“Namaste”, the first word you hear at the start/end of any yoga class. Behind those words is the rich history of yoga and the essence of its humble beginnings.
In ancient Sanskrit the word Namaste loosely translates to “I bow to the divine in you” and Yoga means “connection or union”. The instructor is inviting you to connect to the divine in you, which can be a kind of “Namaste Yoga”.
Some people look at yoga as an interesting form of exercise. For others it is a part of their religion and culture.
It is a way for people to strengthen themselves physically, mentally and spiritually. It is known worldwide as one of the more holistic forms of exercise and meditation.
The Yoga industry has boomed over the past few years reaching 36 million practitioners in US alone. The industry size has grown $10 billion over the past four years.
Here is a list of what will be looked at:
- History of Yoga
- Yoga’s link to Philosophy and Religion
- Historic Styles of Yoga
- New Age Yoga
- What to expect in a Yoga class
- Yoga at Home
- How has Yoga Changed?
To get a better understanding of what yoga is it is important to look at its origin.
History of Yoga
Yoga is vastly different today than how it was in the past, but it has managed too keep its purpose and roots the same. It is difficult to determine the exact date of when yoga began.
Historical text has traced back documentation suggesting it could be old as 5,000 BCE. Starting from the Indus-Sarasvati civilization of northern India. For thousands of years it has been passed down.
The ultimate goal of Yoga is to reach moksha (liberation). Depending on your faith your goal may vary. Many religions practice Yoga but it is not part of any particular faith.
Yoga is meditation to elevate stress, teach relaxation, become more self-aware and increase limberness.
Philosophically, Yoga is broken down into differing schools of practice.
Yoga’s link to Philosophy and Religion
Hinduism (200 BCE – 500 CE):
Classical Yoga in Hinduism ties in teachings from ancient scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Vasistha. The belief is that there are two realities Purusha (pure consciousness) and Prakriti (matter).
Living beings live in both realities and are bound when they enter a state of imbalance. With Yoga, living beings can liberate themselves, this liberation is called Moksha.
Buddhism (200 BCE – 500 CE):
The main goal in Buddhism is to pursue the state of Nirvana. For Buddhists, Yoga is a form of meditation and body strengthening.
In many ways Yoga and the teaching of Buddhism are similar . Namaste Yoga is a great term used to define how the two are connected. Yoga provides the connection and ability to reach one’s inner most divine. In a Buddhist prospective, this is a road to enlightenment.
Jainism (100-200 CE):
Yoga is a form of meditation in Jainism. The goal is to reach a state of self-realization, salvation, and take the soul to complete freedom.
It is a form of Samayika which is a Jain mediation. Reaching a state of Sāmāyika means to transition from “Jiva”(body/matter ) to “Atman” (the soul). By reaching the Atman are we able to be our true selves.
All three religions use Yoga as a tool to reach some sort of inner peace or enlightenment.
Within the different religions that use Yoga there are different styles of practicing it.
Historic Styles of Yoga
Ashtanga: Focuses on strengthening the mind, body and spirit through systematic exercises. Its main difference between classical Yoga teachings.
The goal of Yoga is to reach a state of Samadhi. Samadhi is a state of intense concentration. This is another form of Namaste Yoga connecting to the inner divine.
The Yoga focuses on eight limbs (asht):
- yama (moral observance)
- niyama (inner integrity)
- asana (postures)
- pranayama(breath control)
- pratyahara (sensory withdrawal)
- dharana (concentration)
- dhyana (meditation)
- samadhi (enlightenment)
Hatha: Same focus as classical Yoga but derives the physical movements from three texts in Hinduism. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Svātmārāma, and Gheranda Samhita.
New age Yoga styles mix more physically demanding poses with historic styles.
New Age Yoga
Now days people teach Yoga differently. Organized classrooms and businesses has turned the learning of Yoga as a recreational activity.
The popularization and emergence of new age Yoga styles started in the late 1800’s when Swami Vivekanada visited United States. He was invited to the Parliament as a diplomat. People were fascinated with in him which prompted the awareness of Yogis and Yoga.
Later on, Paramahansa Yoganda visited Boston and establish the Self-Realization Fellowship. After Hollywood took not of them it was a matter of time before everyone else knew of them. More schools of Yoga followed and nuances developed.
The more popularized styles of Yoga today are:
Anusara: Combines disciplined posture and alignment with playful spirit. Main focus is to connect with personal divine.
Ananda: Gentle postures trying to flow energy to the brain. The style focuses on controlled breathing and body alignment.
Ashtanga: Physically demanding, athletic Yoga which includes synchronized breathing, and intense body postures. Helps improve circulation, flexibility, stamina and calm of mind.
Bikram: Includes muscular strengthening, endurance, cardio. Yoga is performed in high temperatures to promote detoxification and flexibility.
Restorative: Use of blankets, blocks and props to put people into stationary poses. The Yoga requires little exertion, designed for rejuvenation.
Vinyasa: Intensive fluid movements. Physically demanding and focuses on transitioning from each pose. Often has music playing to keep pace.
Check to see what types of Yoga classes are available around you.
What to expect in a Yoga class
If it’s your first time visiting a Yoga class or you are thinking of trying it, you should consider what style works the best for you. Beginner classes are a great way to get a feel for it and see what you are comfortable with.
- Baggy T-shirts for men
- Tight-fitted tops for women
- Try to wear breathable clothing
- Yoga mat if you have one
- Ask the Yoga studio if they have one to rent
- You can choose from different mat types
- Clean your mats after use
- Water and a towel
- Be early (10-15 minutes) so you can find a spot and get ready
- Sign in at the front desk
- Take off your shoes and socks before walking in the room
- Face the direction of the instructor
- Relax and breath
- Go at your own pace
- Respect the instructor and those around you
- Don’t leave in the middle of Savasana (rest pose)
- If you are comfortable say Namaste to the instructor at the end/beginning of the class
Many of us live busy lives and it is difficult to go to Yoga classes or they are too expensive. One way you can experience Yoga at an affordable rate and on your own schedule is to get Yoga videos.
Yoga at Home
Yoga videos offer the entire Yoga experience at home. There are step by step demonstrations and dozens of styles to choose from.
The media has helped changed the way Yoga has become
How has Yoga Changed?
The question of weather or not Yoga has changed for the better or has become commercialized and has lost its effect is up for debate.
Yoga has changed drastically from ancient times but has still managed to keep its core values and purpose. It has become an activity which grounds us as individuals.
Modern day Yoga is practiced in a shared space which offers a level of guidance from others. Instructors are knowledgeable and offer special attention in guiding people through the Yoga positions.
Remember that you will get as much as you put into it. Even if it is for pure exercise or for spiritual enlightening it is important to remember that is for yourself. It should be a time for self-reflection and development.
Remember the term Namaste Yoga, the connecting of the inner divine in you.