What is Yoga?
Given its immense popularity, it seems that almost everyone has some familiarity with yoga. The Sage Patañjali defined yoga as “yogas chitta vritti nirodhah”, which means “yoga is the removal of the fluctuations of the mind”. Chitta is mind, vrittis are thought impulses, nirodah is removal. Developing an understanding of this definition is an endlessly satisfying life-long pursuit.
What is Yoga?
There are actually many types of yoga, and many of them do not involve physical practice. For instance, Karma Yoga is practiced through the selfless service of others, and Jnana Yoga focuses on personal insight and contemplation. When most people in the U.S. think of yoga, it is Hatha Yoga that they have in mind. There are various styles of Hatha Yoga, but they are all physical in some way.
Hatha Yoga is the yoga with which most are familiar, and it is what we teach at Shri. When practicing Hatha Yoga, the subtle energies in the body are manipulated so as to bring about greater physical health, encourage spiritual development, and improve mental well-being. The primary goal of Hatha Yoga is to purify the energies in the body and to bring them into balance, which facilitates awakening and insight.
While the traditional purpose of Hatha Yoga is spiritual liberation and enlightenment, many people nowadays practice it primarily for the many physical health benefits that it provides. Some of the more widely practiced forms of Hatha Yoga are Ashtanga, Iyengar, Anusara, and Vinyasa. In recent years, numerous hybrid forms of Hatha Yoga have also emerged, including Hot Yoga and Power Yoga. Today, “yoga” is often used as a generic term for any practice that is based on asana (physical postures) and pranayama (breath control) and may be used to refer to any of the various Hatha Yoga styles.
- There are numerous physical and mental benefits to practicing yoga on an ongoing basis. These include:
- Increased strength and flexibility
- Better posture and balance
- Less joint and back pain
- Improved immune function
- Less stress
- Greater self-awareness
- Improved digestion and circulation
- A general sense of well-being, peace, and happiness
- Healthier sleep patterns
- Improved concentration and mental stamina
- Higher energy levels
It's easy to think of yoga as something you do in a class on your mat. This is where your practice begins but the life-changing benefits of a mindful life begin when you manifest the skills you "practiced" throughout your life. Mindfulness is a very popular subject these days and yoga is one way to develop the tools for a more grounded, mindful life.