April 19, 2012

The Therapeutic Benefits of Spiritual Yoga. ~ Vicki Starfire

Yoga practiced today in Western countries comes in a confusing array of methods and names—Hatha, Iyengar, Raja, Tantra and the list goes on and on.

In addition, the yoga classes have too often been separated from the historical roots of its origin in India and other Asian countries. Some classes look more like gymnastics or other kinds of exercise classes. However, the trend now is to put back these spiritual aspects to make yoga not only more meaningful to the whole person but also to increase its therapeutic and healing benefits.

Beryl Bender Birch describes herself as a “spiritual teacher and yoga therapist”.  Recently, she advocated the importance of putting the spiritual side into her classes. This is a long way from her 2002 book and companion DVD, Power Yoga: The Practice. Mind you, they are still very popular on Amazon.com and has been for over 9 years, with over 300,000 sold.

A recent research project involved 81 students at Southern University of Mississippi who had mild to moderate stress, depression or anxiety. They were divided into three groups, group one receiving “integrated yoga” (Kripalu or spiritual yoga), group two receiving only yoga as an exercise and group three (the control group) receiving no yoga or spiritual training. The results after seven weeks: the integrated and exercise groups showed a reduction in depression and stress compared to the control group, but only the integrated group showed a reduction in anxiety. The researchers concluded that the integration teaching of yoga exercises and spiritual ideas was more therapeutic, healing and transformative.

As yoga was historically taught with spiritual lessons, perhaps we should review some of these basics.

According to Dr. Swami Shankardev Saraswati writing for the Yoga Journal, ”yoga” means union. True yoga, he says is “union with the divine.” He goes on to say, “In essence, spirituality deals with our relationship with what is beyond us as individuals. It is a very personal inner journey.”

Another source, Paths to Power Network in an article, “Yoga and Spirituality” gives some steps to using yoga as a spiritual development tool.

1. Don’t lie, cheat or take advantage of others
2. Limit stimulants such as coffee, tea and alcohol
3. Practice asanas (yoga poses) regularly
4. Practice breathing exercises (pranayama)
5. Meditate twice a day
6. Be mindful and present with everything you do.

While these are the basic tenets of most religions and certainly Buddhism, it’s good to think of them in combination with yoga. It seems there is some agreement that “integrated yoga”, both modern and very ancient at the same time, is called Kripalu Yoga.

According to one of the official Kripalu websites and the article, “What is Yoga?”, here are the different kinds of yoga:

Karma Yoga—yoga of action and service to humanity

Jana Yoga—yoga of discriminative wisdom

Bhakti Yoga— yoga of devotion

Hatha Yoga—yoga of postures and breathing exercises

Raja Yoga—yoga of concentration and meditation

Tantra Yoga—yoga of integrating polarities

Kripalu Yoga—yoga of integrating spirituality

I notice that Kundalini Yoga is not included in this list, which I consider to be on the spiritual end of yoga. Perhaps there are other “flavors” of yoga that have been omitted.

Do you agree with this breakdown of yoga types? Do you think we are returning to the yoga “roots”, so to speak?

Please leave your comments.

1. “Is Spiritual Yoga Better for You?” Bruan, T., Yoga Basics (January 19, 2012), online: www.pathstopower.net/yoga/yoga-and-spirituality.php
2. “Spiritual Yoga” in The Theosophical Movement, Vol 73, No 8 (June 2003), online: www.teosofia.com/Mumbai/7308yoga.html
3. “Teaching the Spiritual Essence of Yoga with Integrity”, Dr. Saraswati, S.S., Yoga Journal, online: www.yogajournal.com/for_teachers/1702
4. “What is Yoga?” Kripalu, online: www.kripaly.org/about_us/479
5. “Yoga and Spirituality” Paths to Power Network (June 10, 2009), online: www.pathstopower.net/yoga/yoga-and-spirituality.php
6. “Yoga Instructor Stretches Students’ Bodies and Minds” Clearwood, M., The Elm (March 9, 2012), online: www.elm.washcoll.edu/index.php/2012/03/yoga-instructor-stretches-students-bodies-minds

The author, Vicki Starfire, is a palmist, writer and psychic who has traveled and lived in parts of Asia, South America, Europe and Mexico. She presently lives near Bellingham, Washington and on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia. Website: http://www.mysticfare.com  e-mail: [email protected].





Editor Tanya L. Markul

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