Types of Yoga

Ashtanga & Power Yoga

Power or Ashtanga yoga is a dynamic, aerobic type of Yoga. It is the brainchild of one K. Pattabhi Jois of Mysore, India.

Oft publicized as a set of exercises that can change your life if you can survive it, it is also portrayed as yoga with a boot camp flavor.

Actually, the term Ashtanga Yoga refers to the 8-fold path of Yoga laid down d by the sage Patanjali. K.
Pattabhi Jois’ version of Ashtanga Yoga lays stress on a dynamic approach to the Yoga poses(asana) and breathing exercises (pranayama). Pattabhi Jois’ system of Yoga is also called Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga or as Power Yoga.

At the heart of this practice are 6 increasingly difficult sets of linked postures. Each of them calls for anywhere between 90 minutes to 3 hours to complete. The arrangement of Pattabhi Jois’ Ashtanga entails going repeatedly through the whole gamut of poses. Some of them one may even find disconcerting or difficult. However, the sequence works like a combination lock, inasmuch as it done properly in the right order, the mind and the body automatically open up.

Pattabhi Jois’ Ashtanga or Power Yoga consists of the primary series, also called yoga chikitsa (yoga therapy). It is designed to realign and detoxify the body, especially the spine. It also creates the basis for substantial strength, so vital to balancing out the very flexible students who are often attracted to Hatha Yoga practice. The intermediate series, Nadi Shodhana (cleansing of the Nadis or subtle channels within the system), cleanses and fortifies the nervous system as well as the subtle energy channels that connect the 7 chakras.

The 4 advanced series (initially taught as two series, but subdivided to make them more accessible) are jointly called Sthira Bhaga (divine stability). These series take enhance the practitioner’s strength, flexibility, concentration, and energy flow developed in the first two series.

A typical Ashtanga Yoga class starts with a Sanskrit prayer, after which, the instructor will remind you to use the 3 techniques central to Ashtanga Yoga, viz, Ujjayi (Ocean breathing), Mula Bandha, and a variation of Uddiyana Bandha.

Bikram Yoga

Bikram Yoga is named after its founder – Bikram Choudhury. He is said to have learnt Yoga with Yogacharya Bishnu Ghosh, whose brother Yogananda Paramahansa was a celebrated Yogi and author of the worldwide bestseller ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’. Bikram Yoga is also called Hot Yoga. Bikram Choudhury says that this technique is the only real Hatha Yoga practiced in the West.

However, this is not recognized by many other schools of Yoga. Ideally, Bikram Yoga is a sequence of 26 poses done in a room heated to 90-100 degrees Fahrenheit. The humidity levels are around 50%.

Classes last approximately 90-minutes duration with students of all levels, ages and body types practicing together.

Each Yoga Pose is normally done twice and retained for a certain length of time. Yoga Sessions begin with standing poses, followed by backward bends, forward bends, and then Twists. The postures are completed with a round of Kapalabhati Breath or the “breath of fire”.

A lot of folks feel discouraged from practicing Hot or Bikram Yoga because they are not flexible enough. However, Yoga is not about being flexible. It is about strengthening the body and your spine in all directions with the aim of developing harmony between the body, mind and spirit. All that matters is to try the right way without pushing oneself too far.

Benefits of Bikram Yoga

  • It is designed to “scientifically” tone up and stretch muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the right order that they should be.
  • The practice of Bikram Yoga encourages natural release of toxins, body cleansing and utmost flexibility.
  • Bikram Yoga is also known to bring down stress levels and enhance Blood Circulation.
  • The protracted practice of this style of Yoga also help one lose weight and build up muscles.

Anyone – even those suffering from chronic illnesses like diabetes, BP, arthritis, thyroid problems can practice and benefit from the practice of Bikram Yoga.

Ayurveda & Yoga

Ayurveda & Yoga therapy

According to a lot of experts, Ayurveda and Yoga therapy are designed to ‘promote human happiness, health and creative growth’.

Ayurveda and Yoga therapy are both among the worlds oldest medical systems that trace their origins back to over 5,000 years ago. Literary translated, Ayurveda means Science of Life (‘Ayur’ life and ‘Veda’ knowledge).

They both help us nurture and take care of our bodies and minds through healthy- practices, eating and general living.

Yoga and Ayurveda have a lot of good advice to offer us in terms of nutrition and well-being. Both yoga and Ayurveda are holistic, natural systems of healing rooted in the Veda’s.

Both consider prevention better than cure and diet and nutrition vital to prevention of disease and ill health. While Ayurveda aims at balancing the 3 doshas in the body, Yoga aims to balance all aspects of life, physical, mental and emotional.

In Yoga and Ayurveda, all disease, misery and agony, are the result of dissonance and imbalance in the body. Hence both Ayurvedic therapies aim is to treat by restoring balance in a bid to prevent and cure disease. Besides Yoga and Ayurveda therapies aim at getting rid of toxins from the body and calming the senses thus improving overall physical and mental well-being. In both, Yoga and Ayurveda, therapy is aimed at getting rid of the disease permanently, by raising the body’s immunity.

The only difference is that Yoga believes in the principles of the 5 elements in nature, viz earth, water, fire, air and ether. Ayurveda, on the other hand, believes in the tridosha theory. According to this, there are three humors in the body – vata, pitta and kapha. These, and their combinations in an individual’s body determine his / her body type (also called Prakriti in Sanskrit). So while Yoga attempts to treat by bringing all 5 elements into balance, as far as possible, Ayurveda attempts to do the same by bringing the 3 doshas into a state of balance.

Best part is that both therapies are compatible because both work separately with natural cure as their basis. In so doing, if employed in unison, Ayurveda and Yoga therapy is most effective in achieving a quick and permanent cure.

The ancient Ayurveda Yoga series

The ancient Ayurveda Yoga series, (that lost connection between Ayurveda and Yoga) has, thankfully, been revived

According to ancient Indian philosophy, originally there used to be 3 schools of study – Ayurveda, Yoga and astrology. They were consulted as valuable sources of knowledge and information.

This information had been lost, till recently, and the above disciplines had become fragmented in their approach. Now, this really holistic approach to health has been revived.

The Ayurveda Yoga Series shows this holistic way of working with yogasanas (postures), pranayamas (breathing exercise) shatkriyas (cleansing techniques) and use of herbs to heal one on all levels – physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

There are literally dozens of poses in the Yoga Series. However, for purposes of healing and maintaining good health just 25 basic asanas will suffice.

The first 7 poses that correspond to rajas guna are energizing.

In these the practitioner learns to rein in his powerful energies and direct to heal himself. As a result of these 7 poses, the practitioner is inspired, invigorated and directed.

The next 7 poses correspond to sattva guna and are attuning. In these the practitioner imbibes the qualities of balance and equanimity and learns to connect with the positive qualities within. Going a step further, he is even able to stabilize his relationship with the Self like in meditation.

The last 7 poses correspond to tamas guna and are relaxing. In these the practitioner imbibes discovers the quality of relaxation and is able to let go of tensions – literally unwind tensions – which impede the natural flow of energy in his life.

All these sets of poses are accompanied by appropriate breathing exercises (pranayamas) for optimal results.

Next, every individual’s diet has to be tailored to suit his / her constitution if the doshas are to be kept in balance. While certain foods which are recommended for a particular Ayurvedic constitution they may not be considered suitable for another. For instance, milk, a Sattvic food, is normally good for a Pitta constitution. But it may not suit someone with a Kapha constitution. The ideal Ayurvedic diet also varies with seasonal changes, the weather and the time of year.

Nonviolent yogic diets consider not just the doshas or the Ayurvedic humors of vata, pitta and kapha but the role of prana as well. Good raw foods, such as carrots, cilantro, cucumbers, parsley, radishes, sprouts, tomatoes, together with spices such as basil, cayenne, cinnamon and ginger flushes both the body and mind with pranic energy. Traditionally, raw foods, grains and dairy products have been used to cleanse the Nadis (channels of the subtle body) as they bring with them an increase in Prana. A combination of yogasanas, pranayama, mantra, meditation and a yogic diet works wonders for people intent on cleansing their physical and the subtle bodies.

