Yoga: History, Types and Benefits2020-06-21 13:13
Yoga: History, Types and Benefits
Yoga: History, Types and Benefits
“Inhale the future, exhale the past”.
Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit language word ‘Yog’ which means union – Aesthetically the union of souls. Yoga is a group of physical, mental and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. The Sanskrit noun yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root “to attach, join, harness”. In the context of Yoga sutras, the word Yoga means Union. In other words, it can be defined as the Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind.
Pre-classical (2700 BC – 500 BC) – This includes a pre-Vedic and post-Vedic period. Yoga originated in India specifically in the Indus Valley Civilisation and dates back to 5000 B.C. Textual pieces of evidence are found in the Rigveda and Upanishads. 5TH and 6TH Century saw huge development in Yoga as it became systemised.
Classical (500 BC – 800 AD) – This period is defined by Patanjali’s Yoga-sutras, the first systematic presentation of yoga. Written sometime around the 2nd century which describes the path of Raja Yoga often called classical yoga. Patanjali organised the practise of Yoga into 8 limbed-path containing the steps and stages towards obtaining Samadhi or Enlightenment.
Post-classical (800 AD – 1700 AD) – In this era, many sages and philosophers like Adi Shankaracharya, Tulsidas contributed to the development of Raja Yoga, Tantra Yoga and Jnana Yoga. With his teaching, one can achieve Nirvana or liberation. Hatha Yoga was also popularised during this period, most of the asanas we practice today are part of Hatha Yoga.
Modern yoga (1700 AD-Present) – In the late 1800s, yoga master began travelling the world and attracting followers. The breakthrough was Swami Vivekananda and his lectures in Chicago and he emphasised on Yoga and the universality of the world’s religions. Raja yoga was further developed during this phase by BKS Iyenger, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Yogananda, Ramana Maharshi.
Yoga is originated in India started to fade away in the 20Th Century as the natives got inclined to western practices of meditation. But thankfully Yoga found its way back in the Indian Culture and at its peak in the past decade when in 2015 UN declared 21st June as the International Yoga day.
“Letting go, is the hardest asana.”
Primitive types of Yoga:
Karma – Karma Yoga is the path of service through selfless action for the good of others. Some examples include Unconditional service in monasteries and ashrams, cooking and cleaning in the monastery and other voluntary services to others.
Bhakti – Bhakti Yoga cultivates the expression and love of the Divine through Devotional rituals. Forms include regular prayer, chanting, singing, dancing, ceremony etc. Example- a devotional chant or Kirtan in the form of uplifting music.
Jnana – Jnana Yoga is the path of intellect and wisdom, and its components include the study of sacred texts, intellectual debates, philosophical discussion and introspection. Socrates was a jnana yogi along with Ravi Ravindra and David Frawley as modern-day jnana yogis.
Raja – Raja Yoga is the royal path refers to the journey towards personal enlightenment. This path consists of balancing the 3 main types of yoga (Karma, Bhakti, Jnana) while integrating the 8 limbs discussed below.
Raja Yoga is further divided into the following 8 limbs
1. Yamas – Guidelines for ethical standards and moral conduct.
2. Niyamas – Observances and Disciplines
3. Asanas – Practice of Physical postures
4. Pranayama – Special breathing technique used to control the life force, or energy in the body.
5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal of senses as a part of transcendence of constant nervous stimuli, the practice of sensory detachment through deep relaxation techniques.
6. Dharana – Concentration and Focus
7. Dhayana – Meditation
8. Samadhi – State of ecstasy, bliss and enlightenment that transcends the self and merges with the divine.
Hatha Yoga – Hatha Yoga is the combination of 3rd and 4th limbs of Raja Yoga i.e. Asana and Pranayama
“Yoga is the journey of the self, to the self, through the self.”
One of the most distinctive types of yoga is Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini is a power associated with the divine feminine. Kundalini school of Yoga is influenced by Shaktism and Tantra schools of Hinduism. It derives its name through a focus on awakening kundalini energy through the regular practice of mantra, tantra, yantra and Yoga
Though there are infinite benefits of Yoga and listing all is quite impossible. So, I have broadly made 4 categories and listed some of the important benefits in each category.
- Physical benefits – Physical benefits can be achieved generally through Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga.
- Good Sleep
- Weight reduction
- Improves breathing
- Increases Strength
- Increased energy
- Improves posture
- Improves flexibility and Balance
- Mental benefits – Mental benefits are generally the output of Jnana yoga and Bhakti Yoga.
- Reduces Stress
- Relieves Anxiety
- Fights depression
- Good mood by the release of endorphins
- Biological benefits – Biological benefits are generally achieved through Hatha Yoga.
- Improves Heart Health
- Reduces Chronic Pain
- Cardio and Circulatory health
- Relieve Migraines
- Improves metabolism
- Improved respiration
- Detoxify organs
- Social benefits – Social benefits can be generally cultivated through practising Karma Yoga and Jnana yoga.
- Improves quality of life
- Improves Character
- Improves social interaction
- Improved work-life balance
“Be where you are, not where you should be.”
The pandemic pushed us into an unexpected lockdown and we were not ready to face it. But as the quarantine passed on gradually, many positive things found away in my life along with some negative ones. And the best positive among them all was Yoga, I started Yoga daily and I have managed to keep it intact in the routine till now. It’s been around 2 months I have been doing yoga daily and benefits are immeasurable. Though there are several benefits of Yoga, I will talk only about a few which I have experienced personally.
Sleeping habits – As the lockdown started, the daily routine was shattered because there no work to go to in the morning and sleeping/waking times were not fixed. The day I decided to do Yoga daily changed my sleeping routine because now I wake up at 5:00 for yoga and hence I am at bed my 11:00. Hence the first benefit of doing Yoga daily is that it improved my sleeping habits.
Reduced stress and depression – We stepped into this quarantine because of the Pandemic (coronavirus). This pandemic affected numerous physically and several others were mentally affected as the fear mounted in the surroundings. Starting Yoga daily helped me to remain stress-free and enjoy the time.
Increased focus and concentration – Yoga and Meditation is the 1st activity of the day has some benefits for the rest of the day. I have observed an increase in the focus and concentration since I have been following this. Clearing out the mind in the morning and keeping it calm for the rest of the day is one of the best things you can do daily.
Peaceful days – Waking up at the dawn and witnessing the sunrise with Yoga has surely something magical in it. It feels like my days are divinely blessed and I feel much enriched throughout the day following this routine. And hence I am enjoying very peaceful days right now and will strive to maintain it as long as possible and I highly recommend the same to you.
This was my personal experience of doing Yoga for just 2 months. I am glad that this lockdown I inclined towards yoga and have already started witnessing some miraculous benefits. If you do Yoga or some kind of meditation or any other exercise right at the time of sunrise then it’s appreciative and if not then it’s high time you must start right now. As the situation (coronavirus pandemic) also demands a healthy immune system.
“The longest journey of a person is the journey inward”.
Hope I made sense throughout and gave you something useful to read.
Share your experienced and opinions in the comment box.
Thank you for reading.