Yoga is a discipline to improve or develop one's inherent power in a balanced manner. It offers the means to attain complete self-realisation. The literal meaning of the Sanskrit word Yoga is 'Yoke'. Yoga can therefore be defined as a means of uniting the individual spirit with the universal spirit of God. According to Maharishi Patanjali, Yoga is the suppression of modifications of the mind. YOGA : The concepts and practices of Yoga originated in India about several thousand years ago. Its founders were great Saints and Sages. The great Yogis presented rational interpretation of their experiences of Yoga and brought about a practical and scientifically sound method within every one's reach. Yoga today, is no longer restricted to hermits, saints, and sages; it has entered into our everyday lives and has aroused a worldwide awakening and acceptance in the last few decades. The science of Yoga and its techniques have now been reoriented to suit modern sociological needs and lifestyles. Experts of various branches of medicine including modern medical sciences are realising the role of these techniques in the prevention and mitigation of diseases and promotion of health.

Yoga is one of the six systems of Vedic philosophy. Maharishi Patanjali, rightly called "The Father of Yoga" compiled and refined various aspects of Yoga systematically in his "Yoga Sutras" (aphorisms). He advocated the eight folds path of Yoga, popularly known as "Ashtanga Yoga" for all-round development of human beings. They are:- Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. These components advocate certain restraints and observances, physical discipline, breath regulations, restraining the sense organs, contemplation, meditation and samadhi. These steps are believed to have a potential for improvement of physical health by enhancing circulation of oxygenated blood in the body, retraining the sense organs thereby inducing tranquility and serenity of mind. The practice of Yoga prevents psychosomatic disorders and improves an individual's resistance and ability to endure stressful situations.  
Salient features of Yoga :
1.Yoga a universal practical discipline
Yoga is universal in character for practice and application irrespective of culture, nationality, race, caste, creed, sex, age and physical condition. Neither by reading the texts nor by wearing the garb of an ascetic, one can become an accomplished Yogi. Without practice, no one can experience the utility of Yogic techniques nor can realise of its inherent potential. Only regular practice (sadhana) creates a pattern in body and mind to uplift them. It requires keen desire on the part of the practitioner to experience the higher states of consciousness through training the mind and refining the gross consciousness.

2.Yoga as evolutionary process
Yoga is an evolutionary process in the development of human consciousness. Evolution of total consciousness does not necessarily begin in any particular man rather it begins only if one chooses it to begin. The vices like use of alcohol and drugs, working exhaustively, indulging too much in sex and other stimulation is to seek oblivion, a return to unconsciousness. Indian yogis begin from the point where western psychology end. If Fraud's psychology is the psychology of disease and Maslow's psychology is the psychology of the healthy man then Indian psychology is the psychology of enlightenment. In Yoga, it is not a question of psychology of man rather it is a question of higher consciousness. It is not also the question of mental health, rather, it is question of spiritual growth.

3.Yoga as soul therapy
All paths of Yoga (Japa, Karma, Bhakti etc.) have healing potential to shelter out the effects of pains. However, one especially needs proper guidance from an accomplished exponent, who has already treaded the same track to reach the ultimate goal. The particular path is to be chosen very cautiously in view of his aptitude either with the help of a competent counselor or consulting an accomplished Yogi.
Types fof Yoga :

Japa Yoga
To concentrate one's mind on divine name or holy syllable, mantra etc. like 'OM', 'Rama', 'Allah', 'God', 'Vahe Guru' etc. through repeated recitation or remembrance.

Karma Yoga
Teaches us to perform all actions without having any desire for their fruit. In this sadhana, a Yogi considers his duty as divine action, perform it with whole-hearted dedication but shuns away all desires.

Gyana Yoga
Teaches us to discriminate between self and non-self and to acquire the knowledge of one's spiritual entity through the study of scriptures, company of Saints and practices of meditation.

Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti Yoga, a system of intense devotion with emphasis on complete surrender to divine will. The true follower of Bhakti Yoga is free from egoism remains humble and unaffected by the dualities of the world.