Good eating etiquette

  • Eat seasonal fruits
  • Go in for fresh food as against processed / preserved stuff
  • Have foods that are lovingly prepared
  • Take into consideration cooking place and atmosphere
  • Never eat when upset
  • Always make it a point to sit down and eat
  • Eat only when hungry
  • Never talk while eating (or drinking)
  • Never discuss work during meals
  • Before having the meal wait until the first has digested
  • Include all six tastes in a meal – these include Sour, Sweet, Salty, Pungent, Bitter, and Astringent
  • Never stuff yourself, leave a third to a quarter empty to aid digestion

When the series in this amazing sequence has successfully been completed, over time, you will experience a balancing effect in your entire being.

When working with specific aspects of the series the practitioner is, as a rule, recommended ways in which to practice all of the above to best serve his unique tendencies in all the areas of his life. These are powerful healing tools particularly when used with other lifestyle suggestions that have been made.

Yoga Diet

Yoga Diet – Eat properly following the Yoga Diet

One of the 5 fundamental issues in Yoga is right diet.However, right diet is an extremely relative and controversial subject. In order to fully benefit from what Yoga the practices must, be accompanied by the right kind of food. To remain alert and energized all through the day, we must nourish our body and mind. An important part of the practice, Yoga insists that we have a well-balanced dietand always in moderation.

Modern science has researched nutrition at length, and there appear to be as many right diets as there are scientific studies. But Yoga Diet is special and his section covers several important aspects of Yoga Diet.

Yoga diet is predominantly vegetarian; it consists of pure, simple, natural foods that are easily digested and promote health. Simple meals help easier and faster digestion and assimilation of foods.

Until recent times, most non-vegetarians looked at vegetarians with a misgiving. By and large, they were dismissed as oddballs or food buffs, which preferred to thrive on a bland diet of brown rice and vegetable cutlets. These days, however, folks are better informed. But the vegetarian diet is still often considered unappetizing and insipid and, worse still, inadequate as far as vital ingredients go. Conversely, to develop good overall health, its important is for us to have the right, healthy diet.

The main principle of a Yoga diet is to up your consumption of fruits and vegetables with the aim of ultimately moving to pure vegetarian fare. The premise is that, such a diet being healthy, it will help develop a stronger body and a calmer, more peaceful state of mind. Then again, to really understand Yoga’s approach to diet you must familiarize yourself with the concept of the 3 Gunas or qualities of nature. In Yoga, food is traditionally classified by to its effect on the mind and body, using the 3 Gunas (attributes):

  1. Sattva (the quality of love, light and life),
  2. Rajas (the quality of activity and passion, lacking stability) and
  3. Tamas (the quality of darkness and inertia, dragging us into ignorance and attachment):

The Yoga diet will help you achieve a better health, a keener intellect and serenity of mind and heart. Then again, any change in diet should only be made gradually and over time. Begin by substituting larger portions of vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts until ultimately all meat products are totally eliminated from your diet. Over time, you will come to experience the benefits of a vegetarian diet. More importantly, as much as a Yoga diet is nutritious, the food is also rich in Prana or vital energy. When you feel the upsurge of life force as a result of this diet, you will understand why the sages said, “You are what you eat.”

Change to Yoga Diet

Legend has it that the yogis of yore subsisted on air and prana alone.

Remember that good ol’ catchphrase ‘love and fresh air’? But, believe it or not, it is actually possible for lesser mortals to thrive on water, a little fruit, milk and clarified butter (ghee).

The Yoga diet aims at development of all the 5 elements in the body – earth, fire, wind, air, and ether. Naturally, it is ideally suited not just for physical detoxification but also for widening the parameters of your mind. According to both Yoga and Ayurveda, the mind is basically composed of the wind (vata) element. It is for precisely this reason that die-hard Yogis recommend raw foods accompanied by occasional fasts.

The logic behind this is that a reduction in gross matter ultimately results in expansion and development of mental faculties.

Yoga’s healthy motto is: “Eat to live, not live to eat”. It is important to understand the purpose of eating. It is to supply ourselves with Prana, life force or vital life energy. Hence, the greatest nutritional plan for a Yoga student is the simple diet of fresh nutritional food. Then again, a trueYogic diet goes even further; it is more selective than this.

The Yogi, being concerned with the subtle effect of food on the mind and astral body, avoids foodstuffs that are overly stimulating. He prefers foods, which render the mind calm and the intellect sharp. If you seriously take to the path of Yoga, you too would avoid meat, fish, eggs, alcohol, coffee, tea (except herbal teas) and drugs.

All of our nutritional requirements come under 5 categories: protein, carbohydrates, minerals, fats and vitamins. Hence, it is imperative that we have certain knowledge of dietetics if we wish to balance our food. Having first-hand foods, directly from nature, that are grown in fertile soil (preferably organic, free of chemicals and pesticides) will definitely ensure a better supply of our nutritional needs – particularly the all-important Prana. Conversely, processing, refining and overcooking destroy a lot of the food value.

A lot of people wonder whether they are getting adequate proteins but, sadly, neglect other important factors. Little do they know that the quality of the protein is more important than the quantity alone. High protein requirement still being used by many Health Departments is, primarily, based on archaic, outdated information and statistics. Unfortunately, much of it has been scientifically disproved times and time again, in laboratories.

The basis of a Yoga diet is ideally Sattva. It is of the attitude of ahimsa or nonviolence. To understand this you have to accept that a Sattvic diet is, predominantly, vegetarian, eschewing all such methods that involve killing or harming animals. Further, much emphasis is laid on natural foods, i.e., foods grown in harmony with nature, good soils, natural ripening, cooking correctly and with the right attitude.

Partaking of a Yoga diet like this helps in the development of Prana or vital energy and spiritual consciousness. Before you know it, you’ll be joining the ranks of thousands of nouveau vegetarians, most of whom have altered their diets for health reasons, especially now that flesh foods have been linked to cardiovascular disease, colon cancer, so on. And so forth.

Finally, the matter of food combination that has been the subject of much attention in the West in recent years. It is also very important, for the best foods had in wrong combination can result in problems. Without going too much into detail, suffice it to say that some foods combine well, while others don’t. This is, because of the difference in the digestive process they call for and, hence, shouldn’t be mixed. For instance, strong proteins should never be had in combination with carbohydrates. For safety’s sake, avoid mixing too many different types of foods in a meal.

Cleansing Techniques in Yoga

Nasal Cleansing – Neti

Jala Neti – Neti with Water

Jala Neti is one of the simplest yet most effective techniques. It works wonders for the body, particularly on patients suffering from chronic sinusitis, bronchitis and asthma. It has a profound effect on upper respiratory tract conditions, particularly hay fever. The regular practice of Neti also helps relieve headaches and facilitate prolonged youthfulness.


1. A special “Neti Pot” is first filled with lukewarm, slightly salted water. Its spout is then inserted into one nostril.

2. Place the cone into your nostril, sealing it inside with a few gentle twists.

The position of your head is adjusted, slightly tilted, to allow the water to flow out your other nostril.

3. Breathe gently through your mouth, trying not to sniff or swallow while the water is flowing through.

The technique is not half as hard as it appears. In fact, once mastered, which should take a day or two at most. you will be surprised at both, the technique and its results.

Drying The Nose

Drying your nose properly is a very important part of the practice. Never neglect to do this part properly.

It is called Vyutkrama, which is nothing but Kapalbhati, explained in detail in stage 5 of this section. A couple of rapid forceful expulsions and all the residual water will be ejected from your nose

Dugdha Neti – Neti with Milk

Another version of Netis is using diluted milk, pre-warmed to body temperature, in place of water. It is particularly beneficial to those suffering from chronic nose bleeding or for those who find salt water irritating.

Sutra Neti – Nasal Cleansing Using a Rubber Catheter

This is a very effective way of opening up the nasal passages to their fullest capacity.

1. Pass a rubber catheter of about 1mm dimension into your nose through one nostril.

2. Slowly keep pushing it in until you feel it in your throat.

3. Now gently draw it out your mouth.

4. Then gently tug the catheter to and fro a couple of times.

5. With practice, it can even be passed from one nostril through the other. But this requires a certain level of proficiency and is also not very necessary. The effect, however, is still the same.

6. Before and after usage it is advisable to rinse the catheter in warm water or medicated oil.

7. Repeat the exercise with the other nostril

Remember, under no circumstances should you experience pain in the practice. If you feel any pain, it either means you are inserting the catheter too fast, or that it entered the wrong way and is stalled against the nasal wall, unless there is otherwise some other genetic obstruction. In which case, stop immediately, withdraw and reinsert the catheter carefully in another direction until you find a clear unimpeded passage.

