Sunday, October 25, 2009

Is Yoga a Religion?

Yoga had been well-known for its health benefits as it can increases strength and flexibility, decreases stress and lower blood pressure. However, some of us may shy away because we are concerned that this ancient Indian practice may contradict our faith.
Flash back to those old days when I was young, when yoga was not yet a ‘hot cake’ in the market, yoga had been known by some as a spiritual practice which will bring them to liberation. Most of the yoga teacher available in KL was also originated from India which practiced traditional routines.
As times passed by, people are more concerned about their health and body. Many celebrities had taken up yoga as one of their fitness regime. Hence, yoga becomes a ‘hot topic’ over the world. People begin to realize the benefits of yoga and out of sudden, yoga studios with variety types of yoga started to ‘boom’ out everywhere in the market. Even gym started to offer yoga classes in order to attract more members.
What is Yoga?
It is the Westerners belief that we ‘do’ yoga which is more towards to health and fitness regime because purely the asanas (postures) are being practiced. Researches and analysis had also been done towards the yoga postures to our human anatomy and physiology in the West. Therefore, yoga is sometimes seen today as another gym class, a stress buster or a means to a strong body and a nice bottom.
However, the Indian terms of ‘yoga’ encompasses so much more than a fitness regime. Yoga means the union of the body, mind and soul which will always be related to ‘the eight limbs of yoga’ or Ashtanga system. Each limb constitutes one part of the practice and in order to reach true enlightenment, all parts must be practiced simultaneously.
The eight limbs consist of;
· Yama – the practice of universal moral principles
· Niyama – the practice of personal disciplines
· Asana – the practice of physical postures
· Pranayama –the practice of breath control
· Pratyahara – the practice of withdrawal of senses
· Dharana – the practice of focused attention
· Dhyana – the practice of meditation
· Samadhi – self realization. Enlightenment
Nowadays, most of the yoga classes available purely emphasize on the physical postures. Instead of being called as a yoga class, it was suppose to be more appropriate to described it as an Asana class or a Stretch class. 

Namaste, How Are You?
If you have been to a yoga class before, you might had seen people putting their hands together at the end of the class and said “Namaste”. Saying “Namaste” is simply greeting someone in Sanskrit, the classical language in India. It is equivalent to saying “Hello” in English and “Bonjour” in French. Meanwhile, putting your hands together symbolizes the philosophy, inherent in yoga that seemingly separate things can be brought together.

Sanskrit? How does it related to Yoga?

Traditionally, yoga was practiced in Sanskrit which is the classical language of India. Westerners, who went to India and learn from its master, returned to their homelands and started teaching in English. They translated names of the yoga poses and the anecdotes to their own languages. But without proper guidance, some people may get confuse and misled by the translation. One example is the Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose). Some people thought the pose itself is spiritual as snake figure is always seen in an Indian temple.
Traditional yogis respect and live harmoniously in nature. They observed and admired the living creatures around them and trying to imitate the figure and the behavior of the living creatures. Therefore, the names of the yoga poses are mainly based on animals or plants.
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