Yoga and the benefits of yoga are generally defined as a Hindu discipline that helps to unite body and mind. It aims to achieve a state of complete spiritual insight and tranquillity and is mostly practised in the West as a physical exercise within the discipline.
The benefits of yoga practise are not new. It has been recognized for many years as the perfect discipline to achieve tranquillity, better health and longer life.
Many people see the benefits of yoga as a strange discipline where yogis contort themselves in unnatural positions, do strange physical exercises, and live on a mountaintop somewhere in India. I personally remember a television documentary many years ago that showed a yogi with a forked tongue that he used to clear his sinuses! Anyone interested in yoga has probably also seen pictures of yogis carrying a large weight with their genitals.
In modern times, much has been learned about the benefits of yoga. Yoga practitioners achieve greater flexibility, longer life and inner happiness through the practice of this art. Yoga, as we know it today, aims to unite mind, body and spirit. The mysticism of the Hindu discipline is no longer a myth and can be achieved by all who are willing to learn.
Yoga practice can be broadly divided into three categories – yoga postures (asanas), yoga breathing (pranayama) and meditation. These categories include physiological, psychological, and biochemical effects. In addition, clinicians have compared these results to Western practices such as jogging, aerobics, and weight training and found comparable results.
The most popular style of yoga in the West today is hatha yoga. It is focused on the physical well-being of the individual, and followers of this practice consider the body to be the carrier of the spirit.
Ananda Yoga, a classical style of Hatha Yoga, uses asana and pranayama to awaken, experience, and control the subtle energies in the body, and focuses on the energies of the seven chakras.
Anusara (a-nu-SAR-a) yoga is defined as “immersing oneself in the current of divine will,” “following the heart,” and “moving with the current of divine will.” This new style, developed by John Friend, is defined as “yoga postures that flow from the heart.” It is heart-centred, spiritually inspiring, and based on a deep knowledge of the outer and inner alignment of the body. It is based on the principles of Hatha Yoga and biochemical practices. Students of this discipline focus their practice on posture, action and alignment.
Ashtanga yoga could be the perfect yoga for anyone looking for a serious workout. Ashtanga was developed by K. Pattabhi Jois and is physically demanding. A series of movement sequences that quickly change from one posture to the next is used to build strength, flexibility and endurance. This style is not suitable for beginners as it requires 6 levels of difficulty. The physical demands of Ashtanga are not for casual practitioners beginning the journey of yoga fitness.
Bikram Yoga, named after its founder Bikram Choudhury, is practised in a room with a temperature of up to 100 degrees. Twenty-six asanas are performed in a typical session, with an emphasis on warming and stretching muscles, ligaments and tendons. Each pose is accompanied by Kapalabhati breathing, the “breath of fire.” The practice of this style promotes purification of the body, release of toxins and ultimate flexibility. One must be in very good physical condition to practise Bikram Yoga.