A major trend gaining momentum in our eclectic Western society—the rise of interest in yoga? The word yoga means “yoke or union.” It speaks of being yoked with God or in union with God. Yoga, on the surface, appears to be nothing more than a highly developed low-impact exercise regimen. What could be wrong with stretching, twisting, bending, breathing, sweating it out and getting the body in shape, regardless of the method used? Absolutely nothing—if that’s all there was to it.
Yoga is much more than a series of stretches! It is actually an ancient religion with its own god, practices, and doctrine. The poses and breathing are only one aspect of the religion. These components have only recently become popularized, but the religion of yoga has been practiced for thousands of years.
Yoga means “to yoke.” It is often explained that this means the goal of yoga is to yoke together mind, spirit, and body. But that is not the true meaning of the term. "Yoga" actually refers to the goal of the practice: to attain "ultimate knowledge" by losing one's sense of self and uniting with the Divine (or Supreme Consciousness, Godhead, or other names depending upon the tradition) in much the same way a drop of water loses itself and becomes one with a body of water, like an ocean or a puddle.
The term “yoke” also explains the yoking of energies, or spirits, that are invoked to aid in the deepening of practice. These energies are invited into the practitioner and their practice in multiple ways: by the practice of worshiping deities and energies with poses of the body (for example, the sun salutation is a series of movements that pays homage to the sun god), by repeating mantras (each sound, word, and phrase invokes its corresponding spirit), of specific breathing exercises (Ujai breathing is one example, also called “Serpent Breath” or “Breath of Fire”), or by setting the intention to invite the spirit of a specific teacher, loved one, or deity to yoke with the practitioner and help deepen the practice
. Yoga is actually an ancient spiritual pagan practice. Yoga was thought to have been practiced for some time before its religious text, called the Yoga Sutras, was recorded around two thousand years ago. This text explains paths of practices with the final goal of ultimate "freedom" from all attachments and sense of self--of becoming one with god and reaching "ultimate knowledge. "The pagan god of yoga, called Ishvara, is claimed by the Yoga Sutras to be the source of all knowledge. This god Ishvara is represented by the symbol and sound of "Om" . Practitioners are instructed to repeat this name (mantra repetition) to deepen their practice. This means that chanting "Om" is not a meaningless practice of sound vibrations calming the body. It is an invocation of the spirit associated with Ishvara. Practicing the movements of yoga paired with breathing techniques and meditation are also said to deepen the practice. I was taught across varying New Age paths that meditation was necessary to develop in order to "open" oneself and to "progress" on the spiritual path. Yoga is one of these paths. The Yoga Sutras expands on reaching the goal of ultimate knowledge by practicing meditative exercises. The yoga we know in yoga studios and gyms is one of the practices along this path outlined in the Yoga Sutras. The path encourages meditation to quiet and open oneself to the spiritual, esoteric realm. Yoga is a movement meditation.
Technically speaking Yoga is based on a Far Eastern view of both the physical and spiritual aspects of a human being. These exercises are not just meant for practitioners physical well-being. They have been specifically created to supposedly “open up the chakras. ”According to yogic lore, seven “chakras,” or spiritual energy centers, exist in the body. The first five are located along the spine. The sixth is the “third eye,” and the seventh is the crown chakra, located at the top of the head.
Adherents believe something called the kundalini (the latent “serpent power” supposedly coiled at the base of the spine) rises up through the chakras especially during deep meditation. This “awakening of the kundalini” is considered essential in bringing a person to “God consciousness.” Each chakra is also associated with a certain Hindu deity. These deities are all mythical beings, full of humanlike frailties and faults .A yoga practitioner is believed to be able to exit his body through these chakras, especially the third eye or the crown chakra, and experience higher, spiritual realms. Yoga is created to prepares the body and mind for these kinds of experiences.
Practitioners of yoga may have no knowledge of these things when participating in this form of exercise, but ignorance does not sanctify or purify the system from its attachment to Hindu religion spirituality Furthermore, no promises of body transcendence or elevated consciousness are attached to aerobics, isometrics, weightlifting, jogging or other methods of exercising. It should be mentioned that in order to be a certified yoga teacher by the standards of that industry, a teacher must spend a certain number of hours studying Vedic philosophy and the teachings of certain yoga masters from the East. If Yoga is just a set of purely physical exercises why such a thing would be required ?
