Yoga For Dummies (Australia/New Zealand Edition)
Yoga, as both a spiritual and physical discipline, is popular throughout Australia and New Zealand. When you start to research Yoga, however, you quickly discover that you can practice many different forms. Here, you'll find the eight main branches of Yoga. Then, check out just ten of the benefits of Yoga (hundreds more good reasons await!).
The Eight Main Branches of Yoga
When you take a bird’s-eye view of the Yoga tradition, you see a dozen major strands of development, each with its own subdivisions. Picture Yoga as a giant tree with eight branches — each branch has its own unique character, but each is also part of the same tree. With so many different paths, you’re sure to find one that’s right for your personality, lifestyle and goals. These eight branches are described here, arranged in alphabetical order.
Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of devotion: Bhakti Yoga (pronounced bhuk-tee) practitioners believe that a supreme being transcends their lives, and they feel moved to connect or even completely merge with that supreme being through acts of devotion. Bhakti Yoga includes such practices as making flower offerings, singing hymns of praise, and thinking about the divine being.
Guru Yoga: The Yoga of dedication to a master: In Guru Yoga (pronounced goo-roo), one’s teacher is the main focus of spiritual practice. Such a teacher is expected to be enlightened or at least close to being enlightened. In Guru Yoga, you’re asked to honour and meditate on your guru until you merge with him or her. Because the guru is thought to be one with the ultimate reality, this merger is believed to duplicate his or her spiritual realisation in you.
Hatha Yoga: The Yoga of physical discipline: All branches of Yoga seek to achieve the same final goal, enlightenment , but Hatha Yoga (pronounced haht-ha) approaches this goal through the body rather than through the mind or through the emotions.
Hatha Yoga practitioners believe that unless the body is properly purified and prepared, the higher stages of concentration, meditation, and ecstasy are virtually impossible to achieve. Yoga asks you to take proper care of it, so that you can enjoy not only health but also longevity and, ultimately, enlightenment.
Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of wisdom: Jnana Yoga (pronounced gyah-nah) teaches the ideal of non-dualism — that reality is singular and your perception of countless distinct phenomena is a basic misconception. What about the chair or sofa that you’re sitting on? Isn’t that real? What about the light that strikes your retina? Isn’t that real?
Jnana Yoga masters answer these questions by saying that all these things are real at your present level of consciousness, but they aren’t ultimately real as separate or distinct things. Upon enlightenment, everything melts into one, and you become one with the immortal spirit.
Karma Yoga: The Yoga of self-transcending action: Karma Yoga (pronounced kahr-mah) seeks to influence destiny positively. This path’s most important principle is to act unselfishly, without attachment, and with integrity. Karma Yoga practitioners believe that all actions — whether bodily, vocal or mental — have far-reaching consequences for which we must assume full responsibility.
Mantra Yoga: The Yoga of potent sound: Mantra Yoga (pronounced mahn-trah) makes use of sound to harmonise the body and focus the mind. It works with mantras, which can be syllables, words or phrases.
Traditionally, practitioners receive a mantra from their teacher in the context of a formal initiation. They are asked to repeat it as often as possible and to keep it secret. Many Western teachers feel that initiation is not necessary and that any sound is appropriate to use. You can even pick a word from the dictionary — such as love, peace or happiness.
Raja Yoga: The Royal Yoga: Raja Yoga (pronounced rah-jah) means literally ‘Royal Yoga’ and is also known as Classical Yoga. When you mingle with Yoga students long enough, you can expect to hear them refer to the eightfold path, as codified in the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali. This is the standard work of Raja Yoga.
Another name for this yogic tradition is ashtanga-yoga (pronounced ahsh-tahng-gah), the ‘eight-limbed Yoga’ — from ashta (‘eight’) and anga (‘limb’). The eight limbs of this approach, which are designed to lead to enlightenment, or liberation, progress from yama (moral discipline) through to samadhi (ecstasy).
Tantra Yoga: The Yoga of continuity: Tantra Yoga (pronounced tahn-trah) is the most complex and most widely misunderstood branch of Yoga. In the West and in India, Tantra Yoga is often confused with ‘spiritualised’ sex. While sexual rituals are used in some schools of Tantra Yoga, this isn’t a regular practice in the majority of schools.