Raja Yoga
Raja Yoga popularly known as "Ashtanga Yoga" is for all-round development of human beings. These are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Swara Yoga
Swara Yoga is the Science which is about the realisation of cosmic consciousness, through the awareness/ observation then control/ manipulation of the flow of breath in the nostrils. Swara Yoga involves the systematic study of the breath flowing through the nostril (or Swara) in relation to the prevailing phases of the Sun, Moon, time of day and direction. It is the association of the breath in relation to the activities or phases or positions of the Sun, Moon, Planets, Seasons, Time of day, with the physical and mental conditions of the individual and then taking the appropriate action according to these subtle relations.

Kundalini Yoga is a part of Tantric Tradition. Since the dawn of creation, the Tantrics and yogis have realised that in this physical body, there is a potential force residing in Muladhara Chakra, the first of seven Chakras. The seat of Kundalini is a small gland at the base of the spinal cord. In the masculine body it is in the perineum between the urinary and excretory organs. In the female body its location is at the root of the uterus in the cervix. Those people who have awakened this supernatural force have been called Rishis, Prophets, Yogis, Siddhars and other names according to the time, tradition and culture. awaken the Kundalini, you must prepare yourself through yogic techniques such as Shatkriya, Asana, Pranayama, Bandha, Mudra and Meditation. Awakening of Kundalini results in an explosion in the brain as the dormant or sleeping areas start blossoming like flowers.

As described by Yogic texts, Nadis are flow of energy which we can visualize at the psychic level as having distinct channels, light, colour, sound and other characteristics. The entire network of nadis is so vast that even yogic texts differ in their calculations of the exact number. Reference in the Goraksha Sataka or Goraksh Samhita and Hatha Yoga Pradipika place their number at 72,000; emerged from the navel center- the Manipura Chakra. Of all the thousands of nadis, Susumna is said to be the most important. The Shiva Swarodaya enumerates ten major nadis which connect to the 'doorways' leading in and out of the body. Of these ten, Ida, Pingala and Sushumna are the most important, they are the high voltage wires which conduct the energy to the substations or Chakras situated along the spinal column.

Yogic practices
Yogic practices have been practised for thousand of years mainly for the sake of the final goal of liberation from the cycle of re-birth and the pain associated with it. These practices were intended to influence the mind more than the body. Hatha Yogis, who flourished during 15th century AD, gave more emphasis on the body. Their ultimate aim was also the same, namely attainment of the state of Samadhi. But their means were more suited to the abilities of the common man.

Charecteristics of Yogic practices :
The Yogic system of health involves the exercise of skeletal as well as the deep-seated smooth muscles of the body.
The intra-thoracic and intra-abdominal pressure may be mentioned as special characteristics of the Yoga system of health.

Little expenditure of energy and money is involved in the hatha yoga practices.
The rich as well as poor, and men and women of all ages can practise Yogic practices.
Every school of Yoga emphasised specific practices, but their aim always remained the same; the highest level of integration through the control of the modification of mind.
The nature of Yogic practices is psycho-neurophysical.
All Yogic practices are complementary.

Classification of Yogic Practices :
People generally ignore Yamas and Niyamas in practice considering them to be part of conduct but they should also be practised. Taking into account Ashtanga Yoga, the Yogic practices may be classified as

(i) Yamas
(ii) Niyamas
(iii) Asanas
(iv) Pranayamas
(v) Bandhas and Mudras
(vi) Kriyas
(vii) Meditation and
(viii) Attitude training practices.

Each one of these classification consists of a group of several practices. These practices are briefly discussed as below:-


The practice of Yama paves way to increase the power of concentration, mental purity and steadiness. The following are the Yamas:

Ahimsa - not to harm others
Satya - to be truthful
Asteya - not to steal
Brahmacharya - celibacy
Aparigraha - not to possess beyond actual needs

There are five Niyamas :

Souch - external and internal purification

Santosh - contentment

Tapa - to make right efforts to achieve goals

Swadhyaya - to study authentic texts and religious scriptures to acquire correct knowledge of self and the supreme divinity

Ishwar Pranidhan - complete surrender to the divine will

Yoga practice: Surya Namaskar

Surya Namaskar is the most useful and popular mode of Yogic exercise, which briefly bestows the benefits of Asanas, Pranayamas and Mudras altogether. It consists of a series of 12 postures, which are performed early in the morning facing the rising Sun. Surya Namaskar energises the entire neuro-glandular and neuro- muