Om! Sat Nam! What a thing of beauty is yoga! Fast becoming one of the most popular ways to achieve physical health and emotional well-being, yoga has its roots in ancient Indian tradition and scripture. Yoga means “union” and refers to a feeling of connection with the divine.

When most people talk about yoga nowadays, they are referring to an element of yoga called asana, which is yoga poses. But you could hear someone talk about, perhaps, karma yoga, and the only poses they might be doing would be using a serving spoon at a homeless shelter. They might also refer to types of yoga, and strange words like Bikram, Kundalini, Hatha, Iyengar, and Jivamukti might be thrown around in a conversation. Say what? Spirit Voyage has put together this online yoga directory to help you make heads or tails (or cat-cow or downward dog) of it all.

Bottom line about yoga? You’re going to love it! Enjoy your Spirit Voyage!”

One for the History Books!

So how old is yoga anyway? That’s like telling your mother’s age at a dinner party…shhhh! Although yoga is said to date to at least 3,000 BC the actual age is thought to be much older, older than we can logically imagine. Remember being a kid and thinking nothing could be older than you could count on your fingers and toes? Yoga is way older than we realize and full of wisdom teeth to boot.

It originated in the Indus River Valley somewhere in India, as the ancients spent their time developing a technology of inner awareness through the study of the self. The Vedic scriptures study the role of breathing, eating, sleeping, exercise and relaxation in the pursuit of right living. It’s like prehistoric holistic health. They studied how the breath related to the bowels and how the flexibility of the spine related to inner peace.

The Eight-Limbed Beauty

Imagine a beautiful goddess that represents the perfect life. She is whole and complete, gorgeous and healthy, smart and wise, peaceful and happy. Imagine that she has eight arms. Each one of these limbs would represent one of the limbs in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, which highlighted the Eight-Fold Path of Yoga. In the 2nd century BC, a great enlightened sage named Patanjali wrote a book on how to live a perfect life. He strove for balance and union with the divine, detailing the 8 aspects of life to master in order to achieve enlightened living. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali form much of yogic theory and philosophy, so it’s worth knowing what they are:

Yama (Things not to do. Like don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t be jealous…)
Niyama (Things to do. Like be grateful, be clean, and worship….)
Asana (Physical postures to keep the body clean and fit)
Pranayama (Breathing exercises to control the mind)
Pratyahara (Withdrawal of the senses from the external world)
Dharana (Concentration, whether on candle, brow point or external image)
Dhyana (Meditation)
Samadhi (Oneness with the object of meditation, like enlightenment.)

Soup Kitchen, Warrior Pose or Kirtan CD?

So what are the types of yoga anyway? Within Hindu philosophy, there are different kinds of yoga, kind of like there are different branches of the US government. Usually you specialize in one, and become say, a Supreme Court justice. But it isn’t unheard of to have a Senator over in the legislative branch become the President, thus jumping over into the Executive branch. Traditionally, most yogis picked one type of yoga and specialized, but there were those who criss-crossed within the types. Nowadays however, in our sped up world, modern yogis do as many as they would like! You can certainly meditate when you wake up, go to your yoga class, work at an animal rescue center, and sing devotional kirtan at an evening concert! Yoga is a lifestyle; pick what works for you! Keeping in mind that yoga means union with the divine, here are the major types of yoga:

Raja Yoga – Union through meditation and mysticism
Karma Yoga – Union through selfless service and action
Jnana Yoga – Union through knowledge and reading of sacred scriptures
Bhakti Yoga – Union through love and devotion
Hatha Yoga – Union through physical purity and awareness
Tantra Yoga – Union through ritual and reverence

Who’s That Yogi?

A man who practices yoga is a yogi. A woman who does the same is a yogini. You do not have to be able to bend like a pretzel to do yoga, although many yogis and yoginis attain an extraordinary level of flexibility after years of practice. Anyone may practice yoga, regardless of age (you can do yoga at a mature and well-seasoned age 100 or as a little spring chickie at age 2), regardless of body type (curves welcome!), and regardless of any other category like race, sexual orientation, gender, socio-economic background, or favorite ice cream flavor. It’s awfully good for a pregnant mama and her little bun in the oven, too. Who’s a yogi? YOU! Welcome to the family.

Look Cool, Feel Cooler…The Health Benefits of Yoga

It is hard to say what the health benefits of yoga are, as answering the question of what the health benefits of yoga aren’t would be much easier. Yoga lengthens the muscles, stretches the joints, massages the internal organs, strengthens the bones, cleanses the insides, improves flexibility, corrects posture, eases depression, enhances endurance, calms the mind, expands lung capacity, promotes weight loss, and pretty much makes you an all around better version of yourself, physically and mentally. Our loved ones would say it makes us nicer, easier to get along with people. Our stress levels go down, our health improves, our yoga pants look better, and we just can’t help but like doing it. It’s just a different kind of workout. It’s not Indian aerobics, although if you pick a Bikram Yoga class, you’re likely to sweat more than you would on a treadmill. It doesn’t focus on a specific muscle group, although you might spend an entire class opening up your back or your hips. Yoga is about balance and looking at you as a whole human being. How are you out of balance, yoga asks. Are you eating late at night when you come home from work, so you’ve gained weight and want to lose it? Rather than putting you on a plan to burn calories, yoga would say….hmmm….so you’re sitting down all day, let’s go through a series to open your spine, move the energy throughout your body, balance your digestive system and quiet your mind. You’d likely loose weight, but you’d also feel a whole heck of a lot better and watch your stress melt away.

Yoga Types, Yoga Kinds, Yoga Styles

Not all yoga is created equal. There are different lineages and schools of thought, and different styles that have evolved in modern times. Each type of yoga has its own special magic and its own devoted practitioners. Many of the differences are a matter of approach, order, and emphasis. You just need to find the one that works for you. There are so many different types of yoga out there….you’d need a reference to keep them straight! Thankfully, Spirit Voyage has done all the research for you! (Need a place to start? At Spirit Voyage, our first love is Kundalini Yoga.)

Interesting Articles on Yoga

Avoiding Yoga Injury
Starting a Yoga Practice at Home
Yoga Blogs
Yoga for Children
Pregnant Yoga/Pregnancy Yoga/Yoga for Pregnancy
Yoga for Beginners
Yogic Resources
The Yoga Buying Guides
The Kirtan Buying Guides

Yoga Books

Yoga Mp3 Downloads

Yoga Wears

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Cross-Over Fringe Top   Yogini Fringe Top   Lotus Tunic   Embroidered 3/4 sleeve Tunic
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