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Practicing Yoga, Types of Yoga and Yoga tradition

Introduction

Yoga is the ancient Indian science for spiritual disciplines directed toward attaining higher consciousness and liberation from ignorance, suffering, and rebirth. More specifically it is also the name of one of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy.

Yoga is considered to provide the best means to attain self- enlightenment, self improvement and realizing one's full potential. In its advanced stages, yoga produces super-conscious states that induce complete bliss, deep peace and extraordinary psychic powers in the practitioners.

History and Tradition

Yoga has a very long history and an equally vast tradition. Yoga has been developed and perfected by Indian mystic yogis over thousands of years. Earliest indications put its origin to 7000 to 8000 BC.

Different schools have emerged, and there are numerous examples of subdivisions and synthesis. Each of them refers to yoga as a "path" to enlightenment. Thus, yoga may include love and devotion (as in Bhakti Yoga), selfless work (as in Karma Yoga), knowledge and discernment (as in Jnana Yoga), or an eight-limbed system of disciplines emphasizing meditation (as in Raja Yoga). These practices occupy a continuum from the religious to the scientific. They need not be mutually exclusive. (A person who follows the path of selfless work might also cultivate some knowledge and devotion.) Some people (particularly in Western cultures) pursue Hatha yoga as exercise divorced from spiritual practice.

Other types of yoga include

It is often helpful to check the teacher and lineage to be sure how these terms are being used. Another name for Raja Yoga ("royal yoga") is Ashtanga Yoga ("eight-limbed yoga).

Philosophy and Practice of Yoga

The philosophy of Yoga is extremely vast and so comprehensive that it is beyond the scope of any article to cover it. In brief it is the philosophy of complete development of mental faculties and realizing the full integration of human presence in the cosmos.

In practice yoga is an applied science of the mind and body. Practice and study of it help to bring about a natural balance of body and mind in which the state of health can manifest itself. Yoga itself does not create health; rather, it creates an internal environment that allows the individual to come to his own state of dynamic balance, or health. Basically, yoga teaches that a healthy person is a harmoniously integrated unit of body, mind and spirit. Therefore, good health requires a simple, natural diet, exercise in fresh air, a serene and untroubled mind and the awareness that main's deepest and highest self is identical with the spirit of God. As a result, to many devotees, yoga becomes a philosophy that offers instruction and insight into every aspect of life: the spiritual, the mental and the physical. Of course, because it is all-encompassing, people who want to pick and choose from its smorgasbord can do so without being disappointed. Yoga is equally satisfying as a physical therapy alone.

Yoga is best known as a set of physical practices that include gentle stretches, breathing practices, and progressive deep relaxation. These physical practices are intended to ready the body and mind for meditation as well as for a meditative perspective on life.

Yoga, Science and Modern World

Unlike other streams of CAM, Yoga has found so much passionate support and validation from mainstream science that it is recognized world over as a science of mind and body. Yoga classes are held world over, and millions of people are benefited by its philosophy and practices to live a healthy, spiritual and complete life.