Yoga is a form of discipline that focuses on the body, mind and spirit that was developed and practiced in ancient India. Yoga has been described in detail in Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali, a great sage born a century before Christ. Yoga in its various forms and traditions was widely practiced for more than 2000 years in India and has found mention in the religious scriptures of Hindus, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali clearly dominated the religious philosophy of the first 10 centuries AD however, Yoga evolved in many ways and forms and by the 11th Century AD Hatha yoga became a distinct form of yoga popularly practiced that stressed on health of the body and purity of spirit.
Yoga was brought to the West by Swami Vivekananda at the end of 19th century but became popular there only after the 1980s as a physical system of exercises to promote health.
Types of Yoga
Hatha Yoga was developed in India Circa 15th Century AD and focuses on gentle exercises of the whole body with right breathing techniques and meditation.
- The aim of Hatha Yoga is to make an initiation to yoga with basic postures and techniques to relax.
- Advantages of Hatha Yoga are many and include relief from stress through physical exercise and improved breathing techniques
- Hatha Yoga is good for beginners and people of all ages as it is a gentle form of yoga.
Vinyasa Yoga is not much different from Hatha Yoga. Vinyasa yoga includes basic postures and movement of body and limbs that is synchronized with breath. This form of yoga also includes Surya Namaskar or Salutation to the Sun which is a series of twelve postures where body-movement is synchronized with the breath.
- The aim of Vinyasa Yoga is to synchronize body movement with breath thereby building lean muscle mass in all parts of the body
- The advantages of Vinyasa Yoga are many and include improvement in muscle strength and suppleness, improvement of muscle tone of abdominal muscles, and reduction in risk of heart diseases, hypertension and diabetes
- Vinyasa Yoga is good for beginners and practitioners of all ages as it exercises the muscles without stress and speed.
Ashtanga yoga meaning Yoga for the eight parts of the body can be called power yoga as it is performed with intensity and at a fast pace.
- The aim of Ashtanga Yoga is to increase strength and stamina and also improve spiritual awareness of self.
- Advantages of Ashtanga Yoga are many. It gives relief from stress, coordination and functions of limbs is greatly improved, and aids in weight loss if required.
- Ashtanga Yoga ia good for people who want to be fit and wish to increase strength and stamina and also for people who wish to be spiritually aware.
Developed by BKS Iyengar and based on Hath Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga principles, Iyengaar Yoga stresses on strengthening the body by aligning it correctly. Correct postures in sitting, standing and prone positions are practiced with emphasis on standing postures. Many external aids such as strap, blanket, or a block of wood are used
- The Aim of Iyengar Yoga is to strengthen the body by aligning it correctly.
- Advantages of Iyengar Yoga are many. Balance is improved, recovery from injury is faster, and body strength is increased.
- Iyengar Yoga is good for beginners and advanced students alike and specially good for those who have medical problems such as injuries, arthritis etc.
Developed by Bikram Choudhary and based on the traditional Hath Yoga techniques, Bikram Yoga is also called hot yoga as it is practiced in a room with ambient temperatures from 95 to 100 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity. There are 26 basic postures that are practiced in 90 minute sessions.
- Aim of Bikram Yoga is to remove toxins from the body through sweat and stretch muscles to their maximum capacity without damage.
- Advantages of Bikram Yoga are many. Recovery from injury is faster, flexibility is increased, and cleansing of the body through removal of toxins
- Bikram Yoga is good for both; beginners and advanced practitioners.
Why Study Yoga in India
The birth of Yoga took place in India almost 2000 years ago and has been considered a stronghold for the discipline throughout the world. Yoga is a discipline that encompasses the body, mind and spirit and the wise sages who developed this discipline wanted physical fitness along with mental agility and spiritual growth to occur and found that this was possible by following yogic practices. Now that the benefits of yoga have been confirmed by science, the western world has embraced this discipline whole heartedly for its benefits to the body. Yet Yoga is not limited to being set of physical exercises that make the body healthy but also have positive effects on the mind and the spirit. India is the best place to study the various forms or schools of Yoga that have been developed by many great masters as this knowledge comes from the source and the many traditions of Yoga are still extensively practiced here.
The physical part of Yoga is the slow-paced exercises of all muscle groups by means of different physical postures called as ‘asanas’, these postures along with ‘pranayam’ or breathing techniques give the body respite from many physical ailments and make it healthy and supple. The other part of Yoga which involves meditation and other practices involves the mind and spirit and an all round benefit to the practitioner of this unique science and art.
Many yoga schools run by good practitioners of different yogic disciplines can be found in India making it an ideal place to learn yoga. Another great advantage of coming to India to learn Yoga is that the cost of learning yoga as well as living expenses are lower than the rest of the world.
Advantages of Learning Yoga in India
There are many advantages of learning Yoga in India, the most important being that all the forms of Yoga are widely practiced here and hence you will find knowledgeable teachers and practitioners of yoga all over the country. This results in:
- Finding genuine teachers of Yoga
- Yoga is learnt and practiced by men, women and children and there exists a network of yoga practitioners which accentuates the process of learning the art and science of Yoga.