Take your time, gently inserting the catheter and always keep breathing normally. It is normal to feel tickled and have bouts of sneezing in the beginning. You may also discharge a lot of mucous, so make sure to keep handkerchiefs or a box of tissues ready. Over time, as the mucous membranes, nerves and tissues get accustomed to the practice, the reaction will automatically reduce.


Both Jala and Sutra Neti help extract all the impurity and bacteria filled mucus from the nasal and sinus cavities. This in turn, will help to restore the body’s mechanisms to natural and increase its immunity to nasal allergies like hay fever, sinusitis and other respiratory conditions like sore throats, chronic coughs and colds, post nasal drips, adenoids and tonsillitis. By cleansing the nasal passages it frees them of mucus and automatically reduces the tendency breathe orally. Neti is also of great benefit for eye and ear related disorders. By flushing the tear ducts, it facilitates clearer vision. Further, it has subtle effects on the pineal and pituitary glands that govern the hormonal system, resulting in harmonized emotional behaviour.

Both these practices should, ideally, be done regularly and integrated into one’s daily routine like bathing or brushing you teeth.

Sutra Neti can be of great benefit, and is highly recommended, for those who find one nostril more blocked than the other. There appears to be some kind of fleshy obstruction like the cartilage obstructing the nasal passages. Short of a surgical treatment, Sutra Neti is the best alternative for removing such obstructions.

Cleansing of digestive track – Dhauti

Dhauti is a cleansing kriya specifically meant to cleanse the stomach.

One of the main organs in the human body, one’s health is largely dependent on its condition. It is imperative, therefore, to clean your stomach thoroughly from time to time. Dhauti is ideal for this.
Dhauti is of three types:

• Vaman Dhauti or Kunjal Kriya

• Vastra Dhauti

• Danda Dhauti

Vaman Dhauti or Kunjal Kriya
This kriya is best performed on an empty stomach in the morning, either in the toilet or in one’s garden or near on open drain.


1. To one liter of lukewarm water, add one tablespoonful of salt.

2. Drink all of it, as quickly as possible, until you feel you can’t take any more. It is imperative to drink fast rather than sip the water.

3. When your stomach is full, the urge to vomit seems automatic, an almost involuntary gesture.

4. Now, lean forward, keep your body as horizontal as possible and insert the middle and index fingers of your right hand as far back into your throat as possible, till the uvula.

5. This will induce instantaneous vomiting.

6.Keep restimulating your uvula and vomiting until all the water is got out of your stomach.
If this does not happen it either means you haven’t drunk enough water or the tips of your fingers weren’t inserted far enough down the throat. The more you learn to relax, the easier the practice becomes.

Vastra Dhauti

Vastra Dhauti is another cleansing kriya specifically meant to cleanse the stomach. It is pretty much like Vaman Dhauti, except that here a muslin cloth is used in place of water. This should also be done on an empty stomach first thing in the morning.


1. A strip of fine muslin cloth, about three inches wide and twenty feet long, washed and disinfected, is used. It is gently swallowed, little by little.

2. The cloth should be of finely woven cotton which is clean and new. Synthetic material should be avoided at all costs. The cloth should also be trimmed neatly so that there are no fraying edges.

3. Also, the cloth should not be wider than your tongue because it may fold as it passes down your throat.

4.On the first day, only one-foot length of cloth should be swallowed, kept there for a few seconds, and then slowly drawn out.

5. On the next day, a little more is swallowed and left a little longer.

6. More and more of it is swallowed daily until the entire length of the cloth goes in.

7. If it sticks in your throat and refuses to pass down, take a sip of warm water, but do not drink a large quantity – your stomach is to be filled with the cloth, not with water.

8. The cloth normally tends to get caught at the lowest point of the throat, so keep swallowing and resist the urge to vomit

9. Stop gulping when only six inches of the cloth are left outside the mouth.

10. Churn your abdomen by Nauli with the cloth inside the stomach. Now withdraw the strip slowly.
Ensure not to swallow the whole cloth, under any circumstances. This is why there should be no disturbance during the practice. You need not practice this every day – once a week is enough. And even though you may feel a vomiting sensation at the first attempt, it will disappear if you keep up the practice. As soon as the kriya is completed, make sure to wash the cloth. Always keep it clean.

Danda Dhauti

This is a way of cleansing the esophagus, the food pipe, from the throat to the stomach, by inserting a special rubber tube down the throat into the stomach. It should be about three feet in length and about 1 cm wide. Make sure to clean and disinfect it thoroughly before and after use.

1. Start with the process of Vaman Dhauti, i.e drink a lot of water.

2. But here, instead of your fingers, you insert a rubber tube, into the throat.

3. Swallow it slowly and gently until the end of the tube reaches the stomach.

4. Bend forward and a siphoning action will automatically eject the water from your stomach.

5. When all the water is removed, gently draw out the rubber tube.

Some people find it difficult to insert the tube without vomiting because the throat is sensitive to the touch stimuli. For them it is advisable to go in for the vamana-dhauti since it is the simpler of the two. The advantage of danda-dhauti is that there are no stomach spasms and the water is ejected very smoothly. Danda-dhauti effectively cleanses the esophagus of mucus, phlegm, acidity and other impurities.

Shankha Prakshalana

There is another type of dhauti for cleansing the digestive tract. And, even if not so popular, it is just as effective. Known as Varisara Dhauti it is also called Shankha Prakshalana. Shankha means conchshell, Prakshalana means to wash. Just like washing a conch shell where you would pour water into the mouth and drain it out the opposite end of the shell, so also with the intestinal tract.


1. Start by drinking ten to fifteen glasses of lukewarm, saline water.

2. Then do some rapid warm up exercises like spot jogging, forward and backward bends, alternate hand to leg bends followed by a series of six asanas: Padangushtasana, Parivritta Trikonasana, Paschimottanasana, Parivritta Trikonasana, Paschimottanasana, Ardha Matsyendrasna all done rapidly and in quick succession.

3. After this you will automatically feel the urge to go to the toilet.

4. The urge is repeated over the next hour or so during which you will have to visit the toilet 6 to 10 times.

5. Once clear water starts flowing out, you will know that your stomach and intestines are cleansed.
It is advisable to have a cup of cold, diluted milk or a plate of khichdi, cooked rice and pulses, afterwards. Avoid full, solid meals until lunch. It is also advisable to rest for the rest of the day. And even though not mandatory it is recommended that Shankha Prakshalana be done immediately after Jala Neti and Kunjal Kriya, for optimum benefits.

Benefits of the Dhauti series

The combination of all Dhauti practices cleanses the entire digestive and respiratory tracts. They get rid of excess and bile, mucus and toxins, and restore the of the body’s natural balance and chemical composition, thus helping cure the body of ailments caused by such imbalances. Not only that, they also lead to an increase in the production of gastric enzymes. Research has proven that even chronic coughs and colds, asthma, diseases of the spleen, and a variety of other afflictions resulting from excess mucus, bile and other toxins are eliminated by Dhautis.

They are particularly beneficial in cases of constipation, gastritis, dyspepsia, indispositions of the stomach and spleen, phlegm and bile disorders. They increase digestive fire, improve kidney functioning and invigorate the liver by extricating parasites from within the system. People suffering from obesity and those of a flabby and phlegmatic constitution will find these kriyas especially beneficial.


However, there are certain conditions for which Dhautis must not be practiced. These are: stomach or intestinal ulcers, hernia, heart problems, and high blood pressure.

However Dhautis should not be done daily or made a regular habit. Once every three months should achieve the desired results.

Karma Yoga

Background of Karma Yoga

In the Bhagavad Gita there is a summary about process of Karma Yoga

In it is an elaborate dialogue between the Pandava Prince Arjuna, and his long time compatriot and chariot driver, Sri Krishna, on the eve of a great dynastic war. Their conversation is set off by Arjuna being engulfed by sorrow and misgivings about the looming war. In it he sees friends and relatives on both sides. In reply, Sri Krishna explains several philosophical Yoga systems and practices. One of them is Karma Yoga, called the Yoga of Action, through the practice of which he would be required to pursue the fight on righteous grounds.

As with a lot of other Hindu philosophies, Karma Yoga is based on the general comprehension of the philosophies of Karma and Reincarnation (Samsara). The Hindus believe that an individual is born with certain Samskars (Karma’s). They are both positive and negative, and come from past lives that impel the individual to perform certain actions in this life time. This cycle persists until he / she arrives at a zero balance, (karmas nullified). In this state the individual is said to have attained liberation.

