Introduction to Yoga

Yoga is an ancient learning whose origin can be traced back in India. It is gaining more popularity nowadays because it offers answers for many problems and needs the contemporary people have:

  • reducing the stress
  • need for spiritual virtues
  • health problems
  • overcoming fear and anxiety
  • discipline and personal development

Most people associate yoga with the yoga postures (asanas) and the breathing exercises (pranayama). But this is only one of the yoga branches, called hatha yoga. This branch of yoga is the most popular in the western world, because it stands closer to the western way of thinking. In this rush and strenuous world people look for fast and effective ways for reducing the stress and hatha yoga can give this to them.

Many people practicing yoga claim that even after the first couple of hours of exercising they have felt tangible improvement in their stamina and health condition.

However yoga has a deeper spiritual side which very few realize and practice. After the practitioners have mastered their bodies and a great part of the physiological processes that run in it, they begin to gain even bigger control over their thoughts and emotions. Once they have gained clearer vision about the reality a natural need of deepening of the spirituality and seeking the meaning of life behind the visible and material arouses. The following branches of yoga include these aspects:

  • Râja-Yoga is the “Royal Yoga” aiming at liberation through meditation, which is for practitioners who are capable of intense concentration—the eightfold path of Patanjali’s ashta-anga-yoga, also called “Classical Yoga”
  • Hatha-Yoga is the “Forceful Yoga” aiming at liberation through physical transformation
  • Jnâna-Yoga is the “Wisdom of Yoga” aiming at liberation through the steady application of higher wisdom that clearly discerns between the real and the unreal
  • Karma-Yoga is the “Action Yoga” aiming at liberation through self-transcending service
  • Bhakti-Yoga is the “Devotional Yoga” aiming at liberation through self-surrender in the face of the Divine
  • Tantra-Yoga is the “Continuity Yoga” aiming at liberation through ritual, visualization, subtle energy work, and the perception of the identity (or continuity) of the ordinary world and the transcendental Reality
  • Mantra-Yoga is the “Yoga of Potent Sound” aiming at liberation through the recitation (aloud or mental) of empowered sounds (such as om, hûm, ram, hare krishna, etc.)—often considered an aspect of Tantra-Yoga