Yoga has never been more popular. With peoples awareness of living healthy the practice of yoga is well and Truly on the rise. Yoga is a movement; in more ways than one. I myself have recently taken up the discipline in order to relieve stress, gain strength and become more flexible after years of resistance training.
Here we are going to look at why yoga is a movement, yoga origins dating back many years, all the different styles of yoga, the benefits it has and its effects on mind and body.
Most say yoga can be traced back five thousand years. Some believe it is ten thousand years old. Yoga is said to have been developed by the Indus Sarasvati civilization of Northern India. Early writings are said to have been placed on palm leaves and therefore were very easily damaged. The Rig Veda was an old and sacred text and is said to have mentioned the word yoga first. Containing songs, rituals and mantras it was used by the Brahmans also known as Vedic Priests.
Its early practices were developed and documented in the Upanishads by the Brahmans and the Rishis. The Upanishads held over two hundred scriptures. The most renowned of these yoga scriptures was the Bhagavad-Gita and is said to originate from 500BCE. The Upanishads looked to try to sacrifice ego through knowledge, wisdom and action. This time is known as the Pre-classical era.
Next came the classical era of yoga, defined by the Patonjali’s yoga sutras. Written in the second century Patanjali broke it down in to an eight stage path known as “the 8 limbs” which once achieved would bring enlightenment. The eight limbs are as follows:
- Yama – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows
- Niyama – Positive duties or observances
- Asana – Posture
- Pranayama – Breathing techniques
- Pratyahara – Sense withdrawal
- Dharana – Focused concentration
- Dhyana – Meditative absorption
- Samadhi – Bliss or enlightenment
These yoga sutras still strongly influence modern day yoga and Patanjali is considered to be the Father of yoga.
We now move on to the post classical yoga era. Centuries after Patanjali, yoga masters developed Tanta yoga. Dismissing the teachings of the ancient Vedas these master embraced the physical body. This was their path to enlightenment. They created new techniques made to bring mind and body together whilst at the same time separating ones spirit from its physical form. The connection between mind, body and spirit bred practices and was to develop in to what we widely class as yoga in the west. It is named Hatha Yoga.
This brings us to the final era known as the modern era, In the late 1800s and early 1900s yoga masters began to travel to the west and started to gain attention and began to build a following. In 1893 Swami Vivekananda gave lectures on yoga in Chicago. Hatha yoga was becoming far more popular by the 1920s and 30s spearheaded by T Krishnamacharya and Swami Sivananda. Respectively they opened schools in Mysore, Karnataka and by the holy Ganges river.
Krishnamacharya produced students BKS Lyengar, TKV Desikachar and Pattabhi Jois. All would go on to become world renowned and all continued to increase the popularity of Hatha yoga. Swami Sivanda authored books and opened hatha yoga schools all over the world.
Slowly but surely yoga continued in to the West until In 1947 Indra Devi opened her first yoga studio in Hollywood. Since then many more Indians and westerners have become pioneers and Hatha yoga has gained millions of followers. Today there are many different schools, studios and styles being practiced all over the world.
Styles of Yoga
Anusara is one of the newest forms of yoga founded by John Friend in 1997. Meaning “To flow with grace” Anusara was developed to create a positive and lighheartened environment for people wanting to embrace a more emotional yoga experience.
Great for core and muscular strength balance and coordination, Anusara is made up of 250 poses or asanas.
“Yoga is about awakening. Yoga is about creating a life that brings more beauty and more love into the world.”
Ashtanga is the Sanskrit word for the eight limbs of yoga developed by Sri K Pattabhi Jois in the late 1940s. Ashtanga can be a very demanding and vigorous practice having very strict guidelines. Known for its physical challenges, Ashtanga offers its practitioners order and accuracy. With this physical challenge comes great core strength and flexibility.
Often Ashtanga classes are taught in Sanskrit, the language of yoga. Its aim is to bring movement and breathing together to purify the body.