Adi Shankaracharya, said to be the founder of modern day Hinduism says that the individual purifies his / her mind through the practice of Karma Yoga. Some others consider personalities like Gautama the Buddha to have been Karma Yogis Buddha for acting entirely without motive. In fact, history reveals him as the greatest man ever to have graced the earth, beyond compare, the greatest combination of Head & Heart that ever existed. The modern-day Hindu Saint Mata Amritanandamayi says: “The beauty and charm of selfless love and service should never fades away from the face of the earth.”

Kinds of Karma

Basically there are three kinds of Karma.

They are called Sanchita or the accumulated karmas, Prarabdha or the current karmas, and Agami or the expected karmas. Sanchita constitutes all the accumulated Karmas of past lifetimes of an individual. Part of it is visible in a man’s character, evinced by his tendencies and aptitudes, capabilities, tendencies and desires.Prarabdha is that segment of the part of Karma that is responsible for a body in the current life time. These karmas are ripe for reaping and can’t be avoided or altered. They can only be worn out through living them out, just as an individual settles past debts.

Agami are those karmas that are now being created for the future. This type of karma is also called Kriyamana or Vartamana.

There is a beautiful analogy in Vedic lore. An archer has already shot an arrow. The arrow it has left his bow. There is no way he can recall it and he is about to shoot another one. The bundle of arrows in his quiver contains his Sanchita karmas. The one he has shot represents his Prarabdha and the one that he is about to let loose from his bow constitutes his Agami karma. Of these, the archer has complete control over the Sanchita and Agami karmas. Nevertheless, he has to very meticulously work out his Prarabdha. The past that has started to take effect, he has to undergo.

There are three kinds of actions, they are good, bad and mixed. Good Karmas are those that make the individual Divine, a god or angel in heaven. Bad Karmas cast the individual you into lower wombs. Mixed actions are responsible for giving an individual a human birth.

All karmas are a blend of good and evil. In this world, there are seldom absolute good karmas or absolute bad karmas. This manifest universe constitutes a relative plane in which, if a person performs an action, it will do some good in one corner, and some evil in another corner. Hence we must all strive to perform actions which will bring us maximum good and minimum evil.

Health Issues and Yoga

Yoga for Beginners

These are very useful to beginners, who want to start doing yoga but don’t have any experience of yoga or any other exercise.Our body has several joints, which need lubrication and movements. The food we have supplies lubrication. Yoga and other activities provide the necessary movements In our everyday life some of these joints are overused and some are rarely used. This may create problems at later stage in your life. To help these joints remain healthy basic movements are necessary.

They are also useful to prepare your body for Yoga.

Prerequisites for Yoga

  • You should practice Yoga for at least 30 to 45 minutes to get maximum results daily.
  • The best suited for practice is early morning hours. However it can also be practiced in the afternoon after following food restrictions.
  • Food restrictions – Your stomach should be empty while practicing, that is you should have solid food 3 – 4 hours before practicing and liquid 1 hour before.
  • Yoga should not be practiced on a bare floor. Keep a mat or carpet below.
  • Your clothes should be comfortable, loose, clean. Undergarments are always very necessary.

Yoga Positions or Asanas

Yogasana system is the 3rd limb in Ashtanga Yoga. Yogasanas help us achieve physical health, control over mind and power of concentration. Yoga is different from exercise since it does not involve speedy movements. Instead its movements are very slow and steady. Yoga helps achieve relaxation, which in turn reduces stress & strain. Also, since very few calories are consumed during Yogasana practice, metabolism rate of the body also drops. This means slowed down aging process. Also, as a result of Yoga practise, less food is required since digestive power is increased.

Yoga Workout

Sun Salutation – Surya Namaskar

Standing Postures

Always stand erect with your feet close together, heels and the big toes touching each other. Hands should be touching your thighs. This position helps achieve pulse stability.

  • Tadasana
  • Trikonasana
  • Parivritta Trikonasana
  • Vrikshasana

Sitting Postures

In the sitting position, both legs should be together and stretched, toes erect, spine erect. Also both hands should be straight and palms resting on the floor.

  • Sukhasana
  • Janu Sirshasana
  • Paschimottanasana
  • Gomukhasana

Supine Postures

Here you have to lie down on the back with legs together, straight extended, toes erect and hands straight with palms resting on the floor.

  • Purvottanasana
  • Noukasana
  • Matsyasana
  • Pavanamuktasana

Prone Postures

In this position you must lie down with your chest and abdomen and chin on the floor. Both hands should be lying besides your thighs, with palms resting on the floor.

  • Adho Mukha Svanasana
  • Bhujangasana
  • Shalabhasana
  • Dhanurasana

Inverted Postures

In this position you first lie on your back then go into the poses.

  • Viparitakarani
  • Sarvangasana
  • Halasana

Beginners Yoga Poses For Kids

From stress management (believe it or not, children have to deal with stress, as well) to improved concentration to superior health, Yoga poses for kids help them in numerous ways. The point for Yoga for children is for them to enjoy.

  • If you practise Yoga, why not get your children involved too? You don’t have to drag them along to a class for grown-ups. Most likely, there they will not be encouraged to continue practising.
  • Popularity of Yoga for kids is increasing, by the day. These techniques are designed for kids with energy, so be careful, yet pay attention. It will help your children start healthy habits for life.For beginners Yoga poses for kids, start by telling them sit or lie down with their hands on their bellies. This way they will be able to feel their abdomens move. This exercise helps kids hook up to their breathing. Persuade the kids to suck the stomach in on every inhalation and drive it out on every exhalation. Then turn around the movements – so drive the stomach out on the inhalation and suck it in on the exhalation.After that teach them the following poses:
  • Tadasana – Mountain Pose
  • Vrikshasana (1) – Tree Pose
  • Trikonasana – Triangle Pose
  • Uttanasana – Hand to Foot Pose
  • Ardha Chandrasana – Half Moon Pose
  • Halasana – Plough Pose
  • Viparitakarani – Inverted Leg Stretch Pose
  • Gomukhasana – Cow Face Pose
  • Ushtrasana – Camel Pose
  • Marichyasana – Sage Marichi Twist Pose.
  • Naukasana – Boat Pose
  • Matsyasana – Fish Pose
  • Adho Mukha Svanasana – Downward Facing Dog Pose
  • Bhujangasana – Cobra Pose
  • Dhanurasana – Bow Pose
  • Vrikshasana (2) – Balancing Tree Pose

If you’re trying to find a great way to absorb the minds and bodies of your children, yoga is the ideal solution.

Kundalini Yoga

What is Kundalini?

Kundalini is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning either coiled up or coiling like a snake, the potential form of Prana or life force.

It is a latent reservoir of psychic energy, which can be awakened and activated by spiritual disciplines. How this awakening takes place is still a mystery to many and much sought after. As the inner Kundalini is awakened, it uncoils and ascends like a snake; which is why it is referred to as ‘Serpent Power’.
Unfortunately this serpent image may serve to play up an alien nature of the energy. Hence, it is more useful to see Kundalini as the very foundation of our consciousness, for when it moves through our bodies our consciousness also changes with it. Viewed from a purely psychological perspective Kundalini is a rich source of psychic or libidinous energy.

It makes us more aware of negative thought patterns and helps us make the choice to change them.
Kundalini has two aspects: one is pervasive, the outer or physical form that manifests the world as we know it. In China this cosmic energy is known as Chi, in Japan as Ki, in India as Prana. It is this energy that pervades and enervates the world we see. From the very moment of conception we have are endwed a limited form of Kundalini energy, or else we would not even be able to move our bodies, let alone live. Because Kundalini is our very “life force.” By the way, it is this is the selfsame energy we see in the energetic meridians, employed in acupuncture.

Importance of Kundalini yoga

Yogis claim that Kundalini energy is far superior to all others.

Which is why, the state of Samadhi attained thereby is considered most perfect. The degree to which the unveiling of this consciousness is effected, depends upon the meditative power, of the sadhaka and the extent of one’s detachment from the world.
The union thus achieved is claimed to be more complete than that enacted through other methods.Even though body-consciousness can be lost through many other techniques, in Kundalini Yoga not only is the body, even the mind is united at the Sahasrara Chakra, in so far as it is represented by its central power. This is also called Spiritual awakening.

