A Guide to the Basics of Yoga
Yoga has been around for a very long time. It first began more than 3,000 years ago in the place we now call India. The word, "yoga" comes from a work in Sanskrit, "yuj," which means "to bind, join, attach, and yoke." "Yuj" also means "union, to direct and concentrate one's attention on, to use and apply." That definition is more fitting for the type of "yuj" that is "yoga."
Yoga is a way of concentrating on your body and mind to "bind yourself" to God. It is a way of disciplining yourself to balance your soul, mind, and emotions, so that you connect with the spirit within you, also known as your "jivatma," which is considered part of the Supreme Universal Spirit ("Paramatma," a.k.a. God). It is a way of focusing all your energy into very constructive channels. A "yogi" is a person who follows the teachings of yoga.
A Look at the Various Types of Yoga
There are several other types of yoga than the well-known "Hatha," which is the type with the various physical practices - with the poses and stretches. Other kinds are: "karma," which is a focus on giving of yourself without expecting a reward, "bhakti," which is a channeling of emotional energy into the spiritual practice, "jnana," which is a philosophical approach to understanding illusions of the world, and "rhaja," which is about concentration and mind control. "Hatha" is considered to be a part of the rhaja version.
Yoga is a great way to exercise. It strengthens the muscles and stretches them, and improves the cardiovascular system. It is gentle enough that it can be done by the elderly, overweight, and pregnant. There is some part that everyone can do. You don't have to do the hard positions - there are variations for every level. But as it is an integral part, if you don't like to stretch at all, you might not enjoy this form of exercise and meditation.
Yoga also gives one a feeling of serenity and clarity, helping one feel relaxed and more focused. The yogi learns to center the mind on just one thing, as opposed to our usual scattered thoughts. It is a good way to get more calm and refreshed.
Most yoga classes are at least an hour long, as time is needed to do the deep breathing and focusing on the experience. It takes time to get rid of all the worldly thoughts and pressures. It is best to allow an hour or two for maximum benefit from your practice of yoga.