Yoga, and the benefit of yoga, is generically defined as a Hindu discipline that helps unite the body and mind. Aimed at achieving a state of perfect spiritual insight and tranquility, it is practiced in the West most commonly as physical exercise practiced as part of the discipline.
Many people view the benefit of yoga as some weird discipline that involves yogi’s contorted in unnatural positions, doing strange acts of the body, and living on a mountaintop somewhere in India. I personally remember a television documentary many years ago featuring a yogi that had his tongue split, using it to clean his sinus cavities! Anyone interested in yoga has probably also seen images of yogi’s supporting great weight with their genitals.
In this modern age, much has been learned about the benefit of yoga. Yoga practitioners achieve greater mobility, longer life, and internal happiness through their practice of the art. Yoga as we know it today is aimed at uniting the mind, body,and spirit. The mysticism of the Hindu discipline is no longer a myth, and is reachable by all willing to learn.
Yoga practice is roughly grouped into three categories – the Yoga Postures (Asanas), Yoga Breathing (Pranayama) and Meditation. These categories embrace physiological, psychological, and biochemical effects. In addition, clinicians have compared these results against the Western practices of jogging, aerobic exercise, and weight training, and find results comparable.
The most popular style of Yoga in the West today is Hatha Yoga. It is designed to focuses on the physical well-being of a person and believers in the practice consider the body as the vehicle of the spirit.
Ananda Yoga, a classical style of Hatha Yoga, uses Asana and Pranayama to awaken, experience, and take control of the subtle energies within the body, and focuses on the energies of the seven Chakras.
Anusara (a-nu-SAR-a)yoga is defined as “stepping into the current of Divine Will”, “following your heart”, and “moving with the current of divine will.” This new style, which was developed by John Friend, is defined as “yoga positions that flow from the heart.” It is heart-oriented, spiritually inspiring, and is based on a deep knowledge of outer and inner body alignment. It is based on the principles of Hatha Yoga and biochemical practices. Students of this discipline base their practice on attitude, action, and alignment.
Ashtanga yoga could possibly be the perfect Yoga for those looking for a serious workout. Ashtanga was developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, and is very physically demanding. A series of flows, moving quickly from one posture to another, is utilized to build strength, flexibility and stamina. This style is not good for the beginning practitioner, as it requires 6 series of difficulty. The physical demands of Ashtanga are not for the casual practitioner beginning the journey of yoga fitness.
Bikram Yoga, named for its founder Bikram Choudhury, is practiced in a room with a temperature of up to 100 degrees. Twenty six Asanas are performed in a typical session, and focus is on warming and stretching muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Each pose is accompanied by Kapalabhati Breath, the “breath of fire.” Practice of this style promotes cleansing of the body, the release of toxins, and ultimate flexibility. One must be in very good physical shape to practice Bikram Yoga.
These basic definitions will give the person seeking the benefit of yoga a clear-cut understanding of what is to be expected, and will help them make the proper decision to find the discipline that best suits their needs.