America is abuzz about yoga. The poses known as Sun Salutations are a staple now on American TV. Statistics from The New York Times estimate that as many as 12 million Americans do yoga. Forty percent of American health and fitness centers offer hatha yoga, with more facilities added all the time. A recent search on Amazon.com pulls up more than 1,350 yoga book titles.
Celebrity interest in yoga definitely fuels the hype. In the 1960s, the Beatles sparked interest in yoga by traveling to India to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. During the 1970s, actors Jeff Bridges, Ruth Buzzi and Tom Smothers posed for photographs in Bikram Choudhury’s book, Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class. In the 1980s musician Sting and David Duchovny of The X-Files both became devotees, and Ali MacGraw released her own yoga video. Recent converts include Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow.
And of course, in the 1990s, the one-time Material Girl herself, Madonna, got serious about her daily yoga practice. Her CD Ray of Light was deeply inspired by her exploration of yoga; she even studied Sanskrit and chanting. And in the film The Next Best Thing Madonna played an Ashtanga yoga teacher. (Ashtanga is an advanced style of yoga requiring more strength and endurance than the better-known hatha yoga.)
But aside from the hype and the heavy breathing, Westerners find yoga one of the most accessible and useful of the Eastern disciplines. Yoga translated from the Sanskrit means “union” or to “yoke together”: a discipline, according to Kenneth Davis in his book Don’t Know Much About Mythology, “designed to link the physical body and mind with the unconscious soul.” In India, there are eight schools, or limbs, of the yoga path that attract different personalities and spiritual temperaments, as follows:
· Raja (“royal”) to control the intellect
· Hatha to master the body
· Kriya for spiritual action
· Karma for selfless action
· Bhakti for heartfelt devotion
· Jnana to promote knowledge or wisdom
· Tantra to enhance sexual ritual
· Mantra for the sacred sounds
· Kundalini to understand the subtle energy of the chakras.
Each school has its own teachings and sacred texts, accumulated over the centuries, from which to study.
Alan Davidson is the author of the free report "Body
Breakthroughs for Life Breakthroughs: How to Peak Your
Physical, Emotional, Mental, Moral, and Spiritual IQs for a
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Alan's also the author of Body Brilliance: Mastering Your
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and Winner of Two 2007 Book-of-the-Year Awards.
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