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Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Various styles of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
The practice of yoga makes the body strong and flexible, it also improves the functioning of the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and hormonal systems. Yoga brings about emotional stability and clarity of mind.
Branches of Yoga
Yoga, in ancient times, was often referred to in terms of a tree with roots, trunk, branches, blossoms, and fruits. Each branch of yoga has unique characteristics and represents a specific approach to life. The six branches are:
Physical and mental branch – involves asana and pranayama practice – preparing the body and mind
Meditation and strict adherence to the “eight limbs of yoga”
Path of service to consciously create a future free from negativity and selfishness caused by our actions
Path of devotion – a positive way to channel emotions and cultivate acceptance and tolerance
Wisdom, the path of the scholar and intellect through study
pathway of ritual, ceremony or consummation of a relationship.
The ‘eight limbs of yoga’
Raja yoga is traditionally referred to as ashtanga yoga because there are eight aspects to the path to which one must attend. The eight limbs of ashtanga yoga are:
Ethical standards and a sense of integrity. The five Yamas are: ahimsa (nonviolence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (continence) and aparigraha (non-covetousness)
Self-discipline and spiritual observances, meditation practices, contemplative walks. The five Niyamas (Rules) are: Saucha (cleanliness), Samtosa (contentment), tapas (heat, spiritual austerities), Svadhyaya (study of sacred scriptures and of one’s self) and Isvara Pranidhana (surrender to God)
Asana – integration of mind and body through physical activity
regulation of breath leading to integration of mind and body
Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses of perception, the external world, and outside stimuli
Concentration, one-pointedness of mind
Meditation or contemplation – an uninterrupted flow of concentration
The quiet state of blissful awareness.