place where one cannot be disrupted A place away from home will ensure there are no interferences. Choose a time that works best for you Early in the morning, or in the evening depending on when you feel comfortable. Look for a natural view Such as the forest, by the lake or pond and on green grass. Ditch your mat Do it on the grass and connect to the earth. Fresh air Look out for a place with fresh air. Enough space, safety, and hygiene Make sure you are clean, in a clean environment where it is flat and safe from injury. Have enough space as well.
WHAT YOGA GURUS THINK ABOUT YOGA
Sadhguru Yoga :- He is not twisting the body into impossible postures, but practices that form the yoga sutras of today. Yoga means to be in perfect tune. The body, mind and spirit and existence are in absolute harmony. Yoga generates positive energy and brings happiness which helps liberate an individual from their limitations of energy and capability. When body and mind are involved in this practice, it helps inner relaxation and blissfulness. With yoga, the body and mind are kept at the highest possible peak. When you activate your energies, you can function in a different way. We use our energies differently as human beings. Some use it in creating technologies, houses or simply being creative. Our inner energies are different and need to be generated by yoga.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar :- He thinks that yoga in the unification of mind, body, and spirit. It brings much-needed peace internally; it makes a big difference in a person’s behaviour and attitude. If you want to be sensible and reasonable, you need yoga. It is not just physical exercise but inner integration involving your spirituality. It gives you a glimpse beyond imagination. Yoga is something to be experienced and fills you with optimism. Meditation is a part of yoga; this means yoga has to be meditated.
B.K.S Iyengar :-He states that by doing yoga, you are trying to get the physical body in line with the mental body, the mental body with the intellectual body as well as the spiritual body so as to maintain optimal balance. Each practice has an optimum line or position. That is from head to toe, from the front to the back and from right to left without deviation or distortion. He notes that the mortal body has its limitations. Therefore, he will practice yoga until his last breath. This helps break the fear of complex and live with confidence. There is a big difference between happiness and delight; happiness is at the mind level while delight is beyond the mind. Iyengar was suffering from various illnesses, but when he started teaching and practising yoga, he started feeling better.
Rachel Brathenss :- She is an international yoga instructor who introduces two yoga collections that are; find your purpose and release and let go. She is originally from Sweden, and she gained her international recognition at 26. She collects the first practices released by a young yogi. Each collection features 20-minute vinyasa flow practices which are meant to build strength, flexibility, unwinding of the body and gaining confidence in yoga practice.
Tirumalai Krishnamacharya :- He is often referred to as the father of modern yoga. He believed yoga to be India’s greatest gift to the world. He believed that yoga could be both a spiritual practice and a mode of physical healing. He respected his students varying religious views or non- believes. He approached each student as unique by teaching them according to each student’s capacity as yoga would be different to different people. Hence each person understood yoga differently.
It is evident that yoga originates from India which explains why it highly practice in most parts of Asia. It is an old practice that is here to stay as more people are practising it today, Thus being called immortal. It also has all the positive results such as promoting good health, which leaves absolutely no negatives in the results. It involves body, mind, and soul to bring in the inner energy that a human being has hidden. It can be practised by all regardless of age, race, gender whether pregnant or not and the list goes on. It is also important to note that most of the yoga gurus come from India its place of origin which we can learn a lot from. Good health, better relationships, a better mind, and better living, in general, can be provided by yoga. The founders have done a great job to pass down the tactics for thousands of years. We are able to enjoy today what we have in yoga due to this adiyogis. For example, we have seen that Shiva was one of the greatest masters who relied on scientific methods to come up with what we have today. Generally, there is still a lot to learn about yoga, from all the references. The opportunity is there to grasp the theoretical part as well as the practical part. We have also seen that making yoga a lifestyle instead of a hobby would help an individual attain the maximum benefits in their livelihood. Adopting a yoga lifestyle is an advisable idea that a civilized individual should consider. There are also opportunities which one can pursue such as becoming yoga teachers where some yoga gurus have emerged as heroes to this topic. It would be a good opportunity for us to take up this a role and be involved in the history of passing down the idea to the future generations. That way yoga stays immortal even for a thousand years to come.