What is yoga?

There are many different ideas related to Yoga, where it comes from, what it is all about, and how to practice a range of techniques.

Generally, it is recognised as an ancient system of philosophies, principles and practices derived from the Vedic tradition of India and the Himalayas, more than 2500 years ago. It is a system that recognises the multi-dimensional nature of the human person, and primarily relates to the nature and workings of the mind, based on experiential practice and self-enquiry.

In Yoga, the body, breath and mind are seen as a union of these multi-dimensional aspects of each and every human being. The system and various techniques of Yoga cultivate the experience of that union, leading to greater integration of being, internal peacefulness, and clarity of the mind. It is a system that is designed to cultivate health and happiness, and a greater sense of self-awareness and higher consciousness.

The foundations of this ancient system are generally attributed to a great Indian sage known as Patanjali, who presented a summary of the approach in what is known as the Yoga Sutra. This complete model of Yoga is sometimes known as Raja Yoga - the highest or Royal Yoga. Throughout the centuries since the time of Patanjali, a number of different approaches to Yoga have developed, based on one or more of the ideas found in the foundations of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra. Today, the most popular of these more recent approaches is generally known as a form of Hatha Yoga, and is considered to be the beginning or early stages of the process towards fullness of what Yoga offers.

Yoga cultivates health and well-being (physical, emotional, mental and social) through the regular practice of a range of many different techniques, including postures and movement, breath awareness and breathing exercises, relaxation and concentration, self-inquiry and meditation.

Yoga is an approach to life that values appropriate effort, based on balance and harmony, within each person and with each other.

Physical postures

The most widely recognised form of yoga today is an integration of several yoga practices, primarily body movement, traditionally known as postures or asanas. They serve to strengthen and invigorate the body, helping all physical systems to work properly. These include the skeletal and muscular structures as well as the circulation, respiratory, glandular and nervous systems. The postures are performed with awareness, with a focus on the breath and the internal experience, leading to greater mindfulness and mental ease.

Yoga is a remarkably effective practice on its own or can be part of other physical training such as aerobics, weight training, running, swimming or other sports. Yoga at its heart is a practice of mindfulness and with regular practice, this mindfulness can be incorporated into other activities and areas of life.

Meditation

Meditation is the yogic practice of being connected to the deepest part within. A wide range of meditation techniques are designed to help you observe and explore the world of thoughts and feelings, and go beyond to an experience of deep peace and contentment.

What happens in a typical yoga class?

Yoga classes vary, depending on the particular style or tradition of the teacher or school. Participants may often practice on yoga/exercise mats.

A common yoga class typically includes:

  • An introduction, possibly including some breathing exercises and/or relaxation
  • A Physical warm up
  • Yoga postures, movements and stretches
  • Relaxation and/or meditation

Meditation is usually an integral part of yoga and many yoga teachers may offer classes dedicated to the practice of meditation. Participants usually practise either on cushions on the floor, or seated on chairs.

A dedicated meditation class typically includes:

  • An introduction possibly including breathing exercises, relaxation and some inspirational readings
  • A number of mental focusing and meditation practices
  • Returning to an outward focus and brief discussion

Classes generally span 1 – 1½ hours.

Cost per classes typically varies between $10 – $25 depending on time, location, room hire and the teacher’s experience.