Over 5000 years ago, the Indus-Sarasvati Civilization was already using yoga as a system to develop the mind, body and spirit. Yoga is practiced to bring together the human consciousness and the universal consciousness. The earliest official traces of yoga have been found on stone seals from the Indus Valley, picturing figures in various yogic positions.
Yoga is not simply bodily movements and positioning; yoga incorporates breathing and meditation to enhance the overall effect of allowing the human person to live in harmony with his environment, the natural world and the spiritual world. The practice leads to enhanced physical fitness as well as an increased spiritual and mental awareness.
Yoga, Exercise, Fitness, and Health
As yoga evolved, several subsets grew from the original form to include Hatha Yoga, Ananda Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, and many others. Although all the styles have roots coming from the same place, each variation differs in its focus. While some focus more on the physical conditioning of the body, others concentrate more on achieving spiritual awareness, and still others, on relaxation and meditation.
Hatha Yoga is the most popular and commonly practiced form of yoga in the United States. This particular yoga form focuses on purifying the mind, body and spirit with an emphasis on the physical well-being. It uses posturing, breathing and meditation exercises in its practice. From Hatha Yoga, several other forms of yoga branched off, all continuing to use various poses to accomplish their goals.
Ananda Yoga combines gently repeated affirmations with posturing and breathing exercises. This is not a form of yoga meant for physical exercise, instead, Ananda Yoga focuses on awakening, feeling and managing the energies of one’s Chakras.
For physical fitness, one of the better suited forms of yoga is Ashtanga Yoga. This physically demanding variation builds strength, flexibility and stamina by moving the body through a series of postures and poses in quick succession along with breathing exercises as well.
Bikram Yoga is known as the “hot”, “sweat” yoga. Like the others, this form also involves a series of poses along with breathing exercises. The difference, however, is that class is held in a room with the temperature kept at around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. This variation of yoga is designed to warm and stretch the muscles and ligaments while promoting a cleansing or detoxification of the body through sweating.
Kundalini Yoga is known as the mother all styles of yoga. Its focus is that of awakening of the serpent power located at the base of the spine. When correctly “opened” and managed, this power allows the mind, body and spirit to experience complete universal energy, creativity, love, and divine prosperity.
Although Yoga did not arrive to the United States until the late 1800’s, its rapid spread throughout the nation attests to its relaxation, strengthening and spiritual powers. Its ability to turn a restless mind and unfit body into a peaceful, whole and connected being is one of the major reasons it has reached its current success and popularity throughout the world.