The first priority in life is good health. Good health is a determining factor for both material and spiritual satisfaction. Yoga is an integral system bringing good health to body and mind as well as spiritual union or contentment with one´s own self.
The origins of Yoga are in the Vedas, the 6000 year old scriptures of India. ´Yoga´ comes from the root word yuj, ‘to yoke’/’to connect’. Merging oneself with the universal soul is Yoga. An unripe individual has ego, jealousy, anger, etc. By overcoming these negative qualities, the individual soul (microcosm) becomes purified and can unite with the universal soul (macrocosm), as rivers merge with the ocean. Yoga can also be defined as steadiness of the mind or perfection in life.
Selection and practice of Yoga depends on the temperament and capacity of the individual. All branches of yoga practice bring the individual to one and the same goal, as there are many paths to the top of the hill, but on the top the experience is the same.
The four main types of Yoga are Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga.
Jnana Yoga (intellectual approach):
Listening to the scriptures, contemplating on the true and deep meaning of those scriptures and meditating on that very essence (Brahman) of the scriptures are the three classical practices of Jnana Yoga. In addition, by developing Viveka (understanding the difference between permanent and non-permanent) and Vairagya (non-attachment), one can establish pure consciousness (Brahman) in the mind.
Raja Yoga (mastery of the mind):
It is the Royal Path of controlling the thought waves, which leads one to Self-realization, or Samadhi. According to the great sage Patanjali Maharshi (Raja Yoga Sutras, 200 BC), regulating the thought waves leads to steadiness of the mind/Samadhi, which is the final stage of spiritual discipline. Raja Yoga is also called Ashtanga Yoga because of its eight ‘limbs’ or steps, which are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Five moral /ethical values to be observed by individuals which also have social implications. They are similiar to the Ten Commandments.
The Five Yamas are:
- Ahimsa – Non-injury to any living thing
- Satya – Truthfulness in thought, word and deed
- Asteya – Non-stealing or non-covetousness
- Aparigrha – Modest living or reduction of your wants
- Brahmacharya – Sublimation of sexual energy
This is the cultivation of virtues such as:
- Soucha – Cleanliness of the body and environment
- Santosha – Contentment
- Tapas – Self discipline
- Swadhyaya – Study of the scriptures
- Iswarapranidhana – Devotion to God
The vital energy (prana) connects the physical body to the soul. The control of this vital energy helps to eliminate physical and mental weakness and brings peace to the mind.
Withdrawing the mind from the objects of sense experience results in the calming of the mind.
Dharana is fixing the mind on a single internal or external object. The practice of Dharana develops one-pointedness of the mind and prepares for Meditation.
The unbroken flow of thought towards that single object is Dhyana. It is nearly impossible to attain without good preparation in the previous ‘limbs’ of Raja Yoga. The state of Dhyana has to come by itself. Long and sincere practice of Asanas, Pranayama and Dharana make it possible to achieve Dhyana.
An experience not describable in words—here one experiences himself/herself as the infinite.
Bhakti Yoga (the path of love and devotion):
Practice of pure Bhakti (devotion) melts away the individual ego and brings God-realization. Bhakti Yoga is suitable for any temperament, but it is especially good for those with an emotional nature.
Karma Yoga (the path of selfless action):
In Karma Yoga one dedicates himself/ herself to the universe. All actions are done whole-heartedly and without expectation of the fruit/ reward of the action.
Hatha Yoga (the Yoga of skill and perfection):
Hatha Yoga has been defined as the practical aspect of Raja Yoga. The five methods used in Hatha Yoga to attain perfection of body and mind: Practice of Asanas (postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Kriyas (cleansing techniques), Bandhas (energy locks) and Mudras (certain postures or gestures).