Yoga is a 5000-year old spiritual science which helps in uniting the physical body with the spirit, through a series of asanas (sitting postures) and breathing exercises. According to Hindu religion, Lord Shiva is the Adi (first) guru of yoga. Over the years, this discipline has evolved to suit the requirements of mankind. Today, it embraces several styles and disciplines. This ancient art has indeed entered into mainstream.
Benefits of Yoga
It goes without saying that yoga comes with innumerable health benefits like improved immunity, stress relief, weight loss, inner peace leading to better inter-personal relationships, and an all around fitness. No matter what style or discipline of yoga you adopt, if you have the right guide and follow the procedures right, you are on your way to a better and a healthier life.
Types of Yoga
Over the years, new schools of thought pertaining to Yoga have evolved. Some of the most common types of yoga are a variant of Hatha Yoga. Although some of them have the western influence, yet the objective remains the same: uniting the body and the spirit and finding harmony, peace and control over one’s mind.
Some of the variants are as follows:
Iyengar Yoga: This variant was developed by B.K.S Iyengar. The postures, with the help of props, give emphasis on alignment and precision. However, the stress on the muscles being low, this yoga has restorative properties.
Bikram Yoga: Bikram Choudhury developed this variant that includes 26 posture sequences and two breathing exercises. The postures work on every part of the body, internally as well as externally. What is unique about this style is that it is practiced in a room with temperature at 40.6°C, which is well above the normal human body temperature. The high temperature helps in a deeper stretch while avoiding injuries, and flushes out toxins through sweat.
Anusara Yoga: This style is a very recent addition to the world of yoga and was developed by an American yogi John Friend in 1997. Anusara, meaning flowing with grace, is playful and focuses on precise alignment and Tantric yoga philosophy, which teaches that all beings are inherently good.
Kundalini Yoga: This variant is originally one of the oldest forms of yoga, but brought to the fore by yogi Bhajan. Kundalini means coiled, and this style aims at releasing the energy coiled at the base of one’s spine. Exercises like waving of hands and uncontrolled laughter help in releasing energy, activating the energy centres (known as chakra) in our body and removing toxins from the body.
Yin Yoga: Another oldest form of yoga, Yin Yoga helps in physical conditioning for prolonged meditation. The target areas in this style are the ligaments, muscles and bones, which are sometimes overlooked in postures of other styles of yoga.
The western influence on yoga can be seen in the hybrid versions, where they are combined with other forms of exercise like kickboxing, swimming, dancing, etc. These versions have been introduced to get a larger user base and have an element of fun in them.
Some of these hybrid yoga styles are:
Koga: Here yoga has been combined with kickboxing, including plyometric and isometric movements, music and meditation.
SUP Yoga: Here the paddle-boards replace the yoga mats, and exercises are conducted on the moving surface of water on the beach.
Aqua Yoga: As the name suggests, exercises are conducted in the water. This style enhances body balancing, and is beneficial for pregnant women, and people with limited mobility.
Yoga Booty Ballet: This variant combines dance with yoga, and is a cardio workout.
Aerial Yoga: This style is conducted while the yogi is suspended in air by a cloth sling. With just a support to the core, Aerial yoga gives greater flexibility and increased movement of all parts of the body.
Rope Yoga: Similar to Aerial yoga, this style suspends the yogi to a wall. Different parts of the body are supported by the ropes on the wall.
Apart from the aforesaid versions, there are many more like the Tantra, Acroyoga (combined with acrobatics and done in pairs), Live Music Yoga, Hot Barre Yoga, Pole Dancing Yoga, Kids Yoga, Corporate Yoga, etc.
Sahaja Yoga: A New Discipline
Sahaja Yoga is comparatively a newer religious movement founded by Nirmala Srivastava. According to the movement, Sahaja Yoga is the state of self-realisation produced by kundalini awakening. It is accompanied by the experience of thoughtless awareness or mental silence. Sahaja Yoga means “spontaneous and born with you”. In simpler terms, it means that the kundalini is within us and it can be awakened spontaneously and effortlessly.
It has been rightly said that “Yoga adds years to your life, and life to your years”. According to Amit Ray, the author of ‘Yoga and Vipassana: An Integrated Lifestyle’, “Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul”.