“Ashtanga yoga is 99% practice, 1% theory. Practice, practice and all is coming.” Sri K Pattabhi Jois
Also, known as hot yoga, Bikram yoga practice takes place in a room at which the temperature is 105 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius with 40 degrees of humidity. Very hot indeed!!!
Developed by Bikram Choudhury in 1973, this practice typically features the same 26 poses in each class. It is said to be very physically demanding and helps release toxins from the body, also helping with circulation. Bikram yoga is great for weight loss, for obvious reasons. Classes often last 90 minutes and can burn up to 700 calories.
“You are never too old, never too bad, never too late and never too sick to start from scratch once again.” Bikram Choudhury
This yoga practice was developed by B K S Lyengar and focuses on alignment and precise movements. Practitioners must control the breathe whilst holding precise poses, often for a longer time, whilst making small adjustments. Lyengar yoga also uses a lot of props to help perfect form and move deeper in to the poses safely.
A slow and methodical style, Lyengar makes students relaxed and open after classes.
“My body is a temple and asanas are my prayer” B K S Lyengar
Meaning “to place in a special way” in Sanskrit Vinyasa was adopted from Ashtanga in the 1980s. Also, known as power yoga or power flow, Vinyasa is a very athletic practice. It has often been described as Freestyle Ashtanga as it has no rigid structure like many other practices.
“Teach what is inside you, not as it applies to you, to yourself, but as it applies to others.” Tirumalac Krishnamacharya
I could write a whole article on the benefits of yoga both mentally and physically. If you practice any form of yoga even if it is just for ten minutes a day you will not need to be told about them. Even after just a short time doing yoga on a daily basis I feel physically better, stronger and more relaxed. I have less stress and find that problems can be solved easier with less hassle or worry. Below is a list of benefits, I will not go in to detail as we will be here all day. Just known that this is just a few of the benefits.
- Encourages self care
- Gives inner strength
- Peace of mind
- Realease Tension
- Boosts the immune system
- Helps focus
- Improves balance and flexibility
- Builds muscle and strength
- Perfects postures
- Helps with bone health and blood flow
- Helps with reoccurring muscular pain
I mean if you have any of these problems, yoga is for you and if you don’t; well who isn’t looking for peace of mind
Mind and Body
The unity between mind and body has been forgotten by many. Many sculpt fabulous bodies whilst neglecting their mind. Mental health issues are on the rise massively, that’s a whole other article though. Others have minds of steel but neglect their bodies. Another thing on the rise; obesity. That is not to say that every person with a strong mind has body problems and vice versa, it’s merely an example of the modern world we live in. The connection between body and mind has never been more important and yoga is a proven bridge between the two.
One hand washes the other, looking after the body will help the mind be strong. Looking after the mind will help the body prosper. Yoga and meditation are proven to boost well-being and help fight stress. As well as having a positive effect on the central nervous and immune systems. Yoga teaches us to look inwards, to really seek who we are as a person. Something we are really never taught as a child or adult. Well I was not anyways. Meditation and the quieting of the mind, not as easy as it sounds but definitely worth practice and time. It can help reduce heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure and the levels of stressful hormones. If we can find a happy balance between mind and body anything and everything is possible.
“Yoga is a way to freedom. By its constant practice, we can free ourselves from fear, anguish and loneliness” Indra Devi
Yoga is a movement and a strong one. Its simplicity and benefits can be unparalleled. One does not need a thing to start other than a book, internet connection or yoga partaking friend.
I think we have lost the simplicity in life, the important things have become some distant. We live in a modern world of convenience and laziness. No wonder so many person human related problems are on the rise. Complexity, pressure, fear and anxiety have never been higher than in this western world. We should all take a leaf out of the world not ruled by money, jobs, material items and take a step back. Whether this is possible I am really unsure but I do known that the importance of finding ways to be healthy and happy in mind body and soul cannot be underestimated. Maybe yoga is not the answer for everyone but for many it is a path with many benefits. I myself enjoy and feel its benefits and if I can you an too.
Take a moment to look inwards, forget what is outside and find peace within. Yoga aims to make the mind and body strong. Each helps the other.