There are many types of yoga to understand. Each places an emphasis on certain aspects of the practice. This could be the asanas, the breathing technique or the connecting flow in between.
Yet, in spite of the differences, there are certain commonalities among the many and varied forms of yoga. Below you will find some yoga basics, what you will need to know and understand before you take on yoga.
The term asana literally means seat. In yoga, asanas are poses or postures.
They are positions the practitioner places his or her body into to reach the goal of the practice.
Asanas comprise the 3rd limb of the Astanga. Many may argue that yoga starts and ends with the asanas.
They are essential elements of many types of yoga including Hatha Yoga and its offshoots.
Various Asanas Are Practiced In Yoga:
Some include the Bharadvajasana (an asymmetrical twist), the Gomukhasana (Cow-face pose) and the Utthita Parsvakonasana (an abdomen muscle toner).
There is also the Parivrtta Parsvakonasana or revolved side angle pose. Some basic asanas include the Dhanurasana or Bow, the Parvatasana (Mountain), the Jatara Parivartanasana or Crocodile for fat reduction and pelvis stretching Supta Virasana.
In many types of yoga, asanas combine with pranayama (breath). A common example of this is the Sun Salutation.this, as the name suggests is the greeting of the sun. It consists of a number of movements interconnected into a series and linked through the breathing techniques.
Bhakti is love or devotion.
It is the root of some forms of yoga, including Bhakti Yoga. Those who opt to focus on Bhakti are choosing to follow a religious path. It is a route with the aim of achieving union with the Absolute.
This is the term for meditation.
It comprises the 7th limb of the Astanga. Dyhana is a form of mind control.
It is a means of stopping and realizing through the meditative state of all existence. It is a step along the path towards Perfection.
A Mantra is a sacred sound or word.
It is repeated in yoga verbally or internally to achieve a meditative state of mind. A Mantra is a tool to help the practitioner obtain spiritual transformation.
The word, syllable or sound is usually simple and short. The best-known Mantra is OM. OM or Aum is also the most sacred of Mantras. Whatever the choice of Mantra, there must always be intent. A practitioner chants with willfulness.
A Mudra is a symbol.
In yoga, this is a specific and symbolic hand gesture ( hasta mudras ).
There are many types of hand gestures. Traditionally, there are 24 mudras. Yoga may have an infinite number.
Hand Mudras are based on Hindi concepts of the flow of energy and the 5 elements.
These are fire, air, ether, earth and water. Each digit on the hand represents an elemental force with the power to help conduct and direct the flow of energy.
The thumb is fire, the forefinger air, the middle finger is ether, the ring finger is earth and the little finger or pinky is water.
Niyama is the personal attitude of the practitioner.
It is the 2nd limb of the Astanga. Traditionally, there are 10 Niyamas. Others state there are 5.
These are personal codes for living your life.
• Sauca or purity of the mind and body
• Samtosa or contentment with your lot or reality in life
• Tapas or balance and strength of being
• Svadhyana or self-examination
• Isvarapranidhana or the celebration of the Spiritual or the Divine
Prana means life force or energy.
Anayama means stretch, expand or regulate. Pranayama combines these 2 terms to indicate control of the breath. Pranayama is the 4th limb of Astanga.
It is the control of breath or breathing. It usually works in close relationship with the practice of Asana.
Pranayama techniques or methods vary according to the asana as well as the type of yoga a practitioner chooses to follow.
There are 5 traditional breathing techniques:
• High Breathing
• Low Breathing
• Middle Breathing
• Complete or Total Breath
There are also different types of breath. These include
• Ujayyi or victorious breath – full-lung breathing
• Kapalabhti or breath of fire – a cleansing breath
• Nadi shodbana or alternate nostril breathing
• Sitali Pranayam or cooling breath
All forms of breath and techniques are to help the student achieve the goal within the specific form of yoga.
Yogic breathing is an aid in both understanding how we breathe and helping us tap into the vital life force of breath. As is the case with much of yoga, breathing is and should be mindful.
Vinyasa is the term used to describe the fluid movements from 1 asana to the next.
It is the sequence of asanas. Vinyasa is breath-synchronized movement. The term may mean to place in a certain way.
It is also mindful movement in most forms of yoga. Vinyasa can also refer to various movements that comprise a Sun Salutation Sequence. Vinyasa is part of Hatha Yoga. In Vinyasa Yoga, emphasis is on this particular aspect.
There are many things to learn in order to be able to understand yoga. The basic terminology can be confusing. The implementation of terms and their application may also vary within the different forms of yoga.
There are, however, commonalities that bind the diverse types of yoga together. They provide a commonality that is stronger than the differences. Understanding this will help a beginner grasp the basics clearly before moving further along the path.
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Disclaimer: Tips and suggestions mentioned in the article are for general information purpose only and should not be construed as professional medical advice. Always consult your doctor or a dietitian before starting any fitness programme or making any changes to your diet.