Yoga is an ancient discipline developed in India, one of the six orthodox doctrines of Hindu religious philosophy. The etymology of yoga comes from the Sanskrit word Yuj which means "union". One of the purposes of yoga is to improve our health by disciplining the body and training the mind to develop meditative skills. The concept of health in yoga is understood in a holistic sense, that is, the physical-psychological-spiritual well-being.
UNITE THE BODY-MIND-SPIRIT WITH YOGA PRACTICE
Yoga practice allows us to achieve many psycho-physical benefits that have also been scientifically recognized, but the ultimate goal of yoga is the search for spiritual awareness that leads us to discover the true essence of our being, then of our soul, the union of our body-mind with our divine part. We must not make the mistake of considering yoga a purely physical discipline, a form of gymnastics or contortionism.
Yoga first of all cancels any form of judgment, yoga in fact is not performing, the purpose is not to be able to "become good" or to achieve a competitive result.
The training of the physical serves to create a connection with our mind and open the way for the union of body-mind-spirit. Yoga is therefore concerned with the body, mind and ultimately the spirit.
In daily life in our mental activity we are always projected to worry about the future or lost in brooding and regretting the past.
Our mind is never where our body is.
Instead, when we perform a pose, asana, we can be consciously inside the present moment and unite the physical action with that of the mind. This is the meaning of the word yoga, union, here and now or as the ancient Romans said Hic et nunc.
Yoga uses certain techniques such as voluntary breath control Pranayama to create a bridge between body and mind and put them in sync. Another technique used by yoga to unite our body-mind-spirit in the present moment is Dhyana meditation. The benefits of meditation are also now scientifically recognized.
Practicing yoga, then doing the asanas, controlled breathing Pranayama or Dhyana meditation you immediately experience a benefit on a psychological level, stress decreases and the mind is calmer. The union of body and mind allows you to embark on a path of unification with our spiritual sphere that is the very meaning of yoga.
HISTORY OF YOGA AND ASHTANGA YOGA
Yoga is a millenary discipline with ancient origins. The first text that has the merit of having described and organized yoga is the Yoga sutra of Patanjali (who lived between the second and fifth centuries BC). This text consists of 196 sutras divided into four books or sections called Pāda that are:
- Samādhi Pāda: the union - describes the purpose of yoga
- Sādhana Pāda: the realization - describes the techniques to achieve the goal
- Vibhūti Pāda: the powers - describes the benefits of yoga
- Kaivalya Pāda: liberation - describes the ultimate stage of achieving union body-mind-spirit
In particular, in the second section Patanjali classifies and describes the Ashtanga yoga (The eight parts of classical yoga, Raja yoga) or the explanation of the techniques "practical" by which you can get the union of the body-mind-spirit. Patanjali articulates the yoga "practical" in eight parts:
1 Yama: The external ethical precepts
2 Niyama: The personal ethical precepts
3 Asana: The postures
4 Pranayama: The breathing
5 Pratyahara: The withdrawal of the senses
6 Dharana: Concentration
7 Dhyana: Meditation
8 Samadhi: Union with the Divine
RAJA YOGA AND YOGA STYLES
Although there are several styles of yoga in reality we must understand that yoga is one, in the sense that each of these styles represents a different path through different approaches to achieving the goal, common to the vision of the soul in the union of body-mind-spirit. The yoga practice therefore aims to unite the body to the mind and if we want to raise our knowledge we can unite the mind to the spiritual intelligence and ultimately unite body mind and spiritual intelligence to the soul itself.
The term Raja yoga means the classical yoga in the broadest sense from which we categorize all styles of yoga. Classical yoga has a strong mental-meditative component that includes chanting, mudras, the recitation of mantras and physical exercise is only one of eight parts of which it is composed.
Hatha yoga is the branch of classical Raja yoga that primarily uses the psycho-physical exercise of asana postures and Pranayama breathing to achieve body-spirit-mind union. From Hatha yoga descend all yoga styles that use asanas, Pranayama and other "physical" techniques. They are therefore a form of Hatha yoga styles Ashtanga vinyasa, Iyegar yoga, Vinyasa flow.
Then there are yoga styles that derive from the contamination of different oriental cultures such as Yin yoga that derives from the encounter of Indian yoga culture with the Taoist one. Finally, there are more modern and western styles of yoga such as power yoga, acrobatic yoga that derive from the spread of yoga in the West, but that lose the spiritual component to focus on physical performance.
Yoga can therefore be proposed both in its original form to undertake a spiritual path, and in a psycho-physical or purely physical form. For this reason it will be important for those approaching the practice of yoga, to understand what kind of teacher, school and style to choose depending on the path that you intend to take.
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