The practice of yoga goes back more than 5,000 years. It came originally from India and spread from there all over Asia and, in the second half of the 20th century, to Europe and the Americas. Yoga is a generic word that encompasses practically all kinds of meditations that aim at a psycho-physical improvement.
In the United States and Europe most meditation disciplines are focused around the physical position that is called lotus or asanas. The breathing of the meditating person plays a very important role, because in many yoga schools or disciplines it is used to focus the mind. It may be used as a passive vector by just observing it, or it can be used in the context of breathing exercises, most of which belong to the school of pranayama.
The old English word yoke served as a linguistic bridge and nowadays yoga is associated with union. This connection might be with the absolute or God, in Hinduism called Brahman, or with the inner self. There is passive and active meditation. Passive meditation has a more spiritual aim, the contemplation and comprehension of life itself, whereby active meditation aims at a better physical condition, stress control through understanding of the processes that lead to stress, mental clarity and generally just feeling better.There are different schools or types of yoga, which are called paths. All of them have in common the search for the path of enlightenment.
Bhakti yoga, for example, has as its aim love and devotion. The practice itself is very ceremonious, with a lot of rituals such lighting incense and chanting mantras. It is closely linked to another person, called the guru, basically a mentor or sponsor.
Everybody who practices Bhakti yoga is free to develop a relationship with God as he or she understands him. And it is so attractive because at its center is the inherent desire of all creatures to love and to be loved.A meditation discipline that focuses almost entirely on the physical aspect of yoga is Hatha. The person who practices it has to be physically strong and to be able to spend a lot of time on his or her physical processes. The aim is to clean the nervous system and make the body stronger.
So strong, in fact, that a yogi (a person spending many years practicing specific meditation exercises) can reach a state where he doesn't feel anymore the heat or the cold and is indifferent to pleasure and pain.The total opposite of this physically oriented yoga practice is Jnana yoga. Here the body is seen more like an impediment for reaching true wisdom and its unclean aspects like puss or feces are emphasized in order to cause disdain for the physical existence. Jnana is about developing wisdom and insight and the realization of the fact that what we experience here on earth is just the transcendent aspect of the eternal.
Last but not least there is Karma yoga, which is about being of service to fellow human beings and God. It is the perfect discipline for those people with a deeply developed sense of community who seek to build the kingdom of heaven here on earth.
.Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Yoga.Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Russell.
By: Michael Russell