Developed in India thousands of years ago, Yoga is more than just an exercise discipline; in its fullest form, it is a way of life for the body, mind and spirit. Traditionally, Yoga was designed to increase the body’s energy and develop spiritual awareness. Yoga has been widely adopted in the West because of its use in promoting relaxation and inner calm, as well as increasing physicaland strength.
The Yoga of devotion
Focuses on devotion and worship and its main practices are the performance of rites and the singing of songs of praise. It suits individuals with a devotional temperament.
The Yoga of willpower
Includes steps from Raja Yoga. The individual practises various Asanas (postures) and meditation (Dhyana). The regulation of breathing is vital.
The Yoga of knowledge
Focuses on spiritual knowledge and wisdom. Its focus on study and meditation makes Jnana Yoga suitable for individuals with an intellectual temperament.
The Yoga of action
Selfless service is central to Karma Yoga. The individual seeks to eliminate ego and serve humanity without reward. This suits individuals with an active temperament.
The Yoga of absorption
Requires complete physiological and concentration control. Disciplines include prolonged breath suspension, a stable posture and intense meditative concentration.
The Yoga of religious formulae
Mantra Yoga attempts to influence consciousness through repetition of mantras (sacred syllables, words and phrases).
The Yoga of physical and mental control
Raja Yoga (elements of which are included in Hatha Yoga) focuses on refining and perfecting both mind and body. The practitioner becomes ruler over his mind.
The Yoga of harnessed sexual energy
The closely guarded teachings and techniques focus on control of sexual energies. The union of the male and female, whether actual or imagined, is part of its rituals.
The Yoga of vision and form
The practitioner meditates on a chosen object of contemplation – either a physical object, such as a religious symbol, or a visualized object, such as the design of a temple.
GUIDELINES FOR YOGA PRACTICE
Although Yoga is a gentle form of exercise that is suitable for people of most ages and levels of, some guidelines need to be borne in mind.
- Exhale as you extend into an Asana and then try to breathe evenly.
- Never hold your breath.
- If you feel any pain, stop whatever you are doing.
- Do not force the body beyond its capacity.
- Avoid fast jerky movements; move slowly and smoothly towards the final stage of each Asana.
- If you have any doubt about the suitability of an Asana, seek expert advice before attempting it.
- Watch out for any signs of strain, such as laboured or rapid breathing, shaking in the limbs, fatigue or accelerated heartbeat, particularly in inverted poses, such as the Shoulderstand, where the head is lower than the heart.
- Always practise the principle of ‘joint over joint’ (hips over knees, knees over ankles, for example) to ensure good posture and alignment.
- If you have any medical problems, consult a medical practitioner before beginning a Yoga programme.
- Although some of the Asanas can bring relief when suffering from specific health disorders, Yoga should never be a substitute for medical treatment.
- Do not stand on your head or during menstruation. This is believed to have a detrimental effect on the flow of energy (Prana) around the body.
- Do not take up Yoga for the first time if you are pregnant.
- Tell your teacher if you are pregnant.
- Avoid all inverted Yoga poses during pregnancy.
- Do not overstretch during pregnancy when the body is more supple.
- Do not do any Asanas that constrict the during pregnancy – consult a qualified Yoga teacher if in doubt.