Common Approaches to Yoga

Since Yoga arrived to the Western society from its Indian sub-continent in the 19th century, so many things have changed. Today, Yoga is commonly used for five major purposes:

For health maintenance and physical fitness

For sport

For body-oriented therapy

For comprehensive lifestyle

For spiritual discipline

Postural Yoga covers the first three of the above bullets, while the final two are considered as a part of Traditional Yoga. As the name might suggest, Postural Yoga focuses (almost exclusively) on Yoga postures. On the other hand, Traditional Yoga involves traditional teachings as taught for centuries in India. These are common approaches to Yoga:

Yoga for fitness training

Many people consider Yoga as useful and easy fitness training and perhaps it is the most popular way for most Westerners to practice Yoga. This approach is also perhaps the most radical variation of Traditional Yoga, the Traditional Hatha Yoga in this case. Using Yoga for fitness training is intended primarily for physical body’s strength, resilience, and flexibility. Fitness is how most beginners to Yoga encounter this wonderful tradition. Fitness training is definitely a useful path into Yoga, but subsequently, some people find that Hatha Yoga is also as important due to its spiritual tradition. For milennia, Yoga masters have stressed on the need for good body condition. Some experts also point out that beyond the physical body, mind and spirituality, there also other indispensable aspects of the being.

Yoga for sport

Using Yoga for sport is a quite prominent approach in certain Latin American countries. Many of the sports Yoga practitioners are actually athletes who master hundreds of very difficult Yoga postures and hone them to perfection. They also demonstrate their beautiful physiques and skills in international competitions. This innovative form of sport may also be considered as an art form, unfortunately, it drew much criticism from many Traditional Yoga gurus and practitioners who feel it has no place in the Yoga community. Yet this athletic approach has done much to promote Yoga in many places around the world, and there should be nothing wrong with positive and good-natured Yoga competitions as long as people hold their self-centered competitiveness in check.

There is also a new branch of sports Yoga, called the Acro-Yoga, which focuses on in acrobatic movements which done by some people. Only the most flexible and fittest are able to practice a variation of Yoga without risking injury. Even so, purists may find fault with its lack of ethical and spiritual intention that are found in Sport Yoga.

Yoga for therapy

Yoga for therapy is a practice for applying yogic techniques to regain health or full mental and physical functions. In recent years, many Western Yoga practitioners have begun to use these methods for therapeutic purposes. Although the concept behind this approach is quite old, the term is fairly new. As a matter of fact, Yoga therapy is an entirely new professional discipline, which necessitates far greater training and focus on the practitioner part than on typical Yoga methods. Usually, Yoga is intended for people who don’t suffer from ailments or disabilities requiring special attention and remedial action. Yoga therapy can address these special needs as it can help you find wonderful relief from many common diseases.

Yoga for lifestyle

This Yoga approach safely enters the traditional domain of Yoga, performing Yoga only once a week for 30 minutes or so, is definitely better than nothing at all. And any Yoga session can be staggeringly beneficial even when performed only as Postural Yoga or fitness training. But as you unlock the real potentials of Yoga when you begin adopt it as a part of your lifestyle – live with it, breathe with it and practicing it nearly every day whether through meditation or physical exercises, you can apply the wisdom and benefits of Yoga to daily life, which allow you to live lucidly, with pure awareness. A real Yoga teaching has much to say about how we should sleep, how we eat, how we should work, how we should relate to others around us, and many others. It offers a complete system of skillful and conscious living.

These days, a Yoga lifestyle includes helping the troubled environment, an idea particularly captured in Green Yoga concepts.

We don’t have to become a yogic grandmaster to practice consistent lifestyle Yoga. Everyone can begin Yoga-based lifestyle today. Beginners can make simple and gradual adjustments while keeping their goals vividly in a clear timetable. Whenever you’re ready, you can make further positive improvements.

Yoga for spiritual discipline

Yoga for lifestyle is intended for benevolent, wholesome, functional, and healthy living. However, Yoga as a spiritual discipline relates to the benefits of enlightenment in Traditional Yoga – that is, discovering an excellent spiritual nature. Some Yoga masters consider this approach as essentially similar with Traditional Yoga.

However, the definition of spiritual is often abused, so it is a good idea to clear up some misconceptions. Spiritual refers to spirit – our ultimate nature. In Yoga, spirit is known as purusha or atman. According to non-dualistic (or single reality) Yoga philosophy, there is only one spirit, which is present in all things and beings. It’s superconscious, immortal, formless, and unimaginably blissful. It is transcendental because spirit exists beyond the physical limitation body and individual mind. We can discover the spirit entirely during a moment of enlightenment.

Most tradition-oriented and traditional approaches to Yoga share two basic ideas, the cultivation of relaxation and awareness:

Relaxation is a voluntary release unnecessary tension throughout our body.

Awareness is a unique human ability to focus attention to something, while being mindful and consciously present. Yoga is all about attention training. To understand about awareness, try this simple exercise: Focus on your right hand for about one minute. Try to feel your right hand without touching it. Chances are, you’ll drift off after awhile. Yoga training demands for a complete control of your attention and prevent it from straying from your focus.

Both relaxation and awareness is essential in nearly all Yoga training. Without bringing relaxation and awareness to Yoga, an exercise is merely exercises – not a yogic exercise.

A training on conscious breathing is frequently used to improve relaxation and awareness or as an additional foundational practice. For living things, breathing happens unconsciously. In Yoga, you bring a complete awareness to this important activity, which then can become a powerful tool for mind and body training.

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