A Beginner’s Introduction to Yoga
“The yogi realizes that his life and all its activities are part of the divine action in nature, manifesting and operating in the form of man. In the beating of his pulse and the rhythm of his respiration, he recognizes the flow of the seasons and the throbbing of universal life. His body is a temple which houses the Divine Spark.” – B. K. S. Iyengar.
The earliest recordings of yogic texts include the Sivasamhita, Yoga Vasishta, Bhagawad Geeta, Samkhya Yoga, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Hatha Yoga Pradeepika and Gherenda Samhita. Patanjali’s Yoga sutras, written over 2200 years ago, are the foundation of modern yoga through a systematic eight fold path. Patanjali highlights and explains complete science of living naturally according to one’s qualities. The eight fold path of yoga is called Ashtanga Yoga or Classical Yoga in modern times and is described below:
- Yama, 5 Social disciplines: Non violence, honesty, non stealing, living naturally, self sufficiency
- Niyama, 5 Personal disciplines: Cleanliness, contentment, austerity, self study, right living
- Asana, A steady and comfortable posture.
- Pranayama, Practices to balance the prana within the body
- Pratyahara, Internalising the senses
- Dharana, Developing concentration
- Dhyana, The practice of maintaining one-pointed concentration
- Samadhi, Realisation of the essential nature of the self to transcend as infinite
Modern Yoga classes generally focus on the 3rd and 4th steps.
Yoga probably arrived in the United States in the late 1800s, but it did not become widely known in the West until the 1960s, as part of the youth culture’s growing interest in anything Eastern. As more became known about the beneficial effects of Yoga, it gained acceptance and respect as a valuable method for helping in the management of stress and improving health and well-being. Many physicians now recommend Yoga practice to patients at risk for heart disease, as well as those with back pain, arthritis, depression, and other chronic conditions.