What is Yoga: Definition of Yoga and the Six Branches of Yoga

Information on Yoga – What is Yoga?Yoga is a complete science of life that originated in India many thousands of years ago. It is the oldest system of personal development in the world encompassing the entire body, mind and spirit. It is the union between a person’s own consciousness and the universal consciousness. The Ancient Yogis had a profound understanding of man’s essential nature and of what he needs to live in harmony with himself and his environment. They perceived the physical body as a vehicle, with the mind as driver, the soul as man’s true identity, and action, emotion and intelligence as the three forces which pull the body-vehicle. In order for these to be integrated, these three forces must be in balance. Taking into account the interrelationship between body and mind, the Yogis formulated a unique method for maintaining this balance – a method that combines all the movements you need for physical health with the Breathing and Meditation techniques that ensure peace of mind.

The classical techniques of Yoga date back more than 5,000 years. In ancient times, the desire for greater personal freedom, Health and long life, and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this system of physical and mental exercise which has since spread throughout the world. The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” and it brings the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.

Yoga is a method of learning that aims to attain the unity of mind, body, and spirit through these three main Yoga structures: Exercise, Breathing, and Meditation. The exercises of Yoga are designed to put pressure on the Glandular Systems of the body, thereby increasing its efficiency and total health. The body is looked upon as the primary instrument that enables us to work and evolve in the world, a Yoga student; therefore, treats it with great care and respect. The Breathing Techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body. Yoga students gently increase their breath control to improve the health and the function of both body and mind. These two systems prepare the body and mind for Meditation, making it easier for students to achieve a quiet mind and be free from everyday stress. Regular daily practice of all three parts of this structure of Yoga produce a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.

Six Branches of Yoga

  • Hatha Yoga
    Hatha Yoga is the path of Physical Yoga or Yoga of Postures is the most popular branch of Yoga. Hatha Yoga considered the body as the vehicle for the soul. It uses Physical Poses or Asana, Breathing Techniques or Pranayama, Meditation in order to bring the body in perfect health and for the more subtle spiritual elements of the mind to emerge freely. The practice of Hatha Yoga will result to the union of the body and the soul, it aims to make the body perfect and fill it with life force.
  • Bhakti Yoga
    Bhakti Yoga is the path of heart and devotion or the Yoga of devotion. Yogis who practice Bhakti Yoga sees the Divine in everyone and everything he encounters. This lead him to develop love, acceptance and tolerance for all. Bhaki Yoga teaches a person to have a devotion to God and all things through devotion to life and love.
  • Raja Yoga
    Raja means “royal”. Raja Yoga is the path of Yoga that focuses on meditation and contemplation. It is based on the Eight Limbs of Yoga which was discussed in the Yoga Sutra. This Yoga path teaches deep self respect through self mastery. The self here is honored. Raja Yoga believes that the universe exists for the self, giving the self an illusion of centrality which results to self respect and respect for all creatures. Raja Yoga is also referred to as the King of Yogas, majority of its practitioners live in spiritual or religious orders.
  • Jnana Yoga
    Jnana Yoga is the path of Yoga that deals with wisdom and knowledge or the Yoga of the mind. Jnana Yogis pays tribute on man’s intelligence. They try to surpass limitations by unifying intellect and wisdom. Jnana Yoga tries to obtain existence beyond doctrine and ideological controversies by accepting all other philosophies and religion. It also uses an open, rational and curious mind in studying the spirit.
  • Karma Yoga
    Karma Yoga believes that your present situation is based on your past actions. Karma Yoga is the path of service; it refers to the energy of action. This path requires you to be selfless. Performing a selfless service is the essence of Karma Yoga or consciously choosing a future that is free from negativity and selfishness knowing that your life is a consequence of your past actions. Karma Yoga practices try to change your action towards the good – good words, good thoughts, good deeds, in order to change your soul. By being selfless, you change your consciousness which leads to a change in your destiny.
  • Tantra Yoga
    Tantra Yoga is the path of ritual and perhaps the most misunderstood path. Some may think of Tantra Yoga as sorcery, witchcraft, magic spell or some mysterious formula. Most people perceive Tantra Yoga as sexual. All of these perceptions are far from truth. Tantra is the knowledge concerning Tattva (Truth or Brahman) and Mantra (mystic syllables). It utilizes rituals to respectfully experience the sacred in everything we do, not just sex though sex is a part of it. It aims to expand our awareness in all states – whether awake or asleep. Tantra Yoga practitioners must have purity, humility, devotion, courage, dedication to his Guru, cosmic love, faithfulness, contentment, dispassion, non-covetousness, and truthfulness.

The aspect of Yoga that most people are aware of is “Hatha Yoga” or the Yoga of Postures. Developing a strong, healthy and flexible body is but one aspect of this ancient science. Yogis revere the body. However, they do this because they realize that a weak and tired body is a hindrance towards spiritual progress. By being mindful of their breathing while they practice the various postures, they train themselves to discipline their minds. By disciplining their minds, they are able to abide by the principles which Yoga stands for. First amongst these principles is “Ahimsa”, or peacefulness in thought, deed, and action not only to other human beings, but also to all living creatures, and most importantly to our own selves. Remember this when you tend to push yourself into a forward bend! You will be able to do it over a period of time, just be easy on yourself.

Anyone can practice Yoga. You don’t need any special equipment, clothing, or lessons; all you need is the will to pursue a healthier and happier lifestyle. The Yoga Postures and Asanas exercise every part of your body. The stretching involved helps in toning your muscles and joints, including your spine and your entire Skeletal System. Yoga not only facilitates in improving your body but also aids in keeping your Glands, Nerves and your other internal organs in radiant health. By releasing physical and Mental tension, you will liberate vast resources of energy. The Yogic Breathing Exercises known as Pranayama revitalize the body and help control the mind, leaving you calm and refreshed; combine this with the practice of positive thinking and Meditation, and the result will be increased clarity, mental power and concentration.