One of the many subsets of the 5000 year old system used to increase the well being of the mind, body and spirit, is known as Hatha Yoga.
In Hatha Yoga participants combine a series of stretching exercises referred to as asanas, specialized breathing techniques and mental concentration. In fact, the famous Lotus position is one of the many asanas used in Hatha Yoga.
The goal of the using Hatha Yoga, and most certainly the other forms of Yoga as well, is to fuse and blend the human spirit with the spirit of the Universe. In so doing the person practicing Yoga increases their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health along the way. It is the practice of living as one with the surrounding environment and the world as a whole.
One of the main focuses of Hatha Yoga, unlike some of the other subsets of Yoga, is that Hatha Yoga is predominately practiced to prepare the body so that the spirit can accomplish its mission. What many people don’t understand is that when there is an unhealthy and unfit body, it is very difficult for the spirit to accomplish its tasks. Therefore in Hatha Yoga the goal is to encourage the body to move toward a level of health and well-being which will then act as a launching pad for the spirit to move onto its work.
The word asanas literally means “comfortable or stable positions”. There are multiple asanas and they are practiced with two objectives in mind. One is to condition the body to enable it to hold a particular asana for an extended period of time. When the body is in this resting form the mind is able to move into a meditative state allowing the spirit to also move along its path. The second reason that asanas are used is to bring about increased physical well being, mental alertness and spiritual health. The asanas open the body up to receive, release or otherwise balance the energy inside with that of the outside Universe.
Jnana Yoga. This is the most difficult path, requiring tremendous strength of will and intellect. Taking the philosophy of Vedanta the Jnana Yogi uses his mind to inquire into its own nature. We perceive the space inside and outside a glass as different, just as we see ourselves as separate from God.
Jnana Yoga leads the devotee to experience his unity with God directly by breaking the glass, dissolving the veils of ignorance. Before practicing Jnana Yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths – for without selflessness and love of God, strength of body and mind, the search for self-realization can become mere idle speculation.