Updated: Jun 4, 2021
“If you can control the rising of the mind into ripples, you will experience Yoga”
I knew Yoga was old but exactly how old I knew not. To my surprise it was purportedly conceived over five thousand years ago; though of course not as the complete system we see today. Patanjali, who is considered the “Father of Yoga”, ‘systematised it and compiled the already existing ideas and practices’ into a teachable discipline (Vonne 2012).
Since then faithful followers, or practitioners, have transmitted the knowledge, skills and techniques from one generation to the next. Over that extensive expanse of time Yoga has grown and deepened like a river into which many streams flow.
A common misconception is that Yoga is merely a fancy name for flexibility training. ‘When Yoga is mentioned,’ says Swami Satchidananda (1978), a world renowned Yoga master, ‘most people immediately think of some physical practices for stretching and stress reduction. This is one aspect of the Yogic science, but actually only a very small part and relatively recent in development.’
We should instead, then, think of Yoga not as a series of pretentious poses but as a heterogeneous system of self-development that is comprised of separate and in some cases wholly different disciplines or ‘paths’. These paths intertwine, diverge and converge ultimately completing the synthesis of Yoga.
They include Karma Yoga, Jana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga. The personality type of the practitioner will naturally incline to one of the paths ‘but a one-sided development is not recommended, as it can lead to imbalance[s]’ says the Sivananda Yoga Centre in London (1996). ‘The whole person – heart, intellect and hand – should be developed simultaneously, so a synthesis of the four main paths is recommended.’
The Benefits of Yoga
Improves the suppleness of the body
Increases general flexibility
Can promote a sense of well-being
Has been shown to reduce stress
Brings about an awareness of ethical living
Enhances proprioception - mind/body connection