What is yoga?
In the modern world, the South Asian art of yoga has expanded to all corners of the globe. While it is now a popular form of exercise and meditation, this has not always been the case.
To convey its spiritual message and guide sessions, yoga often uses the imagery of a tree with roots, a trunk, branches, blossoms, and fruits. Each “branch” of yoga represents a different focus and set of characteristics.
- Hatha yoga: This is the physical and mental branch designed to prime the body and mind.
Raja yoga: This branch involves meditation and strict adherence to a series of disciplinary steps known as the “eight limbs” of yoga.
- Karma yoga: This is a path of service that aims to create a future free from negativity and selfishness.
- Bhakti yoga: This aims to establish the path of devotion, a positive way to channel emotions and cultivate acceptance and tolerance.
- Jnana yoga: This branch of yoga is about wisdom, the path of the scholar, and developing the intellect through study.
- Tantra yoga: This is the pathway of ritual, ceremony, or consummation of a relationship.
Types and styles of yoga may include
- Ashtanga yoga: This type of yoga uses ancient yoga teachings. However, it became popular during the 1970s. Ashtanga applies six established sequences of postures that rapidly link every movement to breath.
- Bikram yoga: Also known as “hot” yoga, Bikram occurs in artificially heated rooms at temperatures of nearly 105 degrees and 40 percent humidity. It consists of 26 poses and a sequence of two breathing exercises.
- Hatha yoga: This is a generic term for any type of yoga that teaches physical postures. “Hatha” classes usually serve as a gentle introduction to the basic yoga postures.
- Iyengar yoga: This type focuses on finding the correct alignment in each pose using a range of props, such as blocks, blankets, straps, chairs, and bolsters.
- Jivamukti yoga: Jivamukti means “liberation while living.” This type emerged in 1984 and incorporates spiritual teachings and practices that focus on the fast-paced flow between poses rather than the poses themselves.
- Kripalu yoga: This type teaches practitioners to know, accept, and learn from the body. A student of Kripalu learns to find their own level of practice by looking inward. The classes usually begin with breathing exercises and gentle stretches, followed by a series of individual poses and final relaxation.
- Kundalini yoga: Kundalini means “coiled, like a snake.” Kundalini yoga is a system of meditation that aims to release pent-up energy.
A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Home Meditation Practice
The first step is clearly identifying which goals you want to achieve. Get specific. Do you want to increase brand awareness? Are you all about locking in leads? Do you want to establish a strong network of influencers that can help you be discovered? How about pushing engagement on social media?
- 1. Just Breathe
First, take a comfortable seat. You can sit cross-legged or kneel on the floor, or you can sit in a chair if that’s more comfortable.
- Once you are settled in, pay attention to your natural breath. If you’re feeling anxious or stressed, you may find that elongating your exhale helps you to feel calmer.
- When you first begin your meditation, keep your eyes open with a soft gaze and take five deep breaths in through your nose and out your mouth. If you’re comfortable doing so, at the beginning of the fifth breath, gently close your eyes. At the end of your fifth exhale, gently bring your lips to touch and transition to breathing in and out through your nose. Continue this way of breathing for the duration of your meditation.
- 2. Be Here Now
If you lose count, practice not getting frustrated with yourself. Just start again. Using the breath to create a singular point of focus is key for mindfulness meditation. That’s because meditation is about being present with how and who we are right now. The present is a midline—informed by our past, and aiming at everything we aspire to be. It all makes up the now. Everything is always now.
- Keep your focus on your breath by counting up to ten in five-breath cycles. The first in-breath as one, exhale two, and so on. Once you hit ten, start again at one. As distractions arise, be aware of them and acknowledge them; do not react to them, or to the fact that they’ve momentarily derailed your focus on the breath. Instead, simply exhale and release the distraction, and begin counting the breath again.
- Being in this headspace allows us to focus on the subtleties of the sensations of our body and mind. It teaches us to pause and respond, rather than react without thinking.
- 3. Let Go
When a thought arises in your meditation, inhale and acknowledge it without any associated emotion; then exhale, visualizing the thought dissolving from your mind. Then refocus on your breath and begin the process again.
- A common misconception about meditation is that one is trying to rid one’s mind of all thoughts, flattening the mental landscape. That’s impossible. So if that’s your goal, it’s easy to grow frustrated and quit. Meditation teaches you instead to observe your thoughts, pause, and then respond to them with a sense of clarity. A classic example: If there’s a problem that’s out of your control—like the coronavirus, for instance, or the related response of others—being stressed out about it makes little sense. But if you are thoughtful about the concerns you can control (such as wearing a mask, social distancing, or limiting the people you are in contact with), then you empower yourself and can take steps to address them.
- Over time, the meditation process becomes a tool to help control your impulsive actions and thoughts, helping you to think and respond in a more controlled, mindful way.
Discover the Peaceful Practice of Yoga Nidra
- Connect to Your Heartfelt Desire.
- Set an Intention.
- Find Your Inner Resource.
- Scan Your Body.
- Become Aware of Your Breath.
- Welcome Your Feelings.
- Witness Your Thoughts.
- Experience Joy
- Observe Your Self.
- Reflect on Your Practice.