- Different forms of Yoga can be learnt very economically from good teachers
- Living costs in India are low especially in smaller cities and towns which makes Yoga learning affordable
Best Place to Learn Yoga in India
India is the birthplace of different forms of Yoga and most of these forma are still avidly practiced here. What better place can there be to learn a skill, art and science then the place where it was founded?
The sages of ancient India developed yoga and yogic practices as an essential part of their spiritual journey. They in their wisdom realized that it was necessary to balance the body, mind and spirit to attain what they were searching for and they found that Yoga could do just that. Patanjali, a wise sage developed the basis of Yoga as it is understood even now and from his base evolved other forms that gave stress to other factors. Hence, India is the best place to learn Yoga in any form that is preferred and also there are many places and teachers to choose from to learn these yoga techniques that include exercise of the body and concentration of the mind.
There are many places to learn Yoga and Meditation techniques all over the country from Kerala in the southern most part of India, Pondicherry in the Southeast, to Uttarakhand in the North and Bihar in the East.
Ayurvedic Healing Centres abound in the exotic state of Kerala along with Yoga Institutes and other Institutes that offer alternative medical therapies. The backwaters and the tropical jungles of Kerala and the Kerala Massage Therapies are equally acclaimed by tourists. There are many centres that practice Sanjeevanam Yoga here which is very popular among tourists for its rejuvenating effect. There is a lot that Kerala offers for tourists and Yoga is an important element that enthuses the traveler.
Among the many holy places for Hindus that are in Uttarakhand State, Rishikesh is well known for its Yoga Institute and Ashram. Rishikesh, Uttarakhand State has a beautiful setting in the midst of nature and is the right place to learn yoga.
There are many programs including beginner’s yoga, Courses on Vedic heritage and spirituality, and teacher’s training programs that are conducted here. In the month of March, every year an International Yoga festival is held here that lasts a week.
Bihar is the land of Gautama, the Buddha, the land where Buddha and his disciples developed many Yogic and meditation techniques such as Vipassana Meditation. The world famous Bihar School of Yoga at Munger in Bihar offers courses in meditation and yoga for students from India and abroad. These courses are certified residential courses where students learn the ascetic way of living along with Yoga and meditation techniques.
Auroville near Pondicherry or Puducherry is a small town that was created as an International Township of Harmony for people of all nations, races and creeds to come, live and contribute to society. One can learn yoga and meditation here while living in an International community.
Some of the Renowned Institutes of Yoga in India
Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, Pune
Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute in Pune has been founded by the world renowned practitioner and teacher of Yoga; Yogacharya BKS Iyengar. The form of Yoga called Iyengar Yoga has been evolved by BKS Iyengar from many ancient yoga forms and is mainly based on Hath Yoga. This institute is run by the Iyengar family in Pune and teaches Iyengar Yoga for different levels of students from India and the rest of the world.
The Institute holds classes for women and children and for patients with particular medical problems. The Institute has gained so much popularity and there is so much demand for the courses taught here that there is a waiting period of one to two years to get admitted to a course. Admission to the Institute also requires several years of practice in the Iyengar Yoga form.
Ashtanga Institute, Mysore
Ashtanga institute for yoga is situated in Mysore where one can learn a form of yoga called Ashtanga Yoga from the venerated teacher Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois who has taught this form of Yoga here for almost 80 years since the 1930s. The Institute holds intensive and rigorous classes all through the year and only those students who are really interested and passionate about learning the Yoga form are taken. There are limited seats in each class and there is much demand for the seats. There can be a waiting period of about two months. Overseas and students from out of station have to find their own accommodation which is available in surrounding areas.
Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh
Parmarth Niketan is a Yoga Institute and Ashram located in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand State in a beautiful setting in the midst of nature and is the right place to learn yoga.
The ashram on eight acres of land has 1000 rooms for students and visitors. There are many programs including beginner’s yoga, Courses on Vedic heritage and spirituality, and teacher’s training programs. These classes can also be attended by visitors. In the month of March, every year an International Yoga festival is held here that lasts a week. Other Hindu rituals such as weddings are also performed at the ashram.
Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram, Chennai
Located in Chennai the capital of Tamil Nadu a southern state of India, the legacy of T. Krishnamacharya, considered as the “grandfather” of modern Yoga in India is carried out at Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram which is administered by the son of T. Krishnamacharya. T. Krishnamacharya was the teacher of BKS Iyengar who started the Iyengar school of Yoag and Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and a form of Yoga called Viniyoga that is based on using various yogic tools such as posture (asana) and breath (pranayam) to control physical needs. International students can take courses called “Pilgrimage of Sound: Vedic Chanting”, Heart of Yoga, and Pranayama twice in a year, but these are non-residential courses and students have to find their own accommodation. Teacher’s training course can be taken by Indian citizens only.
Sivananda Vedanta Centre, Trivandrum
Situated in Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala state in south India, Yogic instructions at Sivananda Ashram are founded on the five basic segments on which yoga is based; posture, breath, relaxation, meditation, and food. The ashram offers many courses of different levels in yoga and meditation. There is basic beginner's yoga and meditation course which is well accepted. It is also possible to take a Yoga Vacation where you can spend your holidays at the ashram to learn yoga. There is a Teacher Training course that is also offered by the ashram.
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