Definition of Yoga
Yoga originated in India circa 2000 BCE. The word ‘yoga’ literally means union (from the root Sanskrit verb: yug – to join) It is often interpreted as the union of the mind, body and soul and can provide perfect harmony and balance.
Forms of Yoga
There are four main forms or pathways of yoga
- Karma Yoga – selfless service i.e. working for others for instance through charity work
- Bhakti Yoga – Yoga through devotion. Ghandi is a great example of this.
- Jnana Yoga – Yoga through knowledge or wisdom
- Raja Yoga – The Royal Path (Hatha yoga is a form of Raja Yoga)
The Royal Path is broken into eight steps (known as the eight limbs of yoga)
- Yama – five abstinences, e.g. ahimsa; not to cause pain to others
- Niyama – five observances, e.g. saucha ;purity of thought, word and deed, and self comportment
- Asana – Physical postures/poses
- Pranayama – breath awareness
- Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses
- Dhana – the practise of concentration
- Dhyana – effortless meditation
- Samadhi – enlightenment
Interpreted as the yoga of action, Hatha Yoga is the most practised form of yoga in the West. The British Wheel of Yoga (BWY), of which I am a member, is partly responsible for bringing Hatha Yoga to the UK, along with teachers such as B.K.S Iyengar. As a form of Raja Yoga, a class typically consists of the following elements:-
- Limbering Postures
- Some pranayama/breath awareness
- Some Meditation
- Some Theory and philosophy
Hatha means balance: Ha meaning sun and Tha meaning moon, representing male and female energies. A lot of the physical work in Hatha Yoga is done as preparation for the deeper practices like meditation and pranayama, which are seen as more profound experiences of the Raja Yoga pathway.