What Is Yoga?
The word Yoga, from the Sanskrit word “yuj’ means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline. The Indian sage Patanjali was believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serve as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharna (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).
Yoga as Alternative medicine ?
Yoga as alternative medicine primarily involves hatha yoga, which focuses on physical postures. “Yoga” in this sense and common parlance refers primarily to the asanas but less commonly to pranayama. Aspects of meditation are sometimes included.
Both the meditative and the exercise components of yoga show promise for non-specific health benefits. The system of hatha yoga believes that prana, or healing “life energy” is absorbed into the body through the breath, and can treat a wide variety of illnesses and complaints.
What is Hatha Yoga?
The term “Hatha Yoga” is commonly used to describe the practice of asana (postures). The syllable ‘ha’ denotes the pranic (vital) force governing the physical body and ‘tha’ denotes the chitta (mental) force thus making Hatha Yoga a catalyst to an awakening of the two energies that govern our lives. More correctly, the techniques described in Hatha Yoga harmonize and purify the body systems and focus the mind in preparation for more advanced chakra and kundalini practices.
Hatha is also translated as ‘ha’ meaning “sun” and ‘tha’ meaning “moon.” This refers to the balance of masculine aspects—active, hot, sun—and feminine aspects—receptive, cool, moon—within all of us. Hatha yoga is a path toward creating balance and uniting opposites. In our physical bodies, we develop a balance of strength and flexibility. We also learn to balance our effort and surrender in each pose.
The Hatha Yoga system includes asanas along with the six shat karmas (physical and mental detox techniques), mudras and bandhas (psycho-physiological energy release techniques) and pranayama (pranic awakening practices). Fine tuning of the human personality at increasingly subtle levels leads to higher states of awareness and meditation.
Benefits of Hatha Yoga
- Builds strength
- Increases flexibility and muscle tone
- Brings focus to the mind
- Encourages physical and mental balance
- Develops proper body alignment
- Reduces stress
- Encourages a sense of calm and peace
- Increases lung capacity for better breathing