Although it is a mystical experience, it is not vague or ambiguous. All spiritual teachings point to some very specific realities.
The relevance can be seen in our instinctive responses to life. For example, when we’re feeling good or high, or downcast or low, our expressions reflect these feelings. Spiritual awakening simply implies conscious raising of energy in ourselves. How true, that every time we feel great, we feel vibrant. That is energy rising in us? Counter wise when we’re feeling low. These reactions are external manifestations of inner feelings and experiences, basis our make-up. What yoga does is specify and elaborate on these truths by explaining how outer experiences of joy or sadness are caused by energy movement and how we can influence our feelings by controlling and chanelizing our energies in the right directions.


Alternate Nostril Breathing – Anuloma Viloma

Alternate Nostril Breathing is considered the most important of all Pranayamas help purify and energize the system. Anuloma-Viloma is also called Nadishuddhi pranayama, because this is not just a pranayama, but also a purification procedure. Nadi means channel and refers to the energy pathways through which prana flows. shuddhi means cleansing. Hence Nadishuddhi means channel cleansing.Technique

1. First assume sukhasana or any other comfortable sitting position, rest your left hand on your left knee.

2. Then take a few breaths in the ratio of 1:2.

3. Then, shut your right nostril with your right thumb.

4. Exhale slowly through your left nostril.

5. Inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril, keeping your right nostril closed.

6. Then, close your left nostril with the little finger and ring finger of your right hand and exhale through your right nostril.

7. Without stopping, inhale through your right nostril, keeping your left nostril closed.

8. Then exhale through your left nostril, keeping your right nostril closed.

9. This comprises one round of anuloma-viloma.

10. Repeat the process a few times. Inhalation and exhalation should be done very slowly and soundlessly.
This pranayama calms the mind, soothes anxiety and stress, balances left and right hemispheres, promotes clear thinking. It soothes the nerves while strengthening the lungs. In particular, it helps cure coughs and colds, in insomnia, chronic headaches and asthma.

Ocean Sounding Breath – Ujjayi

Ujjayi pranayama is so called breath because of the ocean sound produced and is sometimes rather flippantly referred to as “Darth Vader” breath. And even though all pranayamas are done through the nose, it is helpful to begin practicing this one through the mouth. It involves contracting the glottis while breathing to make a vocal “Ahhhhh” sound.

This is where the name of the breath comes from: the sound of the ocean.


1. Again assume sukhasana or any comfortable sitting posture.

2. While exhaling, begin to tone the back of the throat, slightly constricting the passage of air and make an “Ahhhhh” sound. Imagine you are misting up a mirror.

3. Once you are comfortable with the exhalations, begin to apply the same toning of the throat to your inhalations.

4. Starting with a few rounds, gradually increase to as often as required.
This pranayama helps clear the nasal passages and enhances the functioning of the thyroid gland. It is particularly beneficial in respiratory disorders like sinusitis, bronchitis and asthma. However, those suffering from High BP are advised not to practice this.

The Five Sheaths – Pancha Kosha

The Five Sheaths – Pancha Kosha

The Five Koshas in Yoga Therapy
The previous two pages have dealt with the basics of yoga therapy and the concept of tri-sharira

However, for further understanding and, more importantly, application of the therapy, there is one more thing one has to understand. A full grasp of this concept will enable to both understand and derive the best results of yoga therapy.

Yoga, contrary to other subjects and therapies, delves deep into the essence of the subject, be it general betterment or specific healing. Hence the understanding of the concept of Tridoshas and Tri-shariras. Going one step further, these three shariras or bodies are encased in five sheaths called the pancha koshas, pancha meaning five.

This model describes the human being as multidimensional, with the source and foundation in a spiritual dimension. By using Pancha Kosha viveka (understanding of the concept of the five koshas), Yoga Therapy addresses every level of a human being.

1. Annamaya Kosha (Food Sheath)

As the name itself suggests, the first level to take into consideration is the physical body that subsists on gross food and drink. That includes the body and its physiological processes, as viewed from a Western perspective. From the Indian perspective, the human anatomy is viewed via the ayurvedic tridoshas. These describe both the overall body type of the individual as well as its current condition.

2.Pranamaya Kosha (Pranic or Energy Sheath)

The human being is an intricate network of energy, creativity and intelligence. Hence the need for a proper flow of energy to maintain good health. The Pranic or Energy Sheath, contains all the prana vayus (breaths of energy) in the system, the energy channels or nadis and the chakras or energy centers. Hence it is also called the “vital sheath” or “vital body”. Prana, the vital breath which man lives by, is the bridge between the gross and subtle bodies as well as between the other koshas. Amending one’s breathing patterns through pranayama, helps enhance the flow of energy in the right direction.

3. Manomaya Kosha (Mental or psycho-emotional Sheath)

The third is the Mental or, here understood as the psycho-emotional sheath. It is the abode of all the dominant emotional and thought patterns that comprise one’s personality. Our feelings, stimuli and responses to situations, thoughts and actions spring from this sheath. The strength or weakness of this sheath decides whether a person is emotional or unemotional, easily or uneasily moved, gross or sensitive.

4.Vijnyanamaya Kosha (Intellectual Sheath)

Then comes the fourth sheath, again the Mental, but here referred to as the Intellectual sheath. Whereas at the third level, the mind functions as a stimulus/response mechanism, in the fourth sheath, one is able to understand and discern. Further, personal understanding permits us to look beyond personal roles and perceive the larger picture. This is the level of cognition, conditioning or de-conditioning of one’s core beliefs, the most deeply rooted of which is the ‘I’ concept. In Sanskrit this is referred to as the ‘aham’, from which springs the word ‘ahamkara’. Little wonder then that this is the seat of the ego.

5. Anandamaya Kosha (Bliss Sheath)

The fifth level is least easily understood, but for reasons of explanation to the lay public is referred to as the sheath of bliss. Here the minds is said to rest in its intrinsic, natural state of bliss and ease. This is of vital understanding in relation healing since it refers to one’s health as essential nature, devoid of ‘chitta-vrittis’ or confusions and distractions.

How the Five Koshas are affected
1. Annamaya Kosha

The physical body has been bestowed with, besides other things, the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems to cope with stress situations. Roughly translated into Western terminology this refers to the glandular system in our bodies. In any emergency situation, the sympathetic system is automatically activated, ensuring a quick and spontaneous flow of essential fluids to cope with the situation. When the stress response is engaged normally and healthily, the body adapts to stress situations with a steadily elevated blood pressure.

Subsequently, it is the duty of the parasympathetic system to pull the sympathetic back to its original state. Unfortunately, down the years, and particularly in modern days, the frequency and intensity of stress situations have grown so much that the organs involved are subject to abnormal pressures. The parasympathetic system, after a while, can no longer bring its sympathetic counterpart back to normal and hence a failure in the endocrine and other vital systems of the body, leading to such psychosomatic syndromes as asthma, chronic constipation, blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc eventually resulting, in heart disease even.

2. Pranamaya Kosha

The spasmodic dilations and contractions in the organs, veins and arteries of the physical body are a direct reflex response to cope with changing situations. This is what is happening in the energy body as well. In stress situations, the breath becomes short and rapid and, subsequently, the flow of energy is restricted. Over time, the breath becomes stifled, one starts to suffer from palpitation and shortness of the breath. Without being really aware of what’s happening, there is a rapid contraction and expansion in the entire energetic sheath. While, this may be helpful in emergencies, imagine what it will do to the system in the long run. Result, psychosomatic diseases like asthma.

3. Manomaya Kosha

Actually, it happens both ways and here there’s no telling which came first, the chicken or the egg. Emotional upsets and disturbances send out stimuli to the other sheaths. Subsequently, dilations and contractions in the Annamaya and Pranamaya Koshas happen. But, in actual fact they start at the mental level. Over time it becomes a chronic syndrome. Love, hate, resentment, ambition, competition and hostility are only some of the characterizations.

While in genuine situations, these emotions may be considered healthy response and create the necessary backups and reinforcements for survival, what happens when they become chronic and repetitive are translated into states of anguish, anxiety and depression. Subsequently, they perpetuate the physical stress response and man falls into the vicious cycle of coping with habitual stress. Extricating oneself from this is a trying and, sometimes, impossible process.

4. Vijnanamaya Kosha

This is best illustrated in the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 2, verses 62 and 63:
Man first contemplates on an object of desire. That develops in the mind attachment to it. From this attachment springs desire.. Failure to satisfy desire leads to frustration. From frustration comes anger, leading to delusion. Continuous delusion results in loss of memory, resulting in destruction in the intellect. When the intellect is destroyed, everything is lost.

