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Yoga in India
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What is Yoga ?
Yoga is one of the six systems of Indian philosophy.

The word "yoga" originates from the sanskrit root yuj which means Union. On the spiritual plane, it means union of the Individual Self with the Universal Self. Yoga is the union of the body, mind, emotions and intellect.

Sage Patanjali penned down this subject in his treatise known as Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Yoga is a 5000-year old way of living. Its remarkably simple philosophy is that the mind, body and soul are interdependent and equally responsible for overall good health. Therefore it includes techniques to keep all three active and well -- postures for the body, meditation for the mind, and correct breathing for the soul. According to yoga, food has a clear and direct effect on a person and it prescribes certain kinds of food to stay healthy. It also finds a direct link between good health and cleansing. Special methods are suggested to clear the body of toxins and deep breathing expels other waste. Yoga says that if these basic tenets are observed, a human being can awaken latent abilities and huge reserves of energy which lie dormant within each of us. This results in a noteworthy improvement in the quality of life, manifest in being healthier, looking better, feeling fitter, reduced stress, increased happiness, inner calmness, and contentment with life. Yoga & Meditation is a simple guide to this fascinating way of life and better living.

How do I recognize a qualified teacher ?
There are no universal standards. Someone who is certified may have just done a weekend course or may have studied for many years. Yoga is so diverse and broad that some people in the yoga community feel it would be impossible to create uniform standards. However; the Yoga Alliance has outlined some minimum requirement that yoga teachers must meet in order to become "registered." Yoga teacher registration has no national or official significance. The training requirements for registration are very reasonable and are followed by most training organizations.

How many styles of yoga are there ?
There are many different styles, and this is a good thing because people have such differing temperaments.

There are four basic paths of Yoga:
(1) Jnana, which is the path of knowledge and wisdom;
(2) Bhakti, the path of devotion;
(3) Karma, the path of action; and
(4) Raja, the path of self control. Within this path (Raja) is found Hatha Yoga, which is the most popular path in the West.

In India, Bhakti is perhaps the most popular. Many paths such as Iyengar, Kripalu, Astanga, Integral and Jiva Mukti, to name a few, are Hatha Yoga styles. A common lineage dates back to Patanjali's Yoga sutras, the text which outlines the basic philosophy and practices of classical Yoga.

What are the different stages/aspects of Patanjali's Yoga ?
Saga Patanjali's exposition consists of just 196 terse yoga sutras which cover all aspects of life. The eight aspects (astanga) of yoga are :

Yama and Niyama : depicts of moral and social conduct
Asanas : adjust the body in various postures
Pranayama : regulation of breath
Pratyahara : internalization of the senses of perception
Dharana : concentration

What is Iyengar Yoga ?
Sage Patanjali's * treatise on Yoga consists of just 196 verse aphorisms compiled in the 5th century B.C. Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar has made it possible for ordinary human beings to experience the wisdom of the yoga sutras. He finds the meaning of the sutras by practical search and regular practice. Iyengar Yoga has shown and taught how all the eight aspects of astanga yoga are integrated. His style of teaching yoga which is now being followed by certified teachers has been called as "Iyengar Yoga".

* Sage Patanjali has penned the ancient Indian heritage of Yoga through his treatise the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which is an encompassing study of the subject which consists of just 196 sutras (aphorisms). In the present century, Yogacharya B.K.S. Iyengar has made it possible for ordinary human beings to experience the wisdom of these sutras in the midst of living a life.

Is Yoga a Religion ?
Yoga defies categorization. Whatever your method of contacting the Divine, Yoga can accelerate movement in that direction. It does not discriminate on the basis of gender or religion or race. Yoga is truly universal. Most people find that they can practice Yoga without any conflict with their religious beliefs.

Is Yoga Good for You ?
Studies in the United States and India suggest that Yoga can help conditions such as stress, anxiety, and even epilepsy. Western science has been studying yoga for nearly 50 years and evidence suggests numerous physical and psychological benefits.

Is Yoga a New Age Practice ?
Yoga and New Age movements share a common focus on the improvement of the body and mind and their connection to the soul. Yoga goes back thousands of years.

