What is yoga?

final wesley en bryndis 4053Yoga has existed in some form for thousands of years.
Its history, which can be traced back to around 2800 BCE is closely entwined with the Hindu religion.
Yoga, which is closely associated with Hinduism and other traditions, including Buddhism, Jainism and Tantra, is best described as a spiritual rather than a religious practice.
This means that anyone can practice yoga.
Yoga provides human kind not only with a spiritual path but also with a method for “righteous living" a set of moral, ethical and practical guidelines that help you to live a balanced and healthy life.

The earliest references to yoga come from sculptures and carvings dating back as far as 2800BCE, that were found in the Indus Valley (modern Pakistan). These artifacts were made by the Vedic people, a Sanskrit-speaking race, whose scriptures – The Vedas – are among the oldest in the world.
The Vedas gave rise to Vandanta - a huge collection of texts, among which are the Upanishads and the Bagavad Gita. These texts form the basis of Hindu philosophy and yogic literature. There are several paths of yoga and each one approaches the ultimate goal of self-realization by a different route.
Although these paths may seem contradictory with each other, they are all based on the premise that human beings can, through their own actions, become one with the Absolute. The concept is also known as enlightenment, self-realization, the union of the individual self with the universal self.
These six main paths of yoga are as such:
Jnana yoga (path of wisdom, pursuit of knowledge, its practice is to study and meditate)
Bhakti yoga (path of devotion, prayer, worshipping a god or guru)
Karma yoga (path in which the practitioner devotes his/her life to selfless action)
Mantra yoga (path of sacred sound, self-realization comes from repetition of these sounds)
Raja yoga (eight-step path to enlightment – includes posture, breath control, meditation and withdrawal of the senses)
Hatha yoga (the path of physical control, regarded as a preparation for the pursuit of Raja yoga.

This is the path of yoga that I teach so I would like to emphasis this a bit more in detail: This path emphasizes physical strength and control. Hatha yoga is the type of yoga that is most widely practiced in the West, when westerners refer to “yoga”, they usually – without even knowing it themselves - mean Hatha yoga.
The word Hatha means “forceful”. Although this may not be a word that you immediately associate with yoga, the practices of Hatha yoga can indeed be powerful.
The individual syllables “Ha” meaning “sun”, and “tha”, meaning “moon”, unite the word “Hatha”, suggesting the union of opposites (such as “yin” and “yang”). This blend of opposing forces is a major focus of yoga – hot energy is united with cool energy, strong with soft, and masculine with feminine. Hatha yoga (which includes several styles such as Astanga, Vinyasa, Vini, Power, Iyengar, Bikram, Jivamukti, Yin, Satyananda, etc.) employs a combination of physical posture, breathing exercises, cleansing processes and mindful awareness of the physical and subtle bodies to eventually prepare for contemplation and meditation. This is the end goal, the aim, the pursuit and the path we stay on in order to get there. Some of us may never get there, but what I personally feel is that we at least try to stay on that path. Because along the way we undoubtedly make small and large revelations about ourselves. It is a fascinating journey, and an exciting one at that!