The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit rook “yuj” meaning to “to join”; to join the mind with the body, emotions with logic, and attention with action. The English equivalent is “to yoke”. Yoga is to unite and become one.
The practitioner of yoga is a yogi. In essence, yoga is an exercise. To exercise is to exert and make ready. Yoga is a complete exercise for body and mind. It has techniques which exert the body and force the mind to strive.
All yoga exercises affect body and mind and none of the physical exercises are separate from the mind exercises. To do physical exercises (asanas), all the mental faculties such as attention, focus, and concentration are used. The body is worked to the same extent to exercise the mind, such as mediation, because the posture and sitting position play an important part in creating concentration and “presence”.
Every yoga exercise highlights the union of these two separate elements in today’s industrial humans.
A brief history
Yoga dates back to over 3000 years ago. Indian physicist and philosopher, Patanjali, was the first person to assemble and introduce yoga on a large scale in its present form as a practical science. He lived around two to five centuries BCE. In his book entitled Yoga Sutras, he divided yoga into eight stages. This came to be known as Ashtanga yoga and Westerners know it as the vigorous yoga of the body and mind practiced in a precise order.
Types of yoga
There are four main types of yoga:
- Bhakti yoga
This is the spiritual path to reaching the truth through loving devotion towards all creation.
- Karma yoga
This is the spiritual path to reaching the truth through dedication to work with no thought of personal reward.
- Jñāna yoga
This is the spiritual path to reaching the truth through knowledge and insight.
- Ashtanga yoga
This is the spiritual path to reaching the truth through exercising and controlling body and mind and uniting them. This type of yoga is in turn divided into two other branches: Hatha yoga and Rāja yoga.
- Hatha yoga
Doing the exercises in Hatha yoga on a regular basis will have the following effects:
- The body is cleansed of toxins and impurities.
- Exercises strengthen the respiratory, circulatory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems. The natural resistance of the body increases and a healthy body and mind is achieved.
- It brings impulses under control.
- Rāja yoga
The paths in this branch of yoga will lead to a controlled, orderly mind. The exercises will increase mental skills, focus, concentration, willpower, memory, and other mental abilities. By going through the stages of Rāja yoga, the busy mind will attain inner peace. These stage are:
- Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana : Concentration
- Dhyana : Medication
- Samadhi : Enlightenment
Currently, Hatha yoga which is a limb of Rāja yoga, is the most popular type of yoga practiced globally as the key to attaining a healthy body and peaceful mind. The physical, breathing, and mind exercises in this yoga satisfy the human need for health and peace of mind and are the answer to the accelerated pace of industrial life which has more or less affected every citizen.
Experts in physical education, physicians, psychiatrists, and researchers of the humanities in research centers and major universities of the world have been studying this branch of yoga for many years. The scientific and practical results are currently being implemented in physical and mental health clinics, sports centers, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes for the disabled, and taught in universities as a course unit to increase physical and mental skills.
In 1994, Masoud Mahdavipour devised a table for the four main types of yoga and Ashtanga yoga limbs in order to introduce the uses of Hatha yoga to the experts of the Iranian Physical Education Organization.