A Beginner’s Guide to Yoga
Increasing back pain, raging stress, the onset of a migraine . . .who hasn’t experienced some or all of
these sensations at some time? Finding a cure for these discomforts would immortalize their discoverer
and virtually ensure sainthood. Although not a panacea, yoga is a near cure-all for achieving relaxation
and inner peace.
Yoga, which means union or balance (1), dates back further than 2,500 years ago to the sacred Hindu
religion. The ancient Rig-Veda (Knowledge of Praise) contains hymns created by kavi (seer-poets) able
to look beyond their five senses. The hymns detail their ecstasies and insights, and form the basis of
archaic Yoga (2). Devotees of Yoga today still seek these ecstasies and insights, and have various forms
of Yoga to pursue to help them achieve them.
Just like a flower can have many petals that extend from one stem, Yoga has many types that all share
basic fundamentals. The four forms follow:
1. Karma Yoga (path of action)
2. Bhakthi Yoga (path of devotion)
3. Raja Yoga (the science of mental control)
4. Gyana Yoga (the path of knowledge)
While these forms of Yoga may appear disparate, in reality they complement each other.
Raja Yoga, the science of mental control, contains three subdivisions,
MantraYoga, Kundalini Yoga, and Hatha Yoga (3). All of these modes of Yoga target control of mental
modifications and achieving the absolute. Hatha Yoga, the best known among them, seeks a
transformation through physical purification and strengthening. The goal of Hatha Yoga is to magnify
the awareness of the body and mind. Evolving from two Sanskrit words, Hatha literally consists of two
planets: ha, which means sun, and tha, meaning moon. These two planets symbolize the two halves of
the body and mind. Hatha Yoga aims to equalize these two halves to create a fully functioning