Modern day yoga with its plethora of asanas: surya namaskar, savasana, kapalbhati, the warrior pose or the child’s pose, is popular more as a fitness trend than a stepping stone to your spiritual journey. It’s all about flexibility, weight-loss and physical strength versus what it was about almost 2000 years ago which was inner peace, a calm mind, self-realisation and a process of mental purification.(Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Perform Yoga at a Public Event)Maharishi Patanjali, the founder of modern day yoga and author of Yoga Sutra defines yoga as “a technique used to control thought waves in the mind”. He had said, “Yoga isn’t just exercise, it’s a state of mind”. In India and around the world, the number of people who consider yoga to be a workout most definitely exceed the number of people that see yoga in its spiritual context.
According to Gary Kraftsow, author of the book Yoga for Transformation: Ancient Teachings and Practices for Healing the Mind, Body and Soul, “Our tendency today is to think of physical fitness and health in terms of measurements or standards of performance like the ability to run a marathon or do a bench-press. We bring this mentality to asana practice, so many have the impression that it is about performance and that we can measure our progress by our ability to perfectly perform the postures.”
However, ancient texts like the vedas link the tradition of yoga with five human tenets: the physical body, vitality, intellect, personality and heart. So they base the concept of physical fitness with a feeling of lightness in the body, an ability to withstand change, a stable body and a focused mind.
With time, yoga was further broken down into different types, each addressing a different need of the body and based on a different set of beliefs, practices and rituals. G.K.Devanand explains this in his book Teaching of Yoga, “An active person can realise his divinity through work and duty with Karma yoga, a religious person through Bhakti yoga, an intellectual person through knowledge and Jnana yoga and a meditative person through Raja yoga.”
But the types of yoga you see these days are remarkably different from the ones that existed hundreds of years ago. They’ve evolved and adapted to the needs of the modern day man. You may have noticed them on your gym schedule, but now we’re going to take you through a brief history of each along with their benefits.
Ashatnga Yoga literally means eight-limbed yoga and was conceptualised by K. Pattabhi Jois. Maharishi Patanjali described this type of yoga as a way to reveal your universal self through eight spiritual practices or eight limbs that need to be practiced.
• Yama (moral codes)
• Niyama (self- purification)
• Asana (posture)
• Pranayama (breath control)
• Pratyahara (sense control)
• Dharana (concentration)
• Dhyana (meditation)
• Samadhi (absorption into the universal)
Benefits of Ashtanga Yoga
1. It improves blood circulation and calms the mind.
2. It helps develop strength and flexibility.
3. Helps tone muscles and lubricates the joints.
4. Helps with weight loss.
5. Supports mental clarity and brings you closer to self-awareness.
6. Massages internal organs and helps release chronic tension.
This is one of the oldest branches of yoga that originated in ancient India. In fact, certain Hindu traditions even believe that Shiva is the founder of Hatha yoga. According to the principal texts of Hatha yoga, the human body is made up of networks of subtle channels called nadis. Hatha yoga helps in purification and balancing of the nadis through the process of asana, pranayama and mudra. Hatha yoga is all about using different postures to drive energy to specific parts of the body. It’s the umbrella under which most styles of postural practice fall.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
1. Helps eliminate toxins and build immunity.
2. Tones the spine.
3. Corrects the malfunctions of glands.
4. Helps in calming and de-stressing.