5. Anandamaya Kosha

The above situation is precisely what prevents man from reaching his natural state of bliss. A constant state of being opposed to bliss is frustration, anger, disappointment and their attendant psycho-physiological strains, resulting in afflictions of the mind-body syndrome.

This website includes, besides other things, a detailed program of Yogic practices which, if done consistently are both preventive as well as curative for most, if not all, chronic illnesses.

For optimum benefits, yoga therapy should be coupled with a balanced diet, Naturopathy, Ayurveda and Aromatherapy.

The Three Bodies – Tri-Sharira concept in Yoga

The Three Bodies – Tri-Sharira concept in Yoga

Ayurveda is based on the concept of tridosha (faults or humors), viz.

vata, pitta and kapha that can be perceived by ayurvaids through the nadis (nerves or channels) in the pulse. These can roughly be translated into English as wind, bile and phlegm. The point is not to eradicate them from the system but, rather to see that none over-rides or intermingles with the other. It is only when the tri-doshas are separated from each other and in a state of balance that the human body is in good health. And although it may sound idealistic, in reality it is possible to achieve.

Likewise, Yoga has identified three bodies. And, for the maintenance of good ‘health’ at each of the levels, each requires treatment in terms of meeting their needs.

Sthula Sharira – Gross or Physical body

It is the outer-most, or visible material aspect of a thing.

Thus the ‘coarse body’ (Sthula Sharira) is the mortal physical frame.

We may know full well what foods do us good – or bad, for that matter – and yet, ever so often we make choices that adversely affect our health and well-being. And when we repeatedly make unhealthy choices, they eventually lead to a weakened body, lowered immunity and, finally, disease. Problem is the consequences of our actions are not manifest immediately. There may well be a time lag, but eventually, we reap the fruits of what we have sown.

Sukshma Sharira – Subtle or Pranic body

It comprises the individual mind and intuitive level of mind, the entire psychomental complex that can exist independent of the physical or gross body. Even though not seen to the naked eye, yogis, through their higher level of intuition have been able to identify it. It has now, over the centuries been proven to exist as also its direct connection to our Sthula Sharira –Physical body. In matter of fact, it influences it in more ways than one. And just as the Gross body has nadis (three) this one too has its own nadis (nerves or channels). Roughly they are estimated to be in the region of 3,64,000. We routinely ‘ingest’, or ‘breathe in’ vast quantities of air. Likewise, sights and sound through the various media. Most of what goes on in everyday life feeds this level of our being. And, even though tough to quantify the effect such a diet has on the mind and energy, it is, in effect, far greater than we realise. Hence the importance of pranayama in cleansing the pranic nadis and channelizing the flow of prana.

Karana Sharira – Causal body

Time and again, in the ancient teachings of Yoga and Indian Philosophy one encounters the concept of the ‘beyond’. Here the absolute essence of the mystery of the jiva (individual soul) is hidden, known without words. Here the mystery of the absolute is represented as the infinite potential that permeates time and space. This is the essence of all essentials, the causal essence, that which embodies the seed of all seeds.

How does the philosophy work?

The key feature of this belief is all three bodies either act in harmony, or they are disconnected (in a relative sense). When these connections are blocked or unempowered then stress, conflict, confusion, disease and other afflictions manifest themselves. Here it that is yoga helps, by opening up the pathways. The point of yoga is to clear up the passages, or channels, that have become obstructed, thus reactivate and harmonize this intricate network.

Since this is an intertwined system, all bodies connected to each other. The acts of the physical body are influenced by the more subtle functioning of the energy body (Sukshma Sharira) as well as the quality of the passages to the causal body (Karana Sharira) and vice versa. In other words there exists a two way street between all three bodies.

In the beginning we use hathayogic practices to tone up the muscles and internal organs. Then, through the practice or pranayama, we become aware of the subtleties of the Pranic body and start to cleanse the nadis (energy channels). In so doing, we reactivate the dormant circuits. Subsequently, they align more harmoniously via breath regulation. And, as the fruits of yoga fruits start to manifest themselves, it is purified, reactivated and re-empowered.

Likewise, when we meditate, we start from the subtle body. This allows us to clear out the most subtle pathways that lead to and from the causal body (the fundamental formless body). And, as the connections between the subtle body and the causal body are cleansed, there comes about a congenial harmony and attunement between all the bodies which then flows naturally without effort, will, or decision.

For optimum benefits, yoga therapy should be coupled with a balanced diet, Naturopathy, Ayurveda and Aromatherapy.

Spiritual laws of Yoga

Spiritual laws of Yoga

The word Yoga is heard mostly in relation to fitness and health.

Most people are aware that Yoga is a form of exercise and that it was developed in India. But this definition is far from complete. Fitness is merely one of the parts of Yoga.

The word Yoga means “unity”. Yoga is all about uniting oneself with God. The different types of Yoga are merely different pathways that help us to accomplish this goal. Although Yoga does teach us how to lead a healthy lifestyle, the main aim of Yoga is to help us attain oneness with the supreme. Yoga is about all about spirituality, sacrifice, love and dedication.

A proper study of Yoga can help unlock humankind’s fullest potential and ensure that we can rise above this earthly shell and realize the divinity that is present in each one of us.

In order to better understand the philosophy and depth of Yoga it is necessary to study the spiritual laws on which the practice of Yoga is based. Let us look at some of the spiritual laws of Yogaand what they mean.

  • The Law of Brahman - Brahman is the ultimate state of being. All human beings have the potential to achieve this state. The practice of Yoga allows a person to realize his or her fullest potential and live a fulfilling life.
  • The Law of Maya – The universe is in a constant state of transition. Change is an inevitable part of life. Yoga allows us to recognize that everything is transitory. In this way it exhorts us not to form undue attachment to any one aspect of life but to embrace all of life and the changes it brings. This is one of the most positive messages of Yoga and allows the individual to transcend the shackles of earthly desires and restraints.
  • The Law of Dharma - The word Dharma in the context of nature refers to the laws of nature. Yoga holds the path of Dharma in highest esteem, for when an individual follows this path, he or she not only not only contributes towards the development of the self but also towards the development of the entire world.

The Law of Karma – Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion states that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”. Thousands of years before he formulated this law, Yoga gave rise to the principle of Karma. Karma refers to the fact that nothing exists in isolation. Every action, no matter how small, generates repercussions. Therefore, Yoga teaches the individual to carefully weigh the consequences of every action before it is carried out.

Yoga Meditation & Yoga Breathing

Yoga Meditation & Yoga Breathing

Yoga and relaxation

They put a lot of pressure on the human body. This causes a lot of life style problems like obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes etc. People usually go to doctors and take expensive drugs for treatment. But these methods are not only expensive but also harmful in the long run. Yoga offers the cheapest and harmless solution to this problem in the form of relaxation

There are various types of relaxation vis-à-vis: physical, mental and spiritual. Physical relaxation is achieved by performing the asanas. The stretching and moving of your body during yoga practice releases the physical tension. Deep yoga breathing helps in mental relaxation.

Spiritual relaxation is possible when both the mind and the body are relaxed.

Yoga and Meditation

Meditation is the one of the most important aspect of yoga. It helps in connecting the body, mind and spirit. Daily yoga meditation helps in mental purification and offers clarity of thought. It increases concentration and focus.

Meditation should be done in a clean, peaceful room at a fixed time. Sit cross-legged and keep your spine straight. Sit on the floor, a chair or on the yoga meditation cushion.

Do not let anybody else use this room since your energy permeates this room and allowing others to use this place might pollute the same. There is no need to keep eyes closed if you can concentrate with your eyes open.

Concentrate on your breath. Do not scold yourself if your mind wanders. Just bring your focus back onto your breath. If you can work with sounds better, use a sacred word or chant mantra. You can also view the image of your favourite deity in your mind’s eye to help you focus.

Yoga and lifestyle

Yoga develops a positive attitude amongst its practitioners. It teaches you the positive virtues like compassion, faith, trust and love. It makes you aware and receptive of your surroundings. It develops your strength and flexibility. Your health and complexion improves since all your body organs work to their maximum capacity. It teaches you to eat healthy, naturally produced, unrefined and unprocessed foods like fruits, vegetables etc. Yoga lays a great stress on elimination of unhealthy products like alcohol, smoking, non-veg and processed food, thereby decreasing toxic overload on your internal organs and thus they perform better.

