The Yoga sutras define yoga as Yogash – Chitta – Vritti – Nirodha “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind”. Only with a calm mind can the true nature of existence be realised.
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to yolk or to bind and is often interpreted as ‘union’ or a method of discipline.
To receive the full benefits of Yoga it is advisable to practice with a teacher 2-3 times per week and further 2-3 times at home if you are able.
Unlike stretching or fitness, yoga is more than just asana (posture), it is a physical, mental and spiritual practice. Yoga is unique because we connect the movement of the body and fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. Connecting the mind, body and breath helps us to direct our attention inward where we learn to recognise our habitual thought patterns without judgment. You will most likely become much more flexible by doing Yoga, and so will your mind.
Yoga is not a religion; it is a way of life for spiritual growth.
Yoga is often referred to as a tree, with roots, a trunk, branches, blossoms and fruit. Hatha Yoga is one of six branches; the others include Raja, Karma, Bhakti, Jnana and Tantra Yoga. Each branch represents a particular approach to life with its unique characteristics and functions.
The word Hatha means willful or forceful. Hatha Yoga refers to a set of asanas and sequences of asanas, designed to align your skin, muscles and bones. The postures are also designed to open the many channels of the body, especially the main channel, the spine – so that energy can flow freely.
Hatha is also translated as ha meaning “sun” and tha meaning “moon”. This refers to the balance of masculine aspects – active, hot, sun – and female aspects – receptive, cool, moon – within all of us. Hatha Yoga is a path towards creating balance and uniting opposites. In our physical bodies we develop a balance of strength and flexibility. We also learn to balance our effort and surrender to each pose.
Hatha is the Yoga that addresses the body and mind and requires discipline and effort. It is the Yoga that we can feel, that we can experience, right here and right now. Hatha Yoga is a powerful method of self-transformation.
Raja means ‘royal’ and meditation is the focal point of this branch in yoga. The Eight Limbs of Yoga as outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga sutras applies to Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga attracts individuals who are introspective and drawn to meditation.
The path of service, something none of us can escape. The main aspect of Karma Yoga is what we experience today is created by our actions in the past. Being aware of this, all of our present efforts become a way to consciously create a future that frees us from being bound by negativity and selfishness. Karma is a path of self-transcending action. We practice Karma Yoga whenever we perform our work and live our lives in a selfless fashion and as a way to serve others.
The path of devotion. Seeing the divine in all of creation, Bhakti Yoga is a positive way to channel emotions. The path provides us with an opportunity to cultivate acceptance and tolerance to everyone we come into contact with. Bhakti Yogis express the devotional nature of their path in every thought, word, and deed.
The Yoga of the mind, of wisdom, the path or the sage of scholar. This path requires development of the intellect through the study of the scriptures and texts of the Yogic tradition. The Jnana Yoga approach is considered the most difficult and at the same time the most direct. It involves serious study and will appeal to those who are more intellectually inclined.
Is the pathway of ritual. In Tantric practice we experience the divine in everything we do. A polite attitude is therefore cultivated, encouraging a ritualistic approach to life. Although Tantra has become associated exclusively with sexual ritual, most Tantric schools actually recommend a celibate lifestyle. Tantra will appeal to those Yogis who enjoy ceremony and relate to the feminine principle of the cosmos, which Yogis call Shakti.