Yoga appears in India some 5 000 years B.C. but the first document in sanskrit that formalizes its basic principles was written 200 years B.C. : The « Yoga Sutras » of Patanjali. These 196 short sentences (sutras) are so deep in meaning that indian scholars can devotee years to the study of each of these sutras.
Since the early 20th. century : Yoga has been introduced in the West and adapted by various « gurus » to the needs of customers attracted by a trendy activity promising a « dream body » and the capability to impress with complex postures.
East / West : Philosophy & Pratice
In the West, Yoga is generally described as a physical practice based on postures (asanas) coordinated with breath. This practice is often promoted through its benefits for the body and health. There is a germ of truth in this but it is actually a restriction of Yoga to one of its dimensions only as, in traditional Yoga, the physical practice is a support to a spiritual dimension.
In the East, in its spiritual and philosophic dimension, Yoga focuses on personal happiness in the « now ». It is though similar to Buddhism but different of traditional religions that are more focused on the « admittance » to paradise after death.
« Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. »
Sutra 1.2 de Patanjali
« yogah cittavrtti nirodhah »
« Eastern approach is devotional whereas Western approach is intellectual »
Shri Mahesh - Yoga & Symbolisme
Traditional Practice : Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is the most traditional practice and each session is a combination of different techniques applied simultaneously :
Physical postures (asanas),
Control of breath (pranayama),
Canalization of energy flows in the body (bandha).
It is not a sport. There is no search for performance. Postures are held during a time that facilitates the concentration on the breath, the engaged muscles and the nervous centers (chakras) that are solicited. Conscious breath eases the connection between the body and the mind in a reverse effect from naturel breath which happens unconsciously.
The physical benefits of the practice are felt in :
The muscles, even those who are deep and / or little used in daily life, and whose toxins are eliminated thanks to a succession of stretching and contractions.
The Joints, thanks to specific postures enabling the body to memorize and reproduce unconsciously the optimal alignment of each joint.
The functioning of all internal organs and nervous, digestive & lymphatic systems... thanks to focused massages during the practice.
« The posture should be
and comfortable »
Sutra 2.46 de Patanjali
“Sthira Sukham Asanam”
Other Practices of Yoga
The 20th century has seen the development of numerous types of Yoga, mostly to respond to the specific expectations of Westerners, in a trend that was not purely altruist :
Ashtanga proposes fast flows aiming at the development of physical strength together with an increase of the internal heat of the body. Not for beginners, but appreciated by advanced yogis as, once the flows are memorized, it combines deep concentration with an intense physical practice.
Vinyasa also proposes fast flows with one breath per asana. The content and the flow are built by the teacher for each session. It is a nice and dynamic practice - with music - although different from traditional yoga where postures are held for a few breaths.
Iyengar is characterized by a deeper work of each posture and the use of props (stripes, bricks,…) to favor the best alignment of the bones and joints.
Other types of yoga are focused on practice condition (Bikram at 40°C), or the use of specific postures in order to obtain specific effects : Kundalini, Nidra …