Yoga and Pregnancy

Yoga eases many of the problems present during pregnancy like nausea, cramping, high blood pressure etc. It maintains good posture, and thus eliminates back pain. The deep yoga breathing and yoga meditation techniques cause mental relaxation and thus the pains during pregnancy and childbirth are minimized. The relaxation also aids in speedy recovery of the body after the childbirth.

However avoid poses on your back abdomen and inverted poses and back bends during this time since they can harm your baby. Also don’t over stretch your muscles or increase the intensity of your practice.

Yoga and Children

A child’s body is very flexible. Starting yoga at this tender age can help in increasing the height of the child. Yoga meditation aids in increasing the concentration. Since yoga concentrates on wholesome or static diet, the child learns the good eating habits and learns to love the different types of fruits and vegetables. Visualization helps in increasing the child’s imagination. Try to make their session playful. Don’t force them to exercise if they don’t want to.

Yoga and Seniors

As we age, our body starts developing various health problems. Our muscles become weak. We lose balance and coordination. Yoga is a great antidote for these problems. It is safe and gentle on joints and so seniors can move around safely. It improves breathing and circulation. Yoga classes can be a great social activity.

If you suffer from any problem, it is advisable to speak about it with your yoga instructor or the doctor. Don’t do any exercise which will pressurize the problem areas like knees, heat et al.



Statue of Shiva performing Yogic meditation in thePadmasanaposture.

Yoga (Sanskrit, Pāli:  yóga) refers to traditional physical andmentaldisciplines originating in India. The word is associated with meditative practices in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. In Hinduism, it also refers to one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy, and to the goal toward which that school directs its practices. In Jainism it refers to the sum total of all activities—mental, verbal and physical.

Major branches of yoga in Hindu philosophy include Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga,Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Hatha Yoga. Raja Yoga, compiled in theYoga Sutras of Patanjali, and known simply as yoga in the context of Hindu philosophy, is part of the Samkhya tradition. Many other Hindu texts discuss aspects of yoga, including Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, theHatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita and various Tantras.


The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings, and is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning “to control”, “to yoke” or “to unite”. Translations include “joining”, “uniting”, “union”, “conjunction”, and “means”. Outside India, the term yoga is typically associated withHatha Yoga and its asanas (postures) or as a form of exercise. Someone who practices yoga or follows the yoga philosophy is called a Yogi.

History of yoga

Main article: History of yoga

The Vedic Samhitas contain references to ascetics, while ascetic practices (tapas) are referenced in the Brāhmaṇas (900 to 500 BCE), early commentaries on the Vedas. Several seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300–1700 B.C.E.) sites depict figures in positions resembling a common yoga or meditation pose, showing “a form of ritual discipline, suggesting a precursor of yoga”, according to archaeologist Gregory Possehl. Some type of connection between the Indus Valley seals and later yoga and meditation practices is speculated upon by many scholars, though there is no conclusive evidence.

Techniques for experiencing higher states of consciousness in meditation were developed by theshramanic traditions and in the Upanishadic tradition.

While there is no clear evidence for meditation in pre-Buddhist early Brahminic texts, Wynne argues that formless meditation originated in the Brahminic tradition, based on strong parallels between Upanishadic cosmological statements and the meditative goals of the two teachers of the Buddha as recorded in the early Buddhist texts.  He mentions less likely possibilities as well. Having argued that the cosmological statements in the Upanishads also reflect a contemplative tradition, he argues that the Nasadiya Sukta contains evidence for a contemplative tradition, even as early as the late Rg Vedic period.

The Buddhist texts are probably the earliest texts describing meditation techniques. They describe meditative practices and states which had existed before the Buddha as well as those which were first developed within Buddhism. In Hindu literature, the term “yoga” first occurs in the Katha Upanishad, where it refers to control of the senses and the cessation of mental activity leading to a supreme state. Important textual sources for the evolving concept of Yoga are the middle Upanishads, (ca. 400 BCE), the Mahabharata including theBhagavad Gita (ca. 200 BCE), and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (150 BCE).

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Main articles: Raja Yoga and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

In Indian philosophy, Yoga is the name of one of the six orthodox philosophical schools. The Yoga philosophical system is closely allied with the Samkhya school. The Yoga school as expounded by the sage Patanjali accepts the Samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but is more theistic than the Samkhya, as evidenced by the addition of a divine entity to the Samkhya’s twenty-five elements of reality. The parallels between Yoga and Samkhya were so close that Max Müller says that “the two philosophies were in popular parlance distinguished from each other as Samkhya with and Samkhya without a Lord….” The intimate relationship between Samkhya and Yoga is explained by Heinrich Zimmer:

These two are regarded in India as twins, the two aspects of a single discipline.Sāṅkhya provides a basic theoretical exposition of human nature, enumerating and defining its elements, analyzing their manner of co-operation in a state of bondage (bandha), and describing their state of disentanglement or separation in release (mokṣa), while Yoga treats specifically of the dynamics of the process for the disentanglement, and outlines practical techniques for the gaining of release, or ‘isolation-integration’ (kaivalya).

Patanjali is widely regarded as the founder of the formal Yoga philosophy. Patanjali’s yoga is known as Raja yoga, which is a system for control of the mind. Patanjali defines the word “yoga” in his second sutra, which is the definitional sutra for his entire work:

This terse definition hinges on the meaning of three Sanskrit terms. I. K. Taimni translates it as “Yoga is the inhibition (nirodha) of the modifications (vṛtti) of the mind (citta)”. The use of the word nirodha in the opening definition of yoga is an example of the important role that Buddhist technical terminology and concepts play in the Yoga Sutra; this role suggests that Patanjali was aware of Buddhist ideas and wove them into his system. Swami Vivekanandatranslates the sutra as “Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).”

A sculpture of a Hindu yogi in theBirla Mandir, Delhi

Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for a system referred to as “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-Limbed Yoga”). This eight-limbed concept derived from the 29th Sutra of the 2nd book, and is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today. The Eight Limbs are:

  1. Yama (The five “abstentions”): non-violence, non-lying, non-covetousness, non-sensuality, and non-possessiveness.
  2. Niyama (The five “observances”): purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender to god.
  3. Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
  4. Pranayama (“Suspending Breath”): Prāna, breath, “āyāma”, to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
  5. Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
  6. Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
  7. Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
  8. Samādhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.

In the view of this school, the highest attainment does not reveal the experienced diversity of the world to be illusion. The everyday world is real. Furthermore, the highest attainment is the event of one of many individual selves discovering itself; there is no single universal self shared by all persons.

Bhagavad Gita

Main article: Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita (‘Song of the Lord’), uses the term yoga extensively in a variety of ways. In addition to an entire chapter (ch. 6) dedicated to traditional yoga practice, including meditation, it introduces three prominent types of yoga:

  • Karma yoga: The yoga of action,
  • Bhakti yoga: The yoga of devotion,
  • Jnana yoga: The yoga of knowledge.

Madhusudana Sarasvati (b. circa 1490) divided the Gita into three sections, with the first six chapters dealing with Karma yoga, the middle six with Bhakti yoga, and the last six with Jnana (knowledge). Other commentators ascribe a different ‘yoga’ to each chapter, delineating eighteen different yogas.

Hatha Yoga

Main articles: Hatha yoga and Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Hatha Yoga is a particular system of Yoga described by Yogi Swatmarama, compiler of theHatha Yoga Pradipika in 15th century India. Hatha Yoga differs substantially from the Raja Yoga of Patanjali in that it focuses on shatkarma, the purification of the physical body as leading to the purification of the mind (ha), and prana, or vital energy (tha). Compared to the seated asana, or sitting meditation posture, of Patanjali’s Raja yoga, it marks the development of asanas(plural) into the full body ‘postures’ now in popular usage. Hatha Yoga in its many modern variations is the style that many people associate with the word “Yoga” today.

Yoga practices in other traditions


Main article: Buddhism and Hinduism#Meditation

The Buddha depicted in yogic meditation, Kamakura, Japan

Early Buddhism incorporated meditative absorption states. The most ancient sustained expression of yogic ideas is found in the early sermons of the Buddha. One key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative absorption should be combined with the practice of mindfulness. The difference between the Buddha’s teaching and the yoga presented in early Brahminic texts is striking. Meditative states alone are not an end, for according to the Buddha, even the highest meditative state is not liberating. Instead of attaining a complete cessation of thought, some sort of mental activity must take place: a liberating cognition, based on the practice of mindful awareness. The Buddha also departed from earlier yogic thought in discarding the early Brahminic notion of liberation at death. Liberation for the Brahminic yogin was thought to be the realization at death of a nondual meditative stateanticipated in life. In fact, old Brahminic metaphors for the liberation at death of the yogic adept (“becoming cool”, “going out”) were given a new meaning by the Buddha; their point of reference became the sage who is liberated in life.

