Yoga as a discipline

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practise or discipline.  It is believed that Yoga was most likely developed in the 5th and 6th centuries BCE, and that it has its origins in India. Yoga was introduced to the western world in the 20th century and since the 1980’s has become popular as a method of physical exercise. However, yoga in indian traditions has a more mediative and spiritual core. There are different schools of thought towards practise and goals in yoga within different religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

According to Knut A. Jacobsen, “Yoga has five principal meanings:

  1. Yoga, as a disciplined method for attaining a goal;
  2. Yoga, as techniques of controlling the body and the mind;
  3. Yoga, as a name of one of the schools or systems of philosophy (darśana);
  4. Yoga, in connection with other words, such as “hatha-, mantra-, and laya-,” referring to traditions specialising in particular techniques of yoga;
  5. Yoga, as the goal of Yoga practice.

There are many different types of Yoga including Patanjali, Tantra, Ashtanga, Hatha and Classical.

Hatha Yoga which focuses on physical and mental strength building exercises using three main elements – exercise, breathing and meditation.  It is the style that many people associate with the word yoga today.  Compared to the seated asana, or sitting meditation posture, of Patanjali’s Raja yoga, it marked the development of asanas (plural) into the full body ‘postures’ now in popular usage.  The word “Hatha” comes from “Ha” which means Sun, and “Tha” which means Moon.

Yoga is an extensive collection of unique exercises and techniques, aimed at uniting the body, mind and spirit. The cumulative result is a state of enlightenment of the spirit.

Each yoga pose is termed asana and has specific physical benefits.  Perfect alignment of the pose increases stamina.  The breathing exercises are called pranayama they clear the mind and bring extra oxygen into the body. The inhale moves in the form of energy, the exhale in the form of toxic waste.  A complete yoga session should give you a feeling of relaxation and contentment.

Health Benefits of Yoga:

Asanas are different for different age groups, yet they have one common principal; holding tension between the muscles. Different muscle groups are focused on in different postures, ensuring benefit to all body systems.

  • Improved blood flow to the peripheral blood vessels, leading to improved cardiovascular function.
  • Exercises of abdominal muscles improve digestion, and help to remove body fat.
  • Improved flexibility and builds muscle strength
  • Perfects posture
  • Prevents cartilage and joint breakdown
  • Long term benefits may include reduced stress and anxiety, increased stamina and maintenance of composure.

Regular Yoga practise helps to increase mental awareness, physical strength and promotes spiritual well-being.