The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning union. It is an ancient system of physical and psychic practice that originated during the Indus Valley civilization in South Asia. The first written records of this methodology appeared around 200 BC in Yogasutra of Patanjali. The system consists of the eightfold path, or Asthangayoga. A contemporary interpretation of yoga describes yoga as a systematic practice aimed at developing harmony in the body, mind, and environment.
Not necessarily. Each principle has the potential to lead a person toward harmony in self and society. Rules for living in society and self-restraining rules help in regulating the functioning of the human being, giving balance in life. Low physical impact postures (asana) and relaxation help in removing the stress in the mind and strain in the body, thereby augmenting balance within and with environment. Breathing techniques help in improving oxygen flow and giving balance in life. Detachment of the mind from the senses, concentration, meditation, and complete union with a super consciousness are also called inner yoga and help in restoring balance of mind with surroundings. The ultimate purpose of yoga is balance that leads to self-realization.
Meditation (dhyana) is a part of total yoga practice. Yoga is composed of eight basic principles.
- Rules for living in society (Yama)
- Self-restraining rules (Niyama)
- Low physical impact postures (Asana)
- Breathing techniques (Pranayama)
- Detachment of the mind from senses (Pratihara)
- Concentration (Dharana)
- Meditation (Dhyana)
- Complete union with super consciousness (Samadhi)
Unlike stretching or fitness, yoga is more than just physical postures. Patanjali's eight-fold path illustrates how the physical practice is just one aspect of yoga. Even within the physical practice, yoga is unique because we connect the movement of the body and the fluctuations of the mind to the rhythm of our breath. Connecting the mind, body, and breath helps us to direct our attention inward. Through this process of inward attention, we learn to recognize our habitual thought patterns without labeling them, judging them, or trying to change them. We become more aware of our experiences from moment to moment. The awareness that we cultivate is what makes yoga a practice, rather than a task or a goal to be completed. Your body will most likely become much more flexible by doing yoga, and so will your mind.
Yoga is not a religion. It is a philosophy that began in India an estimated 5,000 years ago. The father of classical ashtanga yoga (the eight-limbed path, not to be confused with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga yoga) is said to be Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra. These scriptures provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body. Yoga sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths in order to practice or study yoga.
All you really need to begin practicing yoga is your body, your mind, and a bit of curiosity. But it is also helpful to have a pair of yoga leggings, or shorts, and a t-shirt that's not too baggy. No special footgear is required because you will be barefoot. It's nice to bring a towel to class with you. As your practice develops you might want to buy your own yoga mat, but most studios will have mats and other props available for you.
The word hatha means willful or forceful. Hatha yoga refers to a set of physical exercises (known as asanas or postures), and sequences of asanas, designed to align your skin, muscles, and bones. The postures are also designed to open the many channels of the body—especially the main channel, the spine—so that energy can flow freely.
Yes, some additional guidelines are as follows:
- Wear light, comfortable clothing.
- Choose a quiet and peaceful environment
- Practice barefoot, remove contacts, remove wrist watch and jewelry, and tie up long hair.
- Do some warm-up exercises before asanas.
- Start at the appropriate level. Do not force yourself into difficult postures. Go at your own pace.