Tantra Yoga is actually a strict spiritual discipline involving fairly complex rituals and detailed visualisations of deities. These deities are either visions of the divine or the equivalent of Christianity’s angels and are invoked to aid the yogic process of contemplation.
Another name for Tantra Yoga is Kundalini Yoga (pronounced koon-dah-leenee). The latter name, which means ‘she who is coiled’, hints at the secret ‘serpent power’ that Tantra Yoga seeks to activate: the latent spiritual energy stored in the human body.
Ten Good Reasons to Practise Yoga
Discovering unlimited potential our journey of discovery in the world of Yoga is not only exciting but also immensely rewarding. Here are ten excellent reasons to begin that journey now and persist in it. The effects of regular Yoga practice are pervasive and astonishing. You can see good results very quickly. You have every reason to proceed with confidence! Yoga is a savings account that pays triple and quadruple interest.
Yoga helps you maintain, recover or improve your health. Yoga is an amazing stress-buster. Through its relaxation, postural, breathing and meditation exercises, as well as dietary rules, Yoga can effectively lower your level of tension and anxiety. Thus, yogic practice boosts your immune system, which obviously keeps illness at bay and, if you’re sick, facilitates the physical healing process.
You can practise Yoga as both remedial and preventive medicine. You can’t find a cheaper health and life insurance policy!
Yoga makes you fit and energetic. Yoga relaxes your body and mind, thereby enabling you to mobilise all the energy you need in order to deal efficiently with the many challenges at home and at work. Yoga can greatly promote your body’s flexibility, fitness, strength and stamina. In addition, Yoga may even help you shed surplus kilograms.
Yoga balances your mind. Yoga also has a profound influence on your mind via the hormonal system. Yoga is a powerful tool for clearing your mind and freeing you from mood swings, and supports greater results than any tranquilliser, and without the undesirable side effects of drugs. It balances you without dulling your mind. Through Yoga, you can stay alert but relaxed.
Yoga is powerful. Yoga can help you discover the body’s hidden potential and can also guide you safely into the exploration of the hidden aspects of the mind, especially higher states of consciousness. It progressively peels away misconceptions about yourself and about life in general and reveals your true nature, which is uncomplicated and blissful.
Yoga is truly comprehensive and integrative. Yoga offers you a sensible, growth-oriented lifestyle that covers all aspects of life. Yoga’s repertoire includes techniques for optimal physical and mental health, for dealing creatively with the challenges of modern life, for transforming your sexual life, and even for making creative use of your dream life through the art of lucid dreaming. Yoga makes you feel comfortable with your body, improves your self-image and self-esteem, and enhances your power of concentration and memory.
Yoga helps you harmonise. By giving you a new outlook on life, Yoga gives you the means to develop patience, tolerance, compassion and forgiveness. Through the techniques of Yoga, you can gain control of your mind and liberate yourself from obsessions and undesirable habits, which stand in the way of satisfying relationships. Yoga also shows you how to live at peace with the world.
Yoga enhances your awareness. Yoga enables you to greatly intensify your awareness; therefore, yogic practice empowers you to approach all life situations, even crises, with more clarity. Most significantly, Yoga puts you in touch with the spiritual reality that is the source of your everyday mind and awareness.
Yoga can be combined with other disciplines. Although Yoga is complete in itself, you can easily combine it with any kind of sports or physical workout, including aerobics and weightlifting. You also can practise Yoga in conjunction with any existing mental discipline, including mnemonics (memorisation) and chess.
Yoga is easy and convenient. Yoga doesn’t require you to work up a sweat (unless you’re practising some modern aerobic-type Yoga). And you can practise Yoga anywhere!
Although you don’t need to spend time travelling from place to place, beginners in particular should consider joining a Yoga class — even your trip there and back offers opportunities for a Yoga experience. Yoga creates rather than consumes time — a major benefit in the busy and stressed lives of Westerners!
Yoga is liberating. Yoga can put you more in touch with your true nature, giving you a sense of fulfilment, inner worth and confidence. By assisting you in reducing egotism and negative thoughts and emotions, Yoga has the power to bring you closer to lasting happiness. Yoga practice builds your willpower and puts you in charge of your own life.