Origins and Meaning of Yoga
Approximately 4,000 years ago, the early yogis in Northern India drew on their deep experiences and formulated practices for man to achieve and maintain a state of balanced existence. Although the Sanskrit word yoga meaning to 'yoke', is commonly interpreted as ‘union' connecting the spirit and physical body. Its primary meaning has been that of practices for the cultivation of the highest awareness at all levels of the human being.
Yoga has evolved over thousands of years to embrace a wide range of styles and disciplines. The evolution of yoga can be marked by four periods in time: The Vedic Period, The Pre-Classical Period, the Classical Period and the Post-Classical Period. There are many ways to practice yoga including meditation, study, self enquiry, chanting and hatha yoga, each one a specialised branch of one comprehensive system:
a system of physical postures, or asanas, whose higher purpose is to purify the body, giving one awareness and control over its internal states and rendering it fit for meditation.
selfless service to others as part of one's Higher Self, without attachment to the results; and the performance of all actions with the consciousness of God as the Doer.
centring the consciousness within through japa, or the repetition of certain universal root-word sounds representing a particular aspect of Spirit.
all-surrendering devotion through which one strives to see and love the divinity in every creature and in everything, thus maintaining an unceasing worship.
Jnana (Gyana) Yoga
the path of wisdom, which emphasises the application of discriminative intelligence to achieve spiritual liberation.
the royal or highest path of Yoga, immortalised by Bhagavan Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita and formally systematised in the 2nd century BC by the Indian sage Patanjali, which combines the essence of all the other paths.
The Perfect Antidote to the Modern World
Most of us are accustomed to looking outside of ourselves for fulfilment. We are living in a world that conditions us to believe that outer attainments can give us what we want. Yet again and again our experiences show us that nothing external can completely fulfil the deep longing within for "something more." Most of the time, however, we find ourselves striving toward that which always seems to lie just beyond our reach. We are caught up in doing rather than being, in action rather than awareness. It is hard for us to picture a state of complete calmness and repose in which thoughts and feelings cease to dance in perpetual motion. Yet it is through such a state of quietude that we can touch a level of joy and understanding impossible to achieve otherwise.
Yoga is a path, a journey towards inner peace, stillness, expansion, improved health, meaning and purpose in life. It is often within the stillness that you begin to discover who you really are, following your own intuitive wisdom.
Benefits of Yoga
Yoga can be practised by anyone, offering a myriad of benefits physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Enabling us live our lives to the fullest on and off the yoga mat, connecting and becoming part of an evolving and powerful ancient tradition.
Health Maintenance & Illness Prevention
Decreases blood pressure
Lowers the pulse rate
Massages all the internal glands and organs of the body in a thorough manner preventing disease
Improves circulation by gently stretching muscles
Transports nutrients and oxygen throughout the body
Removes toxins from the system
Weight reduction & muscle toning
Strengthens and tones the core
Increases muscle definition throughout the body
Increases metabolism, fat is converted to muscle and energy
Mental & Emotional Benefits
Reduces level of stress hormone, cortisol
Strengthens nervous system, reducing long-term stress levels
Increases neurotransmitter dopamine, which lifts the mood to create a feeling of happiness and harmony
Gives the opportunity for introspection and inner-awareness