The word yoga is usually translated as "union." Most sources link it to the Sanskrit root word yuj, which means "to yoke, harness, or unite." BKS Iyengar, one of the foremost teachers of Hatha Yoga, says that yoga is "the union of the individual soul with the Universal Spirit." To make this abstract idea more accessible he proposes the simpler and somewhat more concrete idea that yoga is the union of the body with the mind, and the mind with the soul." Patanjali, in his classic text 'The Yogasutras', defines yoga as the restraint of the fluctuations of the mind.
This image of the Wheel of Yoga (from 'The Yoga Tradition' by George Feuerstein) can be helpful in understanding the different aspects of Yoga. The outer rim of the wheel represents the yamas and niyamas, the moral and ethical principals which are shared by all forms of Yoga. Through the various spokes, or branches of Yoga, we move toward its inner hub, representing samadhi. Samadhi literally means "placing or putting together" and can be translated as "enstasy," or more often as "ecstasy," according to Feuerstein. The empty space within the inner hub represents transcendence. The eight different systems represented by the spokes are:
1) Hatha Yoga - Yoga of physical discipline
2) Karma Yoga - Yoga of selfless service
3) Kriya Yoga - Yoga of action
4) Jnana Yoga - Yoga of wisdom
5) Bhakti Yoga - Yoga of devotion
6) Mantra Yoga - Yoga of sound
7) Raja Yoga – Patanjali's Classical Yoga
8) Samnyasa Yoga - Renunciation
HATHA YOGA is often used to refer to a traditional yoga practice of asanas (physical postures), and may also include pranayama (breathing practices) and meditation. In more traditional terms, however, HATHA YOGA refers to all physical yogic practices, including not only asanas, pranayama and meditation, but also mantra (chanting) and kriya (cleansing practices). Ha-tha means sun-moon, referring to the balancing of both lunar and solar energy channels that flow through the body.
INTEGRAL HATHA YOGA is a physical practice that combines the traditional elements of yogic postures, breathing practices, chanting, deep relaxation and meditation and is based on the idea that 'yoga' is to be applied and practiced in all aspects of our living existence, to create 'heaven on earth.'
VINYASA YOGA is a physical yoga practice that 'flows'. Traditional asanas are often combined in sequences and breath and movement are linked in this practice.
All the various forms of Hatha Yoga practices can offer an excellent way to stretch, strengthen, calm and focus the body and mind, moving us toward holistic health, and bringing our awareness inward toward balance and clarity.
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