Yoga is For Everyone

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That's what everyone says, right?
I was talking to a good friend of mine last night about this blog and how I wanted it to be accessible to everyone--even those who can't put their big toe to their third eye--when I said, "yoga is for everyone."
Now, I totally believe this to be true, but my friend lives in Los Angeles where I get the feeling that the yoga culture is not particularly in line with what Patanjali had in mind when he codified the yoga sutras.
So, that got me thinking that people who don't do the physical practice of yoga (hatha) and even some of those who do, are still convinced that yoga is a form of exercise/stretching that requires $80 pants and a beautiful body.

Here is the reality. There are 7 main types of yoga--essentially there is "something for everyone." Many practitioners perform multiple types of yoga, but any one practice eventually leads to the same goal of liberation.

Hatha This is one of two that involves the performance of postures. The goal of performing the poses of hatha yoga is to increase the flow of prana which increases your sense of vitality which begins to make you more aware of the present moment and your very aliveness. This type of yoga should eventually lead to a meditation practice. (See my post on this here: Asana)

Mantra In this type of yoga, the practitioner repeats a phrase in Sanskrit, which is usually a prayer or a praise of a Hindu deity. But it doesn't have to be. It could be a Christian phrase or something that you find inspirational. You make space in your heart and you repeat the phrase 108 times. You can say the phrase out loud, silently but with lips moving or mentally. This repetition is called japa.
Om which is often chanted at the beginning of yoga classes is a potential mantra. It is a call to consciousness.

Bhakti This type of yoga is devotional. This is essentially giving your whole life and being to the devotion of a higher power. Notice that I did not say God. For many people this is "God" but it could also be nature, higher consciousness or love. This form of yoga is performed by praying, singing, dancing or any other action that you find can best express your devotion.

Laya/Kundalini This is the type of yoga that I know the least about. It is a meditative form in which you cleanse/open up your chakras (energy centers along the spine) to make way for kundalini energy to rise from the root chakra to the crown of the head. I'm not going to say anything more, because I truly don't understand it.

Karma The yoga of action. This is typically interpreted as "doing good" or giving back to the community. Which isn't a bad way of seeing it. But from the Bhagavad Gita we understand karma yoga as simply "action." There is a catch however, you must do the action (each and every action in your life) without attachment to the fruits of your labor. Damn.

Jnana yoga is the intellectual pursuit to liberation. It is the "path of discernment" in which you separate the real from the unreal. This is also a meditative form. I have heard people say that this is a form of yoga for atheists. Could be.

Raja yoga is the "kings path" of yoga. I have talked about this several times in this blog before. It is the 8-limbed path involving inner and outer observances, posture, breath, withdrawal of the senses, concentration, meditation and merging with consciousness. I think this is a great path for anyone trying to get a beginning grasp on yoga as a whole, before choosing a particular methodology.

I hope this is equally illuminating and inspiring--yoga can be for you at any level. You do not have to be attached to yoga as a form of postures, but rather can think about yoga as a form of liberation.