Types of Yoga and Yoga Practice Guidelines

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 physical flexibility and strength.

Bhakti Yoga

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.

Hatha Yoga

The Yoga of willpower

Includes steps from Raja Yoga. The individual practises various Asanas (postures) and meditation (Dhyana). The regulation of breathing is vital.

Jnana Yoga

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.

Karma Yoga

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.

Laya Yoga

The Yoga of absorption

Requires complete physiological and concentration control. Disciplines include prolonged breath suspension, a stable posture and intense meditative concentration.

Mantra Yoga

The Yoga of religious formulae

Mantra Yoga attempts to influence consciousness through repetition of mantras (sacred syllables, words and phrases).

Raja Yoga

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.

Tantric Yoga

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.

Yantra Yoga

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 fitness, some guidelines need to be borne in mind.

asana de yoga
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  • 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 shoulders 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 abdomen during pregnancy – consult a qualified Yoga teacher if in doubt.
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