Dec 1, 2008

Yoga terms - II [types of yoga]

This list of terms includes various types of yoga we often hear about.
Some of the yoga types mentioned here are branches of yoga practice as understood in common, ie physical exercises and breath control. These are marked $.
Since yoga in essense connotes the practices that give us body's and mind's overall fitness leading to union with the ultimate, some types of yoga are different paths leading to that union. These are marked &.
A few types of yoga are standard variations introduced by yogis. These are marked *.
Many yoga types that float around are experimentations by individuals, not always backed up by scientific research and/or tradition and/or scriptures. These have been marked here with ?. Many other fancy types invented by yoga teachers and merchants are found in advertisements and over the net; these have not been included here.

$ Ashtanga [= of 8 parts] Yoga. This complete way of life consists of eight sets of actions to be performed by a yogi. These are contained in Sage Patanjali’s treatise on yoga, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. These eight sets are: yama [acting moral], niyama [discipline], asana [yogic postures], pranayama [yogic breathing], pratyahara [withdrawal of senses], dharana [holding of mind; concentration], dhyana [meditation] and samadhi [salvation].
Yama itself consists of five do’s and don’ts: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, celibacy and not having the desire to amass wealth. The five canons of Niyama are: internal and external puirity, contentment/ satisfaction, austerity, study of right text and surrender to God. Pratyahara calls for not succumbing to the lust of the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch and perhaps sexual deviations.

& Bhakti Yoga: It seeks attainment of the ultimate through bhakti [=devotion]. Includes listening to and singing God’s glory, remembering and chanting His name, doing service of God, taking God as one’s master and friend, complete surrender and so on.

? Bikram Yoga: Started by Bikram Chaudhury some years back, this form of yoga is done in a room heated to 38 degrees C or higher and with 40% or more relative humidity. 26 specific yoga postures are done in a certain order. Also called Hot Yoga.

$ Hatha Yoga: The main form of yoga we deal with: the physical and physiological form. It consists of asanas [physical exercises] and pranayams [breathing exercises]. Part of the more elaborate Ashtanga Yoga.

? Hot Yoga: see Bikram Yoga

* Iyengar Yoga: This branch of yoga was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar in late 1930’s. It is classical Hatha Yoga, but done with the help of props including chairs, straps, blocks and pillows. It is best suited to the beginners and thsose who lack flexibility of joints, muscles and spine.
This yoga focuses on doing the postures correctly and holding them for a longer period. It also lays stress on meditation.

& Jnana [also spelled Gyana/Jyana] Yoga: the knowledge path to salvation

& Karma Yoga: This path seeks enlightenment through right karma [=deeds].

$ Kriya Yoga: a set of asanas, followed by pranayam and focus on yogic energy, so as to purify one’s psyche.

$ Kundalini Yoga: The practices that seek to awaken the kundalini. Kundalini [=coil] symbolizes the centres of energy linked in a coil starting from the base of spine to the brain. Kundalini is activated with the help of proper postures, chanting, meditation, guided relaxation, etc.
Awakening of kundalini is supposed to lead to enormous spiritual achievements to the practitioner.

& Mantra Yoga: use of mantras [=chanting of specific words or phrases] towards attaining yogic powers

$ Patanjali Yoga: see Ashtanga Yoga.

? Power Yoga: This is a regimen of brisk exercises mixing Surya Namaskar [=a group of 12 smoothly flowing stretching yogic exercises] with push ups and such other strenuous exercises.
It is a form of fitness programme rather than yoga in its true sense.

$ Raja Yoga [=king among yogas]: basically the classical Ashtanga Yoga, with emphasis on mind more than physical exercises.
Physical exercises are subservient to the goal of this yoga, that is enlightenment.

* Sahaja [=simple; easy] Yoga: Developed by spiritual guru Ma Nirmala Devi in 1970, this is a form of meditation that leads to self awareness and self-realisation without going through tough regimen of yoga for spiritual gains.
The practioner meditates and becomes thoughless while remaining fully alert.

* Sudarshan Kriya: A form of yogic breathing regimen developed by spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1982. In short, the procedure consists of breathing rhythmically, doing bhastrika pranayam and then going into meditation.

$ Surya Namaskar [=sun salutation]: A sequence of 12 forward and backward stretching exercises, done with inhalation and exhalation in sync with the body movement.

$? Tantra [=warp, weave] Yoga: The discipline of tantra has developed into various forms in Budhist, Chinese, East Asian, Tibetan and traditional Indian practice. In essence, it says that the universe is manifestation of divine energy and seeks to channelize the energy of human body for creation and emancipation.
In modern parlance, tantra is sometimes taken as an occult rather than spiritual discipline. Many rituals, including those for appeasing Goddess, have also been associated with tantric cults.
As a discipline of yoga, Tantra Yoga can roughly be equated with Kundalini Yoga.

$ Vinyasa Yoga: A form of yoga in which yogic postures are practiced with a systematic breathing pattern, thus weaving the postures with alternate inhaling and exhaling. Surya Namaskar is one such group of 12 poses done with due consideration to flow of breath while performing individual pose.
The word vinyasa is sometimes used to denote doing any asana sequence keeping in mind the principles of flow of breath.