Updated date:

Everything About What Yoga Is - All Benefits Explained Simply

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

What Is Yoga

Yoga is derived from from the Sanskrit word Yuj, which means to join or unite. Thus yoga unites the body, mind and spirit to one another and ultimately with the Divine.

Yoga originated in India. It is an ancient knowledge bank whose history goes back to over 5000 years. A practice which works on 3 levels, the physical, mental and spiritual.

It is a practice of disciplining oneself so that the body, mind and the spirit fall in harmony within and without. Yoga is an exact science, a way of life. It teaches us how to live life in harmony with the environment and fellow human beings. It offers a way to work towards self-realisation and the realisation of the Supreme.

Just as physics and mathematics which are exact sciences, yoga is also an exact science based on the irrefutable laws of nature.

What Yoga Isn't

  • Yoga is not a religion.
  • It is not an Indian exercise routine.
  • It is not a quick fix to solve health issues.
  • It is not about miracles.

History Of Yoga

Yoga has a history of over 5000 years. In ancient times, it was considered a way to attain self-realisation with the ultimate goal of merging the individual with the Supreme Being.

Around 500 AD yoga began to be looked upon as a way to better the society as a whole rather than the individual.

Evolution Of The Yog Sutras

Later around 400 BC to 300 BC, Maharishi Patanjali, the yoga philosopher, compiled the yog sutra which today is considered the most authoritative text on classical yoga philosophy.

The yog sutras are a collection of 196 original thoughts or sayings of Patanjali written in a concise form. This text forms the basis of Raja Yoga.

Even though Patanjali's yog sutras is today the most definitive text on yoga, Patanjali is not the creator of yoga, an opinion most scholars agree upon.

The text of yog sutras has 4 main parts or chapters called padas, collectively containing the 196 aphorisms or original thoughts.

The four padas are :

  • Samadhi Pada consisting of 51 sutras.

Samadhi is a state of bliss wherein the person becomes one with the Supreme Being. This pada shows the way to attain samadhi.

  • Sadhana Pada consisting of 55 sutras.

Sadhana means practice. In this pada, Patanjali outlines two forms of yoga - Kriya yoga or action yoga and Ashtang yoga or eight-limbed yoga.
Kriya yoga is the yoga of action and service. Ashtanga yoga is a description of the eight limbs of Raja yoga.

  • Vibhuti Pada consisting of 56 sutras

Vibhuti is a manifestation of paranormal powers in one who practices yoga. These powers can be in the form of past and future knowledge of life, events, places etc, knowledge of the occult. In fact knowledge of anything and everything. The person attains siddhis or powers.

  • Kaivalya Pada consisting of 34 sutras

This chapter describes how to attain detachment from worldly bondage and attain liberation. This is the ultimate goal of yoga.

Around 1500 AD onwards, the earlier spiritual goals started to change with the incorporation of and emphasis on the physical practices like yoga asanas or postures and pranayama or breath control. This radical change relegated the spiritual aim of yoga to a secondary status.

This status exists and is more evident today with the practice of yoga being more focussed on the physical benefits to the individual than the spiritual benefits. Today yoga has become a culture in itself bypassing the lofty spiritual aims with which it originated.

The Six Branches Of Yoga

Yoga encompasses 6 types of yoga practices, called the 6 branches of yoga. They are :

1. Hatha Yoga or The Yoga Of Postures

This is the physically active form of yoga. It is the most popular and the most practised branch of yoga all over the world in the form of yogic exercises called asanas, the breathing styles called pranayama and meditation called dhyan which is the way to achieve spirituality and oneness with God.

With the increased incidence of mental and physical health issues, this form of yoga has become the most known and followed.

2. Bhakti yoga or The Yoga Of Devotion

Bhakti means love for or devotion to the Almighty. A practitioner of this branch of yoga sees Divine hand in everything.

Bhakti yoga is pure love and devotion to God who Himself is all love. It is the most direct way to merge or become one with the Infinite. The bhagat or devotee is attracted to nothing else but love for God.

3. Raja Yoga or The Yoga Of Self Control or Discipline

This branch of yoga is also known as Classical yoga or Ashtanga yoga - the eight-limbed yoga.

Raja yoga is the king amongst all branches of yoga because it is primarily concerned with the mind. The mind is like the king in the human body as it controls everything.

The eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga are :

  • Yama

It is a code of conduct for living one's life. It could be taken for the necessary dont's in simple terms to control the instinctive natural human behaviour. The 5 Yamas of Patanjali are :

Ahimsa or Non-violence
Satya or Truth both in word and thought
Asteya or Non-stealing
Brahmacharya or Abstinence from sex which is celibacy in the unmarried and faithfulness in the married.
Aparigraha or Absence of greed for material things.

Yama brings about the elimination or death of the ego.

