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What is yoga?
To the uninitiated, yoga can be understood merely an exercise in flexibility, but it is much more than that. The on-line Oxford dictionary defines yoga as: ‘A Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.’
The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word, yoga is ‘union’, referring to the potential connection that this practice has with the divine, however that may be defined.
Baron Baptiste, one of the founders of Power Yoga, defines yoga as ‘ … ultimately a journey into truth: truth about who you are, what you are capable of, how your actions affect your life.
Truth is the only medicine that ever “cures” us; it is the only means by which we can live at our full, incredible potential.’
Swami Vishnudevananda, who was the first to conduct yoga teacher’s training courses in the West, understood yoga as a way to quieten the mind in preparation for meditation. Its where yogis understand themselves as ‘… universal space …. never ever bound by this body and mind.’ This was part of a larger belief to ‘Serve Love, give, purify, meditate,
Today yoga teacher trainings are conducted throughout the world – world regardless if live in Bali, Thailand, Costa Rica or Hawaii. Thus the meaning continues to be challenged, as more and more people become real and quasi real yogi’s.
Types of yoga
There are many different types of yoga, ranging from ancient traditional practices through to modern practices, such as Power Yoga. Here a four of the more popular types of yoga often found in gyms, fitness centres, yoga studios and ashrams globally:
Hatha Yoga includes most yoga styles and is understood as a general category. It is a comparatively older system which includes the practice of asanas (yoga postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). Together they all help to bring peace to the mind and body, preparing the body for deeper spiritual practices such as meditation.
Kundalini Yoga incorporates repetitive movements, dynamic breathing techniques, chanting, meditation and mantras designed to stimulate the energy at the spine’s base in order to pull it upward through each of the seven chakras.
Ashtanga Yoga is structured, where one or more of the six ashtanga series makes up a class. Each ashtanga series is a set of sequenced, ordered asanas is accompanied by breathe. This is vigorous and physically demanding, and characteristically fast-paced. One form of Ashtanga is Power Yoga; it too is fast-paced and usually done with heat and focused on giving the body a workout – both cardiovascular and strength-wise. It is claimed to be the most popular style of yoga practiced in the United States.
Bikram Yoga is often described as intense and sweaty. The ninety-minute classes are extremely consistent, held in a room with a humidity of 40% and heated to 105°F (40.6°C). Classes are made up of the same sequenced copyrighted 26 postures and 2 breathing techniques.