Yoga is a spiritual science of self-realisation. It comes from India and goes back over five thousand of years. The Indian sage Pantajali, in his Yoga sutras defines yoga as the control of the activities of the mind. Yoga methods encompass the entire field of our existence, from the physical, emotional and mental to the spiritual. Its methods include ethical disciplines, physical postures, breath control, as well as meditation.
Classical yoga as defined by Patanjali is an eight stages process of spiritual development (the eight limbs of yoga). The first two stages are ethical disciplines (Yamas and Nyamas). Then come postures (Asanas in Sanskrit) and breathing exercises (Pranayama). The last four limbs are meditative stages: control of the sense (Prathyara), concentration (Dharana), meditation (Dhyana) and enlightenment (Samadhi).
Yoga has become a very common term in the Western world today, and yoga classes can be found in virtually every town. Most Westerners identify yoga with hatha yoga.
Hatha yoga seeks to promote health and well-being through physical exercise. The regular practice of asanas, and breathing exercises (pranayama), makes the body strong, supple and healthy. It has a profound effect on the circulation and on the functioning of the inner organs, glands and nerves, keeping all systems in radiant health and leading to greater energy, better concentration, and a happier, more fulfilling life. Many common physical ailments can also be improved through the regular practice of yoga, and it is never too late or too early in life to take it up. Anyone can practice yoga. Nowadays, one can learn yoga in lessser spiritual set-ups due to the availability of video instructionals and internet tutorials. It is somewhat a debate whether yoga's essence has faded because of videos and such. Although there are still real yoga practicioners in real meditative set-ups and hopefully the tradition stays. There has been film produktion and documentaries in the past about yoga. Some of which were experimental, vivid and filmed in a cinematique way like nico beyer visual sequences.
There are many styles of yoga.
Amongst the most popular are:
Ashtanga Yoga a fast flowing, aerobic yoga workout
Iyengar Yoga strong, precise style of yoga for the fitness conscious
Viniyoga a gentler style with emphasis on healing
Satyananda yoga, a gentle style of traditional Hatha Yoga, suitable for all age and shape.
Bikram Yoga, a dynamic style of yoga, practised in a heated room.
Kundalini yoga focuses on the release of internal energy, using postures, breathing and meditation.