  • Niyama

It literally means the observance of rules. It could be taken for the necessary do's in simple terms. The 5 niyamas of Patanjali are:

Shaucha or Purity of the mind and body
Santosha or Contentment
Tapas or Austerity
Svadhyaya or Study of the Vedas
Ishvarpranidhana or Surrender to and Worship of God

  • Asana

These are the various yogic postures or positions used in the practice of yoga. It is a static position and has to be firm yet comfortable. The seated postures like padmasana and sukhasana are the most basic of all asanas.

  • Pranayama

This is also called yoga breathing or controlled breathing..

  • Pratyahara

This essentially is the withdrawal of the senses and internalisation of the senses so that these do not reach the brain. The yoga practitioner is thus attuned to progress to the 6th stage of yoga that is Dharana or concentration.

  • Dharana or Concentration

It involves the practice of attaining a single focus. Once the senses are withdrawn attaining Dharana is easier. This allows for easier meditation which is the next limb or stage.

  • Dhyana or Meditation

In this stage, as the senses are withdrawn and the mind has attained a single focus, the meditator is not conscious of the fact that he/she is meditating. In fact, the meditator becomes one with the object of meditation.

  • Samadhi or State Of Superconsciousness

It is a state of mental concentration or superconsciousness wherein the meditator attains a state of blissful awareness of the existence of God in himself.

4. Jnana Yoga or The Yoga Of Knowledge or Wisdom

This form of yoga aims to garner perfect knowledge - that which is beyond what is seen in the world. That which is intangible - The Absolute Reality or The Truth.
The way to realise Absolute Reality is by the 4 means of salvation which are :

  • Viveka - Knowledge of distinction between the real or eternal and the unreal or temporal.
  • Vairagya - Detachment from everything that is temporary.
  • Shad-sampat - This comprises of 6 virtues, namely,

    Sama which is tranquility of the mind

    Dama which is control of the senses

    Uparati which is control of the sensual instincts

    Titiksha which is physical endurance

    Shraddha which is faith

    Samadhana which is perfect
  • Mumukshutva - Burning desire for liberation from temporal things like the cycle of births or deaths.

5. Karma Yoga or The Yoga of Action

It is the yoga of selfless action, a service without expectation of rewards or results. This leads the yogi to change his destiny.

6. Tantra Yoga or The Yoga Of Rituals

Tantra is a conglomeration of thoughts and practices channelised to form a ritual. A Guru's guidance may be needed in some forms of tantras.

To gain spiritual and magical powers the practitioner uses asanas, postures, mudras, mantras etc to help in meditation. Any one of the Hindu gods and goddesses is identified, visualised and internalised - a process equivalent to sexual courting and consummation. This deity becomes a source of the tantrik's (the tantra practitioner) meditation from whom he draws all the spiritual and other powers.


Yoga Is For All

Yoga does not need any special equipment. It does not need one to be young and strong to perform the yoga postures, asanas and pranayama. All it needs is a firm will to just follow.

The benefits of yoga are multifold from relaxing the body and mind to the clarity of thoughts and from building resistance to disease to correcting imbalances in the diseased body.

The stretches tone the entire musculoskeletal system while some of the pranayamas like kapalbhati and agnisaar amongst others, give the internal body organs a massage which is not possible with other conventional exercise systems.

Not only this, yoga, in fact, helps one to take stock of the self and find inner peace and tranquillity.

Disclaimer

The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements or embarking on a new health regime.

  • How Hatha Yoga Benefits Pitta, Vata, and Kapha
    If you take a look at the ancient traditions of India, you will find that ayurveda and Hatha yoga go together. They compliment each other and work together in pursuit of the same goals, although yoga focuses...

Some of my other hubs on Yoga

Yoga for Complete Beginners - Yoga Class 20 Minutes

Hatha Yoga For Beginners

Bhakti Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga

Ashtanga yoga - Pranayama

Karma yoga

Jnana Yoga

Benefits of Yoga, Yoga lifestyle And Yoga Yo open The Heart Center

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Rajan Singh Jolly

Comments

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 07, 2020:

You are welcome

Rschauhan from Himachal Pradesh on June 07, 2020:

great article, thanks for sharing such wonderful information.

LupitaRonquillo on October 17, 2013:

Nice article. You provided a lot of information on what happens to be my most favorite exercise activity. I practice about 4 times a week from home and because I don't have a babysitter, have gotten my baby boy doing his very own downward dog! :)

Sandra Busby from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA on October 17, 2013:

Thanks, rajan, for such an abundance of interesting information on yoga.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on November 30, 2012:

Thanks Sunita.

sunita on November 30, 2012:

i have been doing yoga for last 4 years or so.. but after seeing your hub i really feel motivated.

thanks

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 27, 2012:

I'm humbled and elated too at the same time. Thank you for such fine comments. Glad you liked it unknown spy.

Life Under Construction from Neverland on June 27, 2012:

Wow, im impressed with this detailed and complete hub about Yoga. all the votes for this hub Rajan!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 15, 2012:

I am happy that this hub has been motivating as well as informational to you, MelChi. Thanks for stopping by. Much appreciated.

