What Is This Thing Called Yoga?

By: Robin Darch

In this article I will help you understand what Yoga is and how it can help you. Achieve a balanced happy and useful life. Yoga is more than exercise. Yoga is spiritual and gives you much more than just a healthy body. It helps your mind and your spirituality as well.

The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word "Yuj" meaning to yoke, join or unite. Yoga is meant to combine your physical, mental, and spiritual being to attain more out of life.

Yoga originated in India where they consider it part of classical philosophy that combines your soul with the universe. But according to the website iyengar-yoga, “The origins of yoga are believed to be much older than that, stemming from the oral traditions of Yogis, where knowledge of Yoga was handed down from Guru (spiritual teacher) to Sisya (spiritual student) all the way back to the originators of Yoga, "the Rishis," who first began investigation into the nature of reality and man's inner world.”

Legend has it that knowledge of Yoga was first passed by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati and from there into the lives of men.

There are many parts of the Yoga family or many different forms. Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga are all well known forms of Yoga, but there are many more.

According to Wikipedia, “Karma yoga, or the "discipline of action" is one of the four pillars of yoga, Karma yoga focuses on the adherence to duty (dharma) while remaining detached from the reward. It states that one can attain Moksha (salvation) by doing his duties in an unselfish manner.”

Raja Yoga is different and involves psychophysical meditation techniques to attain experiences of the truth and finally achieve liberation.

Bhakti yoga is the Hindu term for the spiritual practice of fostering of loving devotion to God, called bhakti. Bhakti yoga is generally considered the easiest of the four general paths to liberation, or moksha.

Jnana in Sanskrit means "knowledge", and is often interpreted to mean "knowledge of the true self". To say, "I am Brahman, the pure, all-pervading Consciousness, the non-enjoyer, non-doer and silent witness," is jnana. To behold the one Self everywhere is jnana.

Okay, so those are the definitions of some of the forms of Yoga, but how does it help me? How do I decide which form of Yoga is the one for me?

A lot depends on what you are trying to achieve. There are more forms of Yoga than just those I mentioned and it is a good idea for you to search for the definitions of all forms of Yoga before deciding which one is right for you.

I am using these four types of Yoga as examples to give you an idea of the things you need to consider when choosing a form of Yoga to study and participate in.

Using the examples above and just the short definitions given to us there, you can see they are distinct and each has a different purpose or goal.

Karma is meant to help you attain salvation through your actions. To humbly serve in this life so you can be served in the next. Everyone has heard of good and bad Karma. The saying comes from this style of Yoga. If you do good things, good things will happen to you if not in this life, in the next.

Raja Yoga is the control of your own mind. Not allowing it to be modified by events that have happened to you in your past. The belief here is that every event that happens in your life modifies your mind and how you perceive things. By practicing Raja Yoga, you can keep your mind from being modified by these events and get to know your true self.

Bhakti Yoga is selfless devotion to GOD. The belief that GOD is the supreme being that created the universe. The 9 principles of Bhakti Yoga are;

1) Hearing about the Lord - singing & chanting God's names (japa), hearing stories from scripture.
2) Glorifying the Lord - describing God's all-attractive features.
3) Remembering the Lord - internal meditation on the Lord's form, activities, names or personality.
4) Serving the lotus feet of the Lord - providing a form of physical service.
5) Worshiping the Lord - deity worship (arcana) is a popular form of this within India.
6) Offering prayers to the Lord - any form of prayer offered to please God.
7) Serving the Lord - offering a service for Lord's pleasure, such as preaching activity.
8) Building a friendship with the Lord - having an internal, loving relationship with God.
9) Surrendering everything unto the Lord - surrendering one's thoughts, actions and deeds to God.

Jnana Yoga incorporates the fundamental belief that there is no dualism, that the universe is all one entity. A good way you may have heard this explained is to become “one with the universe”.

Using these explanations, you can see what the general goals are for each Yoga form. These definitions are far from complete and there is much more to be learned about each of the forms I mentioned here. As I said before there are also other forms of Yoga you should research. There is even sub-forms of Yoga within each of these I mentioned and others.

I suggest you choose the path to enlightenment that suits you if you are considering starting Yoga. Find one that has goals that are appealing to you and stick to that discipline so you can achieve your goals.

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Robin Darch, of PRT Specialised Services Limited has a website, Yoga Tips to help you find all the information you need about Yoga and the benefits of Yoga.

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