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.