Melanie Chisnall from Cape Town, South Africa on June 15, 2012:

I didn't know that there were so many different methods of practicing yoga! This is fascinating and works really well hand-in-hand with meditation, which I've just recently started as well. It has become a way of life, and I look forward to including yoga into my daily routing. Thanks for sharing this! :)

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 15, 2012:

Thanks for reading and appreciating Angela. Thanks again for sharing it everywhere. You are a big support and I appreciate it.

Angela Brummer from Lincoln, Nebraska on June 15, 2012:

Another absolutely perfect article! Shared on fb, twitter, google+, and with hub followers!

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 14, 2012:

Thanks Olde Cashmere. I'm happy you like the hub. Thanks for all the accolades. I appreciate your visit.

Olde Cashmere on June 14, 2012:

Incredible hub on yoga and you explained the details so well, tons of helpful information. Excellent work rajan jolly, voted up, interesting, useful, and awesome :)

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 22, 2012:

Mary I'm glad you liked this hub. Thanks for appreciating and voting.

Mary Hyatt from Florida on April 22, 2012:

I have done Yoga off and on for many years. I really should spend more time on it. This was a very interesting Hub. I enjoyed the videos, too. I voted this Hub UP etc.etc.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 18, 2012:

Chris, I'm happy to note that you found the hub useful. I appreciate your voting and sharing.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 18, 2012:

Chris, I'm happy to note that you found the hub useful. I appreciate your voting and sharing.

Chris Achilleos on March 18, 2012:

Great hub rajan jolly, I enjoy learning about yoga. Liked the videos too. Voted up, useful and sharing:)

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 12, 2012:

J.S. I try to do my job to the best of my ability. A job well done is very satisfying to me and getting appreciation for it from readers like you and others is like the proverbial 'icing on the cake.'

I always learn something from interacting with you and this time it's about sharing.

I'm floored with your appreciation. Thank you.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 12, 2012:

robie2, I am heartened to learn that my effort has borne fruit. While researching, I found that most of the explanation about yoga was so full of technical jargon that it took me a number of reads and pauses to get the info understood. Hence this hub.

Thanks a million for such kind words, I appreciate your bookmarking, voting it up and taking time to read and comment.

JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on February 11, 2012:

Thank you Rajan for your kind words! You write very interesting material and I always learn something from your Hubs! I will consider trying out some yoga if I can just get away from the computer! For the record, when I read a Hub and comment, I automatically share it as well. So you will know that when I comment I will also be sharing by default! I look forward to reading future Hubs!

JSMatthew~

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on February 11, 2012:

Thank you so much for this wonderful, simple explanation of a very complicated subject. You helped me understand, not only the history and background of Yoga, but also the differences in practice. I am bookmarking this for future reference and voting it up across the board.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 11, 2012:

@ howtohandbook. Thanks for stopping by and your comments are appreciated.

@ alocsin. Thanks for the read, comments and the vote.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 11, 2012:

What a comprehensive explanation. The videos add a lot to the piece. Voting this Up and Useful.

howtohandbook from Riyadh on February 11, 2012:

Very nice hub. Thanks for sharing important piece of information.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 10, 2012:

Thanks, theastrology. I'm glad you liked.

theastrology from New Delhi on February 10, 2012:

Great information about yoga!!

Great hub :)

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 10, 2012:

JS, you are one of my regular readers and I thank you for this first. I think if one makes a concerted effort nothing is difficult, which holds true for languages as well.

I really wish you start doing some simple yoga asanas and pranayama-the yoga breathing. You will feel a difference in health for sure. Incidentally, I wrote a hub on pranayama just prior to this one and it's the first in the links. My next hub on which I'm working right now, will be on asanas- the yoga postures.

I wish to thank you for being so appreciative as always and thanks a lot for sharing.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 10, 2012:

Ruchira, I think most of us do not have the time to read very complicated and detailed descriptions of yoga. I have tried to keep it as simple as possible and elaborating each point just enough so that the reader can understand what I'm talking about.

I really value your appreciation, voting and bookmarking. Thanks for the sharing and everything else.

JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on February 10, 2012:

I never knew that the word "Yoga" came from Sanskrit. I have learned a lot from every Hub article I have read from you Rajan! My wife's native language Khmer (Cambodian) comes from the Ancient Sanskrit and many of the characters are very similar. I wonder how easy it would be to learn the Sanskrit language? As always Rajan, you provide interesting and informative information. I have never tried Yoga but maybe I should start stretching and get comfortable! Voting up and SHARING!

JSMatthew~

Ruchira from United States on February 10, 2012:

I am big fan of yoga and you have explained it beautifully. I have bookmarked it for sharing it to my friends around here 'cause you have simplified the version well.

voted up as useful.

Thanks Rajan!