Yoga history and phylosophy
The word yoga is of Sanscrit origin meaning Union, Connection, Harnessing.
Yoga comprises of physical, mental and spiritual practices that aim to unify the different aspects of oneself to promote health and happiness. As we know illness comes when there is an imbalance in the body which does not only have to do with a clear physical problem but there is always an underlining mental/ psychological cause.
The practice of yoga dose not aim to transform the body or mind to something new but to bring it back to its original perfect condition.
The most familiar schools of Yoga are Hatha yoga and Raja yoga. But there are more such as:
- Jñāna yoga "gyaan yoga", gyaan meaning knowledge. This path simply states that only knowing is enough.
- Bhakti Yoga, this is a path that intends to lead to realization of ones personal God. It is more of a spiritual path and it doesn't involve extensive yogic practices
- Karma Yoga is based on the teachings of the Bhagavat Gita. It is a path of achieving perfection through selfless action without attachment to the outcome (service to others)
- Laya” dissolution” Yoga it is also known as Kundalini Yoga. It is a path of awakening the kundalini energy flow by practicing pranayama, asana, meditation and chanting mantras of the specific sounds of each chakras.
- Hatha Yoga. Hatha literally meaning “stubbornness” it is said to have originated from the teachings of Shiva. It is a path of attaining union through the practice of the asanas (body postures). These body postures aim to release all the blockage of stagnant Kundalini energy and let them circulate and flow freely in and around the body. Hatha yoga has become the most popular one in the western world as it is mainly associated with physical exercise like movements and does not relate to spiritual connotations.
It is believe that Yoga originated from pre-Vedic Indian traditions, it flourished during the time of Buddha. Alexander the great is said to have been very impressed with the discipline of yoga when he was in India after 326-327 and wanted to study it.
In 150 B.C the Indian sage Patanjaly brought the practices together in his Yoga Sutras (the classical Ashtanga / Raja yoga) which are still used in Yoga schools around the world.
Marco Polo in 1296 gave a stunning description of yoga and the yogis-sages whom he described as being serene and unaffected by the ordinary life situations wearing nothing but a loin cloth. They were indifferent to pain and had the ability to control and move their bodies with incredible flexibility. The general being of an Indian yogi was unimaginable for the westerners at that time.
In the west Yoga was introduced by Indian gurus in the late 19th and early 20th. Swami Vivekananda (1863—1902), was probably one of the first to bring Indian and Yoga philosophies to the western world. He was a Hindu monk and one of the most influential philosophers and social reformers in India at that time.
Another, very prominent, Yoga sage who thought Yoga asanas in the west was the very esteamed B.K.S Iyengar (1918-2014). He had an admirable zeal of perfection and aimed to teach yoga the way it was originally meant to be.