A Comprehensive Study of Yoga: Etymology, History, Poses and Instruction

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A Total Approach to Understanding Yoga

What is Yoga

Understanding Your Toga Practice

Power Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Basic Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga: No, it’s not the little green dude from STAR WARS. And no, as some tend to be easily confused, it doesn’t come in flavors. So what, in essence, is Yoga? I’m glad you’re thinking along those lines… let’s take a little journey to India.

Etymology of the Word Yoga

Derived from the ancient tongue of Sanskrit, yuj, the root of the modern and contemporary term of yoga, carries with it many different meanings. Yuj itself would be considered a verb in many Latin-based languages, meaning “to control,” “to concentrate on” or “to yoke.” It has been concluded that other meanings represent the action of a uniting or joining, as well as conceptual definitions of a “mode, manner or means.”

History of Yoga

When considering the root of the word yoga, it is easier to grasp its original intention. Originating in India, Yoga is in actuality not just something, but some things. The ancient practices that are still utilized today are believed to offer great insight and spiritual enlightenment as to the very nature of existence, through a process of deep meditation. It has many ties to personal beliefs as well as popular world religions.

The dates of such a practice have been traced as far back as 3000 BC, where archaeologists have found multiple seals of the Indus Valley Civilization depicting individuals and god-like beings in meditative postures. As early as 900 BC, ascetic practices were recorded in the Brahmanas, part of the Vedas.

As time passed, evidence of practices in the Hindu religion became more prominent. This was especially true, as this concept of what is now considered “yoga” continued to grow and change as is evidenced in the middle Upanishads c. 400BC. Further “defined” by the Bhagavad Gita (c. 200BC), which translates to “The Song of the Lord” and which offers the first glimpse of a “codified” yoga, the book included many meanings to the modern term, yet focused on on three: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga.

Different Types of Yoga

As the practice of yoga grew throughout India, it would become integral to everything from Hindu and Buddhist religious practices, the reaching of Moksha or to simply offer better overall health and physical performance through the practice of posturing. Presently, an individual looking to participate in the practice of yoga can find several different types, all of which are all generally based on a series of Asana, or “sitting postures.”

Yoga practices such as Hatha Yoga (Ha meaning sun and Tha meaning moon — and if found in certain Sanskrit dictionaries, Hatha = Forceful), is what the Western world has widely accepted as “yoga,” and is practiced for physical and mental health throughout that part of the globe. Hatha takes on new meaning for those looking for religious and mental enlightenment through the practice of yoga, as it was developed as, for lack of better terms, a stepping stone to Raja/Astanga Yoga.

Power Yoga and Bikram Yoga

Several yoga practices have become popular in the western world, an include both power yoga and Bikram yoga. Power Yoga, depending on the instructor, is simply a method in which the postures are repeated, and/or held longer, in order to create a strength training program out of a yoga class or private study.

Bikram Yoga is also known as Hot Yoga, and was developed by Bikram Choudhury. It is generally practiced in a room that is heated to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, with a relatively low humidity. The class is then led through a series of 26 postures. Due to the heat, the elasticity of the muscles are released to their full potential (based on each individual’s personal potential), as the class continues. Such a class is great for muscle and mental endurance training, as well as for working on flexibility.

Goals and Point of a Yoga Practice

From enlightenment to tighter buns, yoga goals are as unique as the individual. Several people have strayed from practicing yoga because it has been derived from spiritual practices. Of course that’s not a bad thing, but apparently some people are worried that they’ll melt if they tune into something deeper than their biceps and triceps.

Truth be told, if you want faster results in a weight training program, or in a weight loss program, consider getting into a few yoga classes each week. Everyone from “Suzie Homemaker” in the Midwest to elite dancers in NYC, will experience that the more “types” of exercise you throw at the human body, the faster and more positive the muscles respond. This has to do with a little something known as Muscle Confusion.

Yoga Equipment

You don’t need to take out a second mortgage to snag some great yoga equipment, and it all starts with a mat. Cheap enough and worth every penny! Guys new to the practice of yoga might catch themselves thinking, “I’ll just tough it out on the hardwood….” Nope. It’ll cost you less than 15 bucks, and save your knees and elbows from a terrible fate.

Going one step further, if you’re the type of person who sweats a lot during physical exertion, consider a simple yoga mat blanket. Not only are blankets nice for absorbing sweat, water from a bottle, lotion from your hands, etc., they are a must if you’re considering a Bikram class. As fun as “Slip ‘n’ Slides” are, that’s the last thing you want your yoga mat to become during class.

Yoga Straps and Yoga Blocks are also very helpful for maintaining poses for longer durations while avoiding muscle strain in the process, and can be of great help to newcomers and the experienced alike.

List of Basic Yoga Poses

Uttanasana – Standing Forward Bend or Bend
Paschimottanasana – Intense stretch of the west
Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog
Bhujangasana – Cobra
Dhanurasana – Bow
Halasana – Plow
Vajrasana – Diamond Pose
Shavasana – Corpse Pose
Trikonasana – Triangle Pose
Virabhadrasana I – Warrior I Pose
Virabhadrasana II – Warrior II Pose
Tadasana – Mountain Pose
Balasana – Child’s Pose
Virasana – Hero Pose
Utkatasana (Chair Pose)

List of Advanced Yoga Poses

Bakasana – Crow/Crane Pose
Garudasana – Eagle Pose
Tittibhasana – Firefly Pose
Shirsasana – Head Stand
Pada Galavasana – Flying Crow Pose
Natarajasana – King Dancer Pose

About Kerrie Cason, Easy Ways to Go Green Yoga Instructor

My name is Kerrie Cason, and I have been practicing yoga for over eight years with a focus on hatha yoga and vinyasa flow during the last six years.

Yoga can create space inside each of us, removing the old spiritual and physical waste in order to invite in the benefits of a purer heart and mind. To find out more about me and my philosophy on Yoga, read my bio page.


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Post Copyright 2008-9 Matty Byloos (Photo Via Lara Greene)

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