In the words of a Yoga teacher Sri Sri Ravi Shankar :” The definition for ‘asana‘ is a posture that is stable and pleasant. You should feel comfortable when doing yoga asanas. What is the definition of comfort? When you don’t feel the body. If you are sitting in some odd positions then you feel those parts of the body, painfully. Your focus is more on the discomfort there. When you do any asana, what you feel first is discomfort. But if you take your mind through it, you will find that in just a few minutes the discomfort has disappeared and you don’t feel the body. You feel an expansion or infinity in the postures. How should a posture be done? Get into a position and let go of the effort. What happens then? Infinity abides in you. So each asana should be done keeping in mind that the goal of this is not just the correctness of the posture, but to feel an expansion within. This is the most important thing in yoga asanas. The purpose of yoga is not to keep a good physical shape but to experience infinity and timeless expansion within. And that starts happening to you with some practice.
People practice Yoga for many reasons and indeed this practice can help with some problems and improve practitioners health.
Physical Benefits of Yoga
Improved Body Alignment (reduces joint pain)
Mental Benefits of Yoga
On the other hand we can see that Yoga practice benefits are no different from benefits that come from other sports activities like martial arts, aerobic, running … the difference these practices unlike Yoga have no religious foundation and are completely free of any religious aspects.
While in the mind of the vast majority of people Yoga is a synonym for light stretching exercises in reality Yoga practice is entirely something else.
Those stretching exercises everyone know are of Hata Yoga, the simplest and most widely spread Yoga system. These exercises are in fact equivalent of Christian mass or Muslim prayer. Engaging the Yoga practice ,a person knowingly or ,which mostly the case, unknowingly engages Hindu religious practice.
Many types of Yoga , actually most of them uses meditation or some other consciousness altering method . More about effect of meditation can be found here
Meditation is in fact created in India as a part of Yoga( Hindu) religious practice. The goal of meditation techniques used in various Yoga schools is not to make people better physically or mentally but to achieve the ultimate goal of Hindu religious practice. While there some benefits from meditation, these benefits are side effects, not the main purpose of that practice.
Yoga is legitimate religious practice as much as any other. If the person is fully aware of what Yoga is and engage this practice then it is perfectly OK. On the other hand, in most of the cases people are not aware what they are actually getting into because Yoga is advertised as everything else except what really is.
While Yoga, just as it is the case with Buddhist based meditation techniques, is advertised as ultimate method which cures almost everything the truth is actually quite different. There are serious danger in this practice that influence body and mind in negative manner.
In a small survey of 110 Finnish Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practitioners, published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy in 2008, 62 percent reported a musculoskeletal injury that lasted longer than one month. But, a 2012 large survey of 2,500 Australian yoga participants published in the International Journal of Yoga, reported that almost 79 percent of yogis experienced no injury.
As with any exercise program, it is extremely important to consult with a physician before structuring a yoga practice .In addition to discussing the potential yoga workout program with a physician, it is also recommended that beginners work with an instructor or take a class to become fully knowledgeable of the different poses and proper movements. The most common negative side effect from practicing yoga is physical injury, these injuries can include, but are not limited to wrist pain, neck pain, back pain, tearing of ligaments and tendons, pulling muscles, ankle pain, knee pain, and vertigo.Aggravation of high blood pressure is another negative side effect of Yoga practice. Forceful breathing and inversion poses can also increase your blood pressure. Another possible negative side effect is complications with glaucoma. Gastric problems may also occur from practicing yoga including nausea, sour stomach and vomiting.
The negative side effects of yoga are not always physical. Mental instability can also be a side effect of practicing too much yoga or practicing it incorrectly. Some negative, and severe, side effects can include pseudo death, pseudo psychosis, confusion, increased anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal patterns, depression, homicidal urges, and feelings to self-mutilate. Headaches, temporary blindness, sexual pains, and social issues may also arise.
Someone may ask why there is an article about Yoga on martial arts blog. The reason is simple, many martial arts instructors are mixing Yoga spiritual practice with their martial styles and encourage their students to practice Yoga in order to improve their fighting training without really knowing or deliberately not telling the whole story. Spirituality of any kind will not improve anyone’s fighting abilities and martial styles have already developed their own systems of stretching, building power and speed so there is no need for additional Yoga practice.