Yoga and Meditation

 

Yoga, the science of man, based on ancient Indian wisdom and culture, is an art of living a healthy, balance, peaceful and contented life. Yoga, being a total integrated system, studies man in wholeness- body, mind and spirit and is integrated to certain principles, ideas, values attitudes and a way of life for personal and social benefits. Conceived by the great sages in their quest for self-realization, it has come to be recognized during its long travels from the hermitage to the cities, as the science of man, a philosophy of life, a code of conduct and attitude and on approach, as well as on art of living, which is capable not only of ensuring physical wellbeing, mental peace harmony, moral elevation but also the spiritual uplifts of man. It must however be kept in mind that it is a long and difficult journey calling for perseverance, persistence, dedication and total surrender. There is no instant Yoga. It is not a question of mere closing one's eyes or of sitting in a posture. It involves cultivation of an attitude and approach to life. It must not only be a philosophy to be imbibed but a practical philosophy to be lived. It is therefore, not enough to think of Yoga but to do it and to live it in our life. It is also necessary to understand that Yoga is not a substitute for action. Human effort is indispensable. The transformation is not at the cost of the action but to enable us to perform our duties more efficiently, more effectively and honestly.

Yoga had recognized and accepted the importance of the mind and the subconscious over the total human personality much earlier than modern psychology did in its present form. The core of Yoga is an eight-limbed path that forms the structural framework for yoga practice. Upon practicing all eight limbs of the path it becomes self-evident that no one element is elevated over another in a hierarchical order. Each is part of a holistic focus which eventually brings completeness to the individual as they find their connectivity to the divine. Because we are all uniquely individual a person can emphasize one branch and then move on to another as they round out their understanding.


In brief the eight limbs, or steps to yoga, are as follows:
YAMA Universal morality
NIYAMA Personal observances
ASANA Body postures
PRANAYAMA Breathing exercises, and control of Prana
PRATHYAHARA Control of the Senses
DHARANA Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
DHYANA Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
SAMADHI Union with the Divine

Of these, the first five, which bolder on the psychosomatic approach, are referred to as external (Bahiranga) Yoga, popularly known as Hath Yoga, while the latter three, which directly affect the psyche are known as internal (Antaranga) Yoga, Popularly known as Raja Yoga. It is almost impossible to try internal Yoga (Raja Yoga) for the average man before accomplishing the external one (Hatha Yoga). The respective sequence of the eight steps is the standard methodology of Yoga.

Ever wonder why it is necessary to meditate after practicing Yoga asanas. One of the many benefits of practicing yoga asanas is the fact that it allows us to slip into meditation effortlessly. Meditation being one of the main aspects of Yoga, it's essential that we sit for meditation after practicing Yoga asana and pranayama, else it is like preparing our dinner but not eating it! In meditation one delves deep into the self. There are many kinds of meditations though they might seem different most of them are, in essence, the same.

Yoga is based on a deep understanding of man and his position in this world and was the first system evolved in the world to recognize the connection and the interaction between body and mind. It studies in depth the very structure of the human personality, through analysis of the psychological complexities and the course of human pain, sorrow and suffering. It has laid down psychosomatic means through its various physiological processes for dealing with the Body-Mind complex and tries to harmonize and integrate the human personality at all levels and stages of life.

Yoga is basically a way of life which has been evolved as a system to go beyond the personality complex and achieve absolute freedom- liberation of the spirit from the matter.


Yoga Disciplines - Different Types of Yoga

There are many different types of yoga to practice, so it's important to find out which type of yoga is right for you. Here's a quick introduction to some of the most common and popular types of yoga.


Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga is the method of yoga that is a comprehensive workout that includes all the components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular flexibility and weight loss. One of the unusual but most beneficial aspects of Bikram yoga is the 95-105 degree temperature and humidity which promotes more flexibility, detoxification, and prevention of injuries. This is the only yoga style that specializes in using the heated environment also known as “hot yoga” because it is done in a very warm room. Bikram yoga is excellent for increasing flexibility because the heat helps tissues to stretch. This type of yoga is not appropriate for those with cardiovascular disease because of the strain placed on the body when vigorously exercising in the heat.


Hatha Yoga

The word hatha means willful or forceful. It is an easy-to-learn basic form of yoga, hatha yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (known as asanas or postures), 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 yoga is a powerful tool for self-transformation. It asks us to bring our attention to our breath, which helps us to still the fluctuations of the mind and be more present in the unfolding of each moment.

Hatha Yoga is the foundation of all Yoga styles. It incorporates Asanas (postures), Pranayama (regulated breathing), meditation (Dharana & Dhyana) and kundalini (Laya Yoga) into a complete system that can be used to achieve enlightenment or self-realization. The ideal way to practice the Hatha Yoga is to approach the practice session in a calm, meditative mood. Sit quietly for a few moments, and then begin the series, slowly, with control and grace, being inwardly aware as the body performs the various poses. Do not overdo the asanas or try to compete with others. Take it easy and enjoy.


Pranayam Yoga

Pranayama is control of Breath. On subtle levels prana represents the pranic energy responsible for life or life force, and "ayama" means control. One can control the rhythms of pranic energy with pranayama and achieve healthy body and mind.

Regular practice increases and enhances the quantity and quality of prana, clears blocked nadis and chakras, and results in the practitioner feeling energetic, enthusiastic and positive. Practiced correctly under the right supervision prananyama brings harmony between the body, mind and spirit, making one physically, mentally and spiritually strong. Some common pranayamas include Bhastrika, Kapalabhati, and Nadi shodan pranayama. If it is done wrongly, it may harm the person. It is true that if one does Pranayama unscientifically, without proper guidance, certainly suffers. But it does not mean that it is such a difficult process, that it cannot be done by a common man.


Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga is called the Yoga of Awareness. It is a dynamic, powerful tool that is designed to give you an experience of your soul. In Kundalini Yoga we harness the mental, physical, and nervous energies of the body and put them under the domain of the will, which is the instrument of the soul. This technology precisely and consciously combines breath, mudra, eye-focus, mantra, body locks, and postures to balance the glandular system, strengthen the nervous system, expand lung capacity, and purify the blood. It brings balance to the body, mind, and soul.

This system of Yoga is concerned with awakening of the psychic centers or chakras, which exists in every individual. (There are six main chakras in the human beings). The mind is made up of different subtle layers. Each of these levels is related to the different chakra or psychic center located throughout the psychic body. In Kundalini Yoga, higher-level chakras are awakened and also the activities associated with these higher psychic centers.


Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga is commonly called Power yoga, Ashtanga is definitely physically demanding. It's probably best suited for an ex-athlete or someone looking to really push their body. This style of yoga is physically demanding as it involves synchronizing breathing with progressive and continuous series of postures-a process producing intense internal heat and a profuse, purifying sweat that detoxifies muscles and organs. The result is improved circulation, flexibility, stamina, a light and strong body, and a calm mind. Ashtanga is an athletic yoga practice and is not for beginners.

This form focuses on powerful flowing movements, such as push-ups and lunges, which take strength and stamina. Ashtanga yoga may be appropriate for those who have successfully rehabilitated from a back injury and are looking for a more strenuous practice, and people who are already athletic, such as runners and cyclists, who want to add flexibility, balance, and concentration to their exercise routines.


Iyengar Yoga

Expect lots of props with this type of yoga such as blocks, harnesses, straps, and even cushions. There's also a lot of focus on alignment so Iyengar can be great for physical therapy.

Iyengar Yoga promotes strength, flexibility, endurance, and balance through coordinated breathing and poses that require precise body alignment. The poses are generally held longer than in other styles of yoga. In Iyengar, you slowly move into a pose, hold it for a minute or so, and then rest for a few breaths before stretching into another. Although Iyengar incorporates the traditional postures, or asanas, that make up the broader category of hatha yoga, the cushions and other props revolutionized yoga by enabling everyone - even the elderly, sick, and disabled -- to practice. Because of its slow pace, attention to detail, and use of props, Iyengar yoga can be especially good if you're recovering from an injury. Iyengar is still one of the most popular types of yoga taught today.

This type of yoga focuses on proper alignment and precise movements. Because of this attention to detail and the modification of poses, Iyengar yoga is often a good form of yoga for people with back pain or neck pain, as they are likely to benefit from modification to the poses.


Jivamukti Yoga

This modern style of yoga emerged in 1984 in New York City. Jivamukti Yoga method expresses the spiritual and ethical aspects of the practice of yoga that have been disregarded or devalued in contemporary times. It is a vigorous and challenging asana form with an emphasis on scriptural study, Sanskrit chanting, vegetarianism, non-violence, meditation, devotion to God and the role that music and listening play in the practice of yoga.

The Jivamukti Yoga method of meditation is a mantra form of meditation, and follows a three-step procedure: Choose a seat, be still, and Focus. The mantra “Let Go” is taught to all Jivamukti students, and provides the focus. The practitioner is instructed to align the silent repetition of the mantra with the incoming and outgoing breath. The Jivamukti method holds realization of the supreme Self or enlightenment to be the ultimate goal of yoga. The practice usually begins with Sanskrit chanting; this is followed by detailed meditation instruction and then actual sitting practice.


Kripalu Yoga

Kripalu is called the yoga of consciousness. This gentle, introspective practice urges practitioners to hold poses to explore and release emotional and spiritual blockages. There are three stages in Kripalu yoga. Stage one focuses on learning the postures and exploring your body’s abilities. Stage Two involves holding the postures for an extended time, developing concentration and inner awareness. Stage Three is like a meditation in motion in which the movement from one posture to another arises unconsciously and spontaneously.

Kripalu Yoga is also a tool for self empowerment and personal growth. The practice teaches you to tap into your own inner-knowing rather than being dependent upon guidance from external authorities. You learn to be open to what others have to offer without giving away your powers to reason, discriminate and make our own decisions. At the same time, you are also establishing an intimate and nurturing relationship with your body. In Kripalu Yoga your body becomes the temple in which you invoke the presence of the divine. This intention can take you to new depths in your practice and in your life.


Kriya Yoga

Kriya means action and Yoga means integration. Kriya Yoga emphasizes integration of reparative consciousness (generated by unceasing movement of thought) with awakenedness (that is, a non-elective holistic attention free from mental fragmentations) through actions of perception and not through the activities of conceptualization.

Kriya deconditions and sets the seeker free from the past karma. It transforms fundamentally the gross ego-centre of the seeker into a subtle individual uniqueness which also includes universality. It brings harmony with the wholeness of life by piercing through the ignorance of the ways of self. It is a unique combination of Hatha-Raja-Laya Yoga. It settles the seeker in his natural state in which his body receives instructions only from glands and Chakras. Thought does not interfere as interloper to create psychosomatic problems and pursuits. Kriya Yoga does not tell stories, does not indulge in miracle mongering to keep the seekers amused in poor and paralyzing consolations.

Kriya Yoga consists of over 70 kriyas out of which only 20 or so are commonly known. Kriya yoga is a very powerful way to walk the spiritual path, but at the same time it is a very demanding way. Kriya yoga cannot be done with people who are loose, people who talk about freedom.