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Introduction to Modern Yoga Practices

Updated on December 27, 2015

Evolution of Yoga

The history of yoga is quite rich, dating to as far back as during the ancient times wherein people practiced it for its therapeutic and rejuvenating benefits. Since it has been introduced in other parts of the world, it has been embraced for a variety of reasons. For instance, eastern practice of yoga is more focused on the spiritual side of yoga. While the western practitioners of yoga embraced it as a fitness approach that provides internal and external body cleansing.

Therefore, regardless of the styles and methods used in practicing yoga, it all represents one thing – taking steps toward a holistic improvement of mind, body, and spiritual health. The term is taken off a Sanskrit word that literally means union, which explains why it has a holistic focus for all aspects of the human health.

There has been several misconceptions on yoga, however. Most people are intimidated to practice yoga because they believe it requires a certain level of health or fitness condition before you can begin. But the reality is, simplicity is the real essence of yoga and it is therefore suitable for people of all ages, gender, or health status to practice.

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Traditional vs Modern Yoga

To better understand the difference between traditional and modern yoga practices, it is best to compare them next to each other. It can be said, however, that the eastern philosophy of yoga follows the traditional teachings of the practice. Meanwhile, western practitioners of yoga are more inclined towards the modern approach to yoga.

The difference in approach used for each philosophy of yoga also impact the benefit that one can derive from yoga.

Eastern (Traditional View) of Yoga

The ultimate goal in practicing yoga in the east is to attain self realization, which is considered as the highest possible level of consciousness that one can achieve. According to yogic experts, an individual who has reached this stage of human consciousness creates a union with a Divine Power. This is then useful in one's spiritual progress, according to the teachings of yoga in the east.

This spiritual focus in practicing yoga can be achieved through different methods such as reflection, deep listening, and meditation. The benefits that one can experience using this approach include the ability to attain inner peace, contentment, and an overall positive outlook in life, which is very important in combating stress in one's everyday life.

Western (Modern View) of Yoga

Veering away from the spiritual focus in yoga, the western philosophy of yoga is more individualistic in its approach. Indeed, it has seen a major transition since the inception of yoga techniques until it was introduced into the western part of the world.

The western concept of yoga is similar to the modern view of yoga, something of which is more prevalent these days. Current practitioners of yoga view it as a fitness tool, which is also the reason why Hatha Yoga is popular in the west. Therefore, all the physical exercises known to yoga are incorporated in this practice and coupled with other yoga components such as breathing and meditation to create balance and bring in more energy.

Modern Yoga Practices

Yoga has indeed come a long way from being a primeval Indian art. Credit most of that to the fact that yoga is a flexible practice that enables individual practitioners to adapt their own method, depending on their skill level and their goals.

Since the goals of individual yogis are constantly changing, it has led several yogic experts to create new school of yoga thought. Most of them are modified versions of the basic yoga styles that are either done to make it easily adaptable even for beginners, or made more challenging for those who want to optimize the benefits of yoga practice. So, if you are contemplating on joining a yoga class, make sure to do a little research on what yoga practices are being offered to ensure that you can keep up since some of these classes can be quite intensive.

To give you an idea of what common new age yoga practices are available these days, they are briefly discussed below.

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About Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga takes on a spiritual approach in its yoga practice. In fact, it is known as the path of devotion that require its practitioners to practice selflessness and devote themselves to a supreme being. As a basic doctrine of Bhakti Yoga, one has to eliminate any form of worldly attachments that does not contribute anything to the advancement of your spiritual journey with God. It is often performed with asanas in combination with breathing and meditation, exhibiting the kind of balance that it wishes to exemplify in an individual. 

About Karma Yoga

As you might have come to associate with the word karma, it is a path to action. Therefore, a distinctive approach in this modern yoga practice focuses on the need to form positive habits in order for an individual to reap positive effects in life. Your action will certainly produce its corresponding effect in your life.

Hence, karma yoga emphasizes the need to follow the yama and niyama as espoused in the first two stages of yoga. In a deeper level of interpretation, this action should look at God as the center and must therefore abide by His rule.

About Gyana Yoga

As the path to knowledge, Gyana Yoga uses meditation in order to gain more knowledge about the self and the universe. However, this is not just any type of knowledge. In fact, it does not refer to intellectual knowledge but practical wisdom that enables an individual to gain a deeper understanding of her/his existence.

About Raja Yoga

This is another modern method of yoga that has a meditative heart. Raja Yoga's goal is to reach a state wherein an individual can gain a deeper awareness of the self as part of the larger universe and establish an identity that way. Its practice is also closely tied to the the eight stages observed in traditional yoga methods.

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