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Yoga Evolution

by Rob Daniels

While it is known that yoga has been practiced for thousands of years, there is no one individual who can claim the credit. The practice of yoga has evolved dramatically through the centuries, with greater changes in recent years as it has gained popularity. Nowadays one is likely to practice a type of yoga attributed to one of a dozen men. These contemporary yogis, while accomplished in their own rights, should not be mistaken as "founders" of yoga. Rather, Indian tradition points to the sage Patanjali who probably lived some time between 400-220 BC.

Patanjali's name would certainly befit a founder of yoga. It is said that, desiring to teach yoga to the world, Patanjali fell (pat) from heaven into the open palms (anjali) of a woman. He is said to be the author of the Yoga Sutras, as well as a commentary on Panini's Sanskrit grammar, both works that are considered authoritative on yoga even today. Many ayurvedic texts are also attributed to him. However, nothing else is known about the life of Patanjali. While various ancient texts refer to Patanjali, he is usually portrayed as half-human, half-serpent. There are texts dating several thousand years earlier that even refer to Patanjali as an incarnation of the serpent god, Ananta. For these reasons, many scholars believe Patanjali is entirely a mythical figure. (Wikipedia)

If the practice of yoga cannot be attributed to an individual, it does find ample reference in Indian literature. Yoga as philosophy, religion, science and art, is covered in every detail in the Vedas (books of scriptural knowledge), the Upanisads (philosophical speculations), and their commentaries; the Puranas (ancient cosmologies), and the two epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, which contains the Bhagavad Gita.

Over this long history of yoga four basic schools have emerged, ranging below from the most religious to the most scientific:

1. Bhakti Yoga: This type of yoga emphasizes one's devotion to an ideal, the attainment of union through love. Those who adhere to this type of yoga would devote themselves to a special deity or a guru.

2. Karma Yoga: This may be called the yoga of good deeds. Control of one's actions from unselfish motives is the goal of those who follow this path. The key is control or restraint. Picture an individual experiencing calm in stressful surroundings.

3. Jnana Yoga: In this type of yoga the individual withdraws consciousness from the outer world of the senses and achieves union by control of thought.

4. Raja Yoga: referred to as the yoga of good will, this is the classic form of yoga and involves eight steps (sometimes called the eight limbed system of discipline.) These are Yama (adherence to the five universal commandments aimed at creating a better world), Niyama (practice of the five personal disciplines), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breath control), Pratyahara (detachment from worldly activities), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (trance, or state of bliss).

Although in recent years yoga has become popularized as an alternative form of fitness or relaxation technique, it is important to know that the postures are but a small part of what yoga is. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root "yuj" meaning to join or unite. The principal aim of yoga is to integrate every aspect of the human soul with the Supreme Being. In short, true yoga is more a way of life than an exercise routine one practices so many days per week. At the basic level, yoga combines exercises of the mind, with body and spirit. Yoga has been practiced for millenia as a means to enlightenment, and is central to Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. While it is not a religion per se, it has influenced religions and spiritual practices throughout the world, and can benefit people from all walks of life, including those who do not consider themself religious at all.

About the Author

Rob Daniels is a long term practitioner of Yoga and Pilates additional articles available at Pilates Shop and Yoga Store



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Yoga is A philosophical as well as physical way of life emphasizing harmony of body and mind.

What is Meditation:
Meditation is continuous contemplation or musing on a subject or series of subjects.



What is Aromatherapy:
Aromatherapy is based on the use and blending of undiluted, pure essential oils extracted from specific aromatic plants in order to promote healing.

What is Reiki:
Reiki is a system of Enlightenment and a Hands on Healing art developed in the early 1900's by Mikao Usui in Japan.


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