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What are the unique features of Iyengar Yoga ?
(1) Iyengar Yoga can be practiced by all.
(2) The emphasis is given to precision and alignment in all postures.
(3) The use of self designed props such as wooden gadgets, belts, ropes helps the practitioner to achieve perfection in all the postures
(4) The aspect of "sequencing". An "Iyengar Yoga" practitioner is aware of the sequence in which different groups of asanas have to be performed.

What is the relevance of Yoga in today's world ?
The practice of yoga helps anyone to gain good health, mental peace, emotional equanimity and intellectual clarity. With a healthy body, clear mind and pure emotions, the practitioner can learn to excel in his chosen career. For example, violin maestro Lord Yehudi Menuhin acknowledges Guruji as his Best violin teacher.

What role yoga plays in your life ?
It associates mind and body in a very balanced way. It enables you to be watchful of all kinds of grasping through senses, all changes from gross to subtle within or outside and all psychic activities. Through Yogic Posture and discipline one can balance each and every organ of inner and outer body. It is a step to enter into the higher conscious states of mind and spiritual (minute and subtle) world. It creates within you-concentration, zeal, patience and contentment.

Is Yoga Aerobic Exercise ?
The physical Yogas are certainly aerobic, because they improve oxygenation of the blood through increased heart rate and deeper breathing. Astanga and Vini Yoga are good examples.

How is Yoga different from normal exercises ?
Yoga focuses more on process than goal. Gym activities or other more goal-driven exercises are quite different. You are not competing with anyone when you do yoga. Toning is the way in which Yoga achieves muscular strength, in contrast to, for example, weightlifting, which breaks down muscle to build it.

Do I need to be vegetarian to practice Yoga ?
Recent surveys suggest that only one out of three yoga practitioners is vegetarian. The traditional yoga diet is vegetarian, but one's awareness keeps evolving, and at each stage a person can tune in to what is best for her/his own body.

How often should I do Yoga? For how long? length?
Any yoga is better than none. Ideally, practice every day for 60-90 minutes. If that is not possible, do what you can--and do not come down on yourself for not doing more. Shorter sessions like 20-30 minutes a day are better than one 90-minute session a week.

Will yoga help me to reduce weight?
You will look and feel better very soon if you practice regularly and eat healthy food, fresh vegetables and more water will soon improve your physique. Also your muscle tone and strength will improve.

Should I do Yoga while I am pregnant?
Yoga is a great way to strengthen the pelvic area, normalize thyroid function and blood pressure, and reduce stress, all of which are good for the baby. It is fine to continue modified practice if you were doing yoga before; if you are just beginning, it is best to work with a teacher who has prenatal Yoga experience. In general you should avoid strain, compressing the abdomen, and inverted postures, especially in the later stages.

Should women do Yoga during menses?
Avoid inverted poses, abdominal strengtheners, extended holding of any pose or energizing breaths (Kapalabhati). These practices may interfere with the downward flow and cause discomfort. Otherwise, it is largely a matter of choice; some women like to continue practice during menses and some do not.

Can yoga help with social anxiety?
Stress and anxiety levels can be drastically reduced by Yoga practice. A stronger sense of self is built with regular practice, and over time this increased confidence and well-being can reduce or nullify feelings of anxiety. Nadi Shodhana, which is a breathing technique, can help alleviate the symptoms of an anxiety attack. You may also become more able to observe the factors that lead to an anxiety attack, and deal with them before the symptoms escalate. There can be significant improvement within months.

Can yoga help to control high blood pressure?
Yoga promotes a feeling of calm and relaxation as well as bodily awareness, so some people can experience help in this. Belly or diaphragmatic breathing reduces stress. Pranayama (controlled breathing) techniques, called Nadi Shodhana, are very helpful. Avoid the Shoulder Stand, Headstand and Downward Dog. Also approach the Warrior 1 and 2, the Mountain, Triangle, Half Moon, Tree, Standing Squat and Symbol of Yoga with care and do not hold these poses for more than a few breaths.

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