Iyengar yoga, founded by yogi B.K.S. Iyengar, incorporates the eight limbs (ashtanga) of yoga, along with the use of props, such as belts, blankets and wooden blocks, to allow beginning students to achieve correct positioning for performing the poses (asanas). All yoga practitioners strive to perform the postures properly, yet they may not be physically capable of doing so; therefore using some type of positioning device allows them to hopefully achieve that goal. This method of performing hatha, or forceful, yoga makes it accessible to all potential students and dispels the notion that only the young or very flexible can develop the muscle strength and positioning to take advantage of yoga’s benefits. B.K.S Iyengar grew up penniless and suffered poor health as a child. He was taken under the wing of Krishnamacharya, who is widely recognized as “the father of modern yoga” in the 20th century. His guru took pity on Iyengar and taught him a few asanas in the hopes of improving his health. However, Iyengar was given very little instruction in how to actually perform the poses. When his guru visited Iyengar’s school in 1961, he noted his student’s ability to show others how to perform the poses correctly and told him he needed to disseminate this knowledge worldwide. Iyengar had already worked with famed violinist Yehudi Menuhin in the 1950s and privately tutored him as he toured throughout Europe. This association is credited with popularizing Iyengar yoga worldwide. Read the rest of this entry
Hatha yoga, originally developed by Yogi Swatmarama during the Classical period in the 15th century, is based on the eightfold path codified in the Yoga Sutra. The eight limbs of this path consist of:
- Yama, ethical values
- Niyama, ritual observance;
- Asanas, positions;
- Pranayama, regulated breathing,
- Pratyahara, inwardness
- Dharana, concentration;
- Dhyana, meditation
- Samadhi, self-realization
The history of yoga can be traced back to 3000 BC from stone tablets with identifiable poses depicted on them. Although yoga is primarily a self-focused discipline, historians believe its roots are grounded in shamanism and its community-based, Stone Age practices. The history of yoga is inextricably tied to the historical progression of the Indian religion and culture and can be divided into four movements: the Vedic, pre-Classical, Classical and post-Classical.
According to WebMD, almost 11 million Americans practice yoga, so yoga is clearly not a passing fad. Yoga encourages a healthy lifestyle by incorporating the mind/body dynamic in its practice. The benefits of yoga include:
- increased flexibility,
- relaxation through meditation
- muscle tone and strength
- motor control and balance.
Yoga is both a physical and a spiritual ritual used to increase the body’s flexibility while calming the mind. This mind/body duality is signified by the name itself: “yuj” is a Sanskrit verb meaning “to unite.” When Westerners consider what is yoga, they are generally thinking of Hatha yoga, which literally means “forceful” yoga and incorporates poses with regulated breathing. However, there are now a wide range of different disciplines that have grown more popular in the U.S., including “hot” yoga practiced in studios with temperatures up to 105 degrees. Despite the different techniques and names, yoga is fundamentally a way of treating the body with respect by listening to it through meditation, challenging it through the poses and using breathing to make everything come together.
The benefits of meditation are many-fold, providing a way to get in touch with what’s going on in our lives as well as our bodies. The use of biofeedback has shown the medical community how the mind can control our physical reactions to pain and other stimuli. Yoga, through the practice of the asanas (poses) and pranayama (controlled breathing), offer its students a window into their interior thoughts and well-being by way of meditation.
Learning how to meditate may be just the coping mechanism you need in a stress-filled life without having to resort to prescription medications or destructive practices, such as drinking or over-eating. Meditation doesn’t involve special workout wear, a specific place or time; it just involves your active participation in a mindful practice that can offer a myriad of benefits, including better mental focus and clarity, decreased heart rate and blood pressure, and spiritual growth.
On the eightfold branches of Classical yoga, meditation, or dhyana, is the penultimate step to achieve samadhi, or self-realization. The practice of yoga ultimately allows the student to access the atman, or self, and in that manner come to know the brahman, or absolute reality. The word “yoga” literally means “union” in Sanskrit, and its practice joins the individual with the universal. By knowing yourself, you understand how the world relates to you, and meditation mediates this interaction.
is a natural pain and stress management technique developed by Mikao Usui and based on the principles of Buddhism and Shintoism. Reiki, from the Japanese words “rei” (spirit) and “ki” (energy), accesses the universal life force through the practitioner, who channels healing energy through the patient by the laying on of hands. The Shinto religion believes that energy (kami) flows from both animate and inanimate objects while the Buddhist tenets that Usui followed involved chakras, or energy sites, in the body that can be activated by practice, just as in yoga.