See also: Pranayama#Buddhism

Yogacara Buddhism

Yogacara (Sanskrit: “yoga practice”), also spelled yogāchāra, is a school of philosophy and psychology that developed in India during the 4th to 5th centuries. Yogacara received the name as it provided a yoga, a framework for engaging in the practices that lead to the path of the bodhisattva. The Yogacara sect teaches yoga in order to reach enlightenment.

Ch’an (Seon/Zen) Buddhism

Zen (the name of which derives from the Sanskrit “dhyaana” via the Chinese “ch’an”) is a form ofMahayana Buddhism. The Mahayana school of Buddhism is noted for its proximity with Yoga. In the west, Zen is often set alongside Yoga; the two schools of meditation display obvious family resemblances. This phenomenon merits special attention since the Zen Buddhist school of meditation has some of its roots in yogic practices. Certain essential elements of Yoga are important both for Buddhism in general and for Zen in particular.

Indo-Tibetan Buddhism

Yoga is central to Tibetan Buddhism. In the Nyingma tradition, the path of meditation practice is divided into nine yanas, or vehicles, which are said to be increasingly profound. The last six are described as “yoga yanas”: Kriya yogaUpa yogaYoga yanaMahā yogaAnu yogaand the ultimate practice, Ati yoga. The Sarma traditions also include Kriya, Upa (calledCharya), and Yoga, with the Anuttara yoga class substituting for Mahayoga and Atiyoga. Other tantra yoga practices include a system of 108 bodily postures practiced with breath and heart rhythm. The Nyingma tradition also practices Yantra yoga (Tib. Trul khor), a discipline which includes breath work (or pranayama), meditative contemplation and precise dynamic movements to centre the practitioner. The body postures of Tibetan ancient yogis are depicted on the walls of the Dalai Lama’s summer temple of Lukhang. A semi-popular account of Tibetan Yoga by Chang (1993) refers to caṇḍalī (Tib. tummo), the generation of heat in one’s own body, as being “the very foundation of the whole of Tibetan Yoga”. Chang also claims that Tibetan Yoga involves reconciliation of apparent polarities, such as prana and mind, relating this to theoretical implications of tantrism.

TirthankaraParsva in Yogic meditation in theKayotsargaposture.

Kevala Jñāna of Mahavira inmulabandhasana posture

According to Tattvarthasutra, 2nd Century CE Jain text, Yoga, is the sum total of all the activities of mind, speech and body. Umasvati calls yoga as the cause of asrava or karmic influx  as well as one of the essentials—samyak caritra—in the path to liberation. In hisNiyamasara, AcaryaKundakunda, describes yoga bhakti—devotion to the path to liberation—as the highest form of devotion. Acarya Haribhadra and Acarya Hemacandra mention the five major vows of ascetics and 12 minor vows of laity under yoga. This has led certainIndologists like Prof. Robert J. Zydenbosto call Jainism as essentially a system of yogic thinking that grew into a full-fledged religion. Dr.Heinrich Zimmer contended that the yoga system had pre-Aryan origins which did not accept the authority of the Vedas and hence was reckoned as one of the heterodox doctrines similar to Jainism. Jain iconography depicts Jain Tirthankaras meditation in Padmasana or Kayotsargayogic poses. Mahavira was said to have achieved Kevala Jnana “enlightenment” siting inmulabandhasana position which has the first literary mention in the Acaranga Sutra and later inKalpasutra.

The five yamas or the constraints of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali bear an uncanny resemblance to the five major vows of Jainism, indicating a strong influence of Jainism. This mutual influence between the Yoga philosophy and Jainism is admitted by the author Vivian Worthington who writes: “Yoga fully acknowledges its debt to Jainsim, and Jainism reciprocates by making the practice of yoga part and parcel of life.” The Indus valley seals and iconography also provide a reasonable evidence of the existence of a proto-yogic tradition akin to Jainism. More specifically, scholars and archaeologists have remarked on close similarities in the yogic and meditative postures depicted in the seals with those of various Tirthankaras: the “kayotsarga” posture of Rsabha and themulabandhasana of Mahavira along with seals depicting meditative figure flaked by upright serpents bearing similarities to iconography of Parsva. All these are indicative of not only links between Indus Valley Civilisation and Jainism, but also show the contribution of Jainism to various yogic practices.

References in Jain canons and literature

Earliest of Jain canonical literature like Acarangasutra and texts like Niyamasara, Tattvarthasutra etc had many references on yoga as a way of life for laymen and asctics. The later texts that further elaborated on the Jain concept of yoga are as follows:

  • Pujyapada (5th Century CE)
  • Ishtopadesh
  • Acarya Haribhadra Suri(8th Century CE)
  • Yogabindu
  • Yogadristisamuccaya
  • Yogasataka
  • Yogavimisika
  • Acarya Joindu (8th Century CE)
  • Yogasara
  • Acarya Hemacandra (11th Century CE)
  • Yogasastra
  • Acarya Amitagati (11th Century CE)
  • Yogasaraprabhrta


The development of Sufism was considerably influenced by Indian yogic practises, where they adapted both physical postures (asanas) and breath control (pranayama). The ancient Indian yogic text, Amritakunda, (“Pool of Nectar)” was translated into Arabic and Persian as early as the 11th century.

Malaysia’s top Islamic body in 2008 passed a fatwa, which is legally non-binding, againstMuslimspracticing yoga, saying it had elements of “Hindu spiritual teachings” and could lead to blasphemyand is therefore haraam. Muslim yoga teachers in Malaysia criticized the decision as “insulting”. Sisters in Islam, a women’s rights group in Malaysia, also expressed disappointment and said they would continue with their yoga classes. The fatwa states that yoga practiced only as physical exercise is permissible, but prohibits the chanting of religious mantras, and states that teachings such as uniting of a human with God is not consistent with Islamic philosophy. In a similar vein, the Council of Ulemas, an Islamic body in Indonesia, passed a fatwa banning yoga on the grounds that it contains “Hindu elements” These fatwas have, in turn, been criticized by Darul Uloom Deoband, a DeobandiIslamic seminary in India.

In May of 2009, Turkey’s head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Bardakoğlu, discounted Yoga as a commercial venture promoting extremism- comments made in the context of Yoga practice possibly competing with and eroding participation in Islam.


In 1989, the Vatican declared that Eastern meditation practices such as Zen and yoga can “degenerate into a cult of the body.” Despite the Vatican statement, many Roman Catholicsbring elements of Yoga, Buddhism, and Hinduism into their spiritual practices.


Main article: Tantra

Tantrism is a practice that is supposed to alter the relation of its practitioners to the ordinary social, religious, and logical reality in which they live. Through Tantric practice an individual perceives reality as maya, illusion, and the individual achieves liberation from it. This particular path to salvation among the several offered by Hinduism, links Tantrism to those practices of Indian religions, such as yoga, meditation, and social renunciation, which are based on temporary or permanent withdrawal from social relationships and modes.

During tantric practices and studies, the student is instructed further in meditation technique, particularly chakra meditation. This is often in a limited form in comparison with the way this kind of meditation is known and used by Tantric practitioners and yogis elsewhere, but is more elaborate than the initiate’s previous meditation. It is considered to be a kind of Kundalini Yoga for the purpose of moving the Goddess into the chakra located in the “heart,” for meditation and worship.

Goal of yoga

The goal of yoga may range from improving health to achieving Moksha. Within Jainism and themonist schools of Advaita Vedanta and Shaivism the goal of yoga takes the form of Moksha, which is liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death (Samsara), at which point there is a realisation of identity with the Supreme Brahman. In the Mahabharata, the goal of yoga is variously described as entering the world of Brahma, asBrahman, or as perceiving the Brahman orAtman that pervades all things. For the bhaktischools of Vaishnavism, bhakti or service toSvayam bhagavan itself may be the ultimate goal of the yoga process, where the goal is to enjoy an eternal relationship with Vishnu. Yoga also helps your body maintain a stable relationship with itself while going into a calm, neutral state of peace.