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The Lineages of Yoga: Puzzling Its History Together

Yoga, the “discipline for attaining union” that popularly began its entrance to the Western world in 1893 with Swami Vivekananda’s introduction of this practice to the Parliament of the World’s Religions, has become to the modern world a synonym of fitness, health, and a hope for the realization of ones’ spiritual potential. But is there more to this ancient philosophy, science, and practice that has been roaming around this world since the Sanskrit hymns of the Rig Veda where composed? With now at least 200 generations of compiled practitioners over the years, the self-evident answer is yes.

This Indian-conceived practice has been evolving since the Sarasvati-Sindhu civilization thrived in the Asian territory and although it was first linked to sacrifice rituals of the Vedas, it then evolved to become a practice of inner sacrifice that meant the resignation to the mundane, which soon after lead to the rise of the Buddhist and Jain religions. With the arrival of the Bhagavad Gita texts around 400 to 500 B.C. a more comprehensive view of yoga emerged; bringing together the Karma Yoga (discipline of action), Bhakti Yoga (discipline of devoting oneself to the divine) and Jnana Yoga (discipline of wisdom and knowledge).

It wasn’t until the year 200 A.D in which the Yoga Sutras collected by Patanjali outlined the eight limbs of yoga, being: rules of moral code (Yamas), rules of personal behavior (Niyamas), body postures (Asana), breathing techniques (Pranayama), withdrawal of senses (Pratyahara), concentration (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana), and ecstasy (Samadhi).

Hatha yoga, that is the more extensive practice of yoga poses or Asanas or pretty much the “yoga” with which most of us are familiar now wasn’t developed until 8 centuries after Patanjali’s Sutras were assembled. To many it may come as a surprise that the traditional practices of Hatha Yoga were meant for the practitioner’s body to transform itself into a divine and transubstantiated body that can better stand the wear outs of time and that is equipped with all kind of extraordinary capacities. The importance of the human body is understood, as it is seen to be at service to the foundation of the person’s spiritual realization.

Other traditional forms of yoga that matured over time include Mantra Yoga, which employs the use of primordial sounds to achieve a deeper state of meditation, such as Om Shanty Shanty Shanty or simply Om; Tantra Yoga, which engages meditative visualizations as well as elaborated and extensive rituals, and Laya or Kundalini Yoga that seeks to release a primal energy (called Kundalini) believed to be located at the base of the spine in the first chakra, through the regular practice of meditation.

The genuine continuation of this profound, rich, and priceless tradition is now in the hands of countless individuals around the world and across both Eastern and Western cultures. It is now up to us to faithfully keep the light of yoga bright enough within ourselves to carry on outshining a path of wisdom for generations to come.

Understanding Anusara Yoga

Defining Anusara Yoga

People who have been practicing yoga for some time understand that most yoga styles have their roots in traditional Indian practices. The distinctive aspect of Anusara yoga is that it is a relatively modern style that can trace its roots to styles like Iyengar and Hatha yoga. Anusara was founded by a yoga teacher known as John Friend in 1997. His aim in developing this style was to focus on a more westernized style but with a stronger spiritual practice.

The Structure of Anusara Yoga

One of the defining factors of Anusara yoga is that it is grounded on the Tantric philosophy. This is where practitioners focus on achieving goodness and well-being. The focus of Anusara yoga leans more towards mental benefits than the physical. If you are looking for cardiovascular benefits with your yoga practice, you should look into classes that teach other styles like Bikram or Vinyasa yoga.

Another aspect of Anusara yoga is that teachers are discouraged from trying to fix the poses of their students. Instead, they encourage them to develop their own poses. Instead of giving a strict set of poses to follow, the teacher offers a general guideline showing them the principles of alignment. With this and other varied tools, a student can come up with poses that best suits him or her.

Anusara yoga is arranged into three levels. Sessions have a beginning, middle, and end. The goal of engaging in Anusara yoga is to achieve self-improvement, self-esteem, and positivity. There are also those who participate in Anusara yoga with the aim of dealing with stress and the pressure of modern life.

Key Movements in Anusara Yoga

Inner Spiral – Common poses include moving things backwards, rotating legs inward, and spinning forearms inwards. The spiral movement helps expand energy from the feet up the body through the waistline.

The Outer Spiral – This movement focuses on the waistline and the tailbone. By concentrating the force in this area, a student moves the thighs forwards and rotates the legs outward.

Opening to Grace – Here, a few specific exercises can be used to achieve total devotion and open the mind.

Organic Energy – Here, a teacher encourages the students to employ the organic energy that exist in the core lines of the body. This helps increase flexibility and freedom with each pose.

The Mental and Physical Requirements

Participating in Anusara yoga is easy since the requirements are somewhat flexible. It is not as difficult as some other forms of yoga. If you have the strength to hold a pose, then you are able to participate. The other factor that one may need to note is that Anusara yoga uses vocabulary that is a bit different from other forms of yoga. However, all trainers have been trained to explain what they all mean.

The physical requirements include:

A Nada chair

A yoga mat

Bolsters

And yoga blocks.

Advantages of Doing Aqua Yoga

Yoga is about relaxing, stretching, and being at one with your body. However, it can be hard to practice when the joints and muscles are struggling to hold the poses for several minutes. If you have weak joints, then you should try practicing aqua yoga. You might be surprised of what you are capable of doing while you are in the pool. Below are some of the reasons why you should add water to your yoga practice.

Improve Balance

Practicing the eagle pose, half-moon pose, or any other balancing poses can be frustrating when you feel like you could topple at any moment during the yoga session. But when you perform the poses in water, they become easier. This can help boost your confidence and make you want to recreate the pose on land. Aqua yoga is also perfect when you want to try inversions as long as you hold your breath for several seconds.

Keep Focus on Alignment

You become weightless while in the water, which allows you to be more aware of your alignment and form. You will be able to hold yourself up longer in water than on land, which can help you perfect the different poses and focus on their various elements such as extension of the arms, core engagement, and hip alignment.

Find Inner Peace

Going underwater is the best way to clear the mind, and meditate even for just a couple of seconds until you need to breathe in air again. All you need to do is to take a big breath and let yourself submerge underwater while in a half lotus pose. It is important that you stay calm, and breathe slowly. Don’t force yourself to stay underwater when it is already uncomfortable.

Challenge Yourself through Aqua Yoga

While aqua yoga makes it easier to do some of the poses, it can make it harder to do others. When doing side plank, pyramid or triangle on solid ground, gravity assists you in performing the poses. However, doing them even in shallow water is difficult. You will have a hard time staying in the poses. Doing them in water will make you engage your core more as you use your hands to tread water.

Pain Treatment

Just like any other water exercise, aqua yoga is gentle on the body. It is a low impact activity that is best alternative to other types of activities that place a lot of stress on the joints and muscles. There’s no need to hold your body weight when doing some poses, which can provide relief if you are recovering from injury or pain.

Aqua yoga is a fun and gentle form of yoga that everyone can enjoy. The pool is the ideal environment to relieve stiffness and pain. When you are in the water, you are free to move. And at the same time, water acts as resistance that can strengthen your muscles. It is ideal for older adults, athletes, and people with balance issues.