"Yoga" the word derived from Sanskrit means union of atma or individual soul with the paramatma or the universal force. A yogi's ultimate aim is to be able to attain this 'union' with the help of certain mental and physical exercises……
Yoga is a way of life, based on ancient Indian wisdom and culture. It is an art of living a healthy, balanced, peaceful and contented life. Since the days of Indus Civilization, for more than 5000 years, Yoga has been practiced in India. There are various types of Yoga, all of which lead ultimately to the same goal - unification with the Divine.
The Bhagavad-Gita talks of four branches that are considered the four main paths of Yoga:
- Karma Yoga (yoga of Action),
- Jnana Yoga (yoga of Knowledge),
- Bhakti Yoga (yoga of Devotion),
- Raja Yoga (yoga of Meditation).
The credit for encapsulating the various yogic practices and tradition goes to Maharishi Patanjali (known as the father of Yoga) who in his works "Yoga Sutra" has outlined 8 steps or methods (known as Ashtanga Yoga). He emphasizes that the aim of Yoga is knowledge of self. The eight stages of Yogic practices in Ashtanga Yoga are
Yama = Disciplined Behavior
Niyama= Self Purification
Asana= Body Postures
Pranayama= Breath Control
Pratyahara= Control of Senses
Samadhi= Absolute state of tranquility and eternity
Hatha Yoga in its many modern variations is the style that most people actually associate with the word "Yoga" today. It attaches a lot of importance to the perfect physical form, attained through the practice of various asanas, mudras and pranayama (control of breath). It is believed that spiritual perfection and self-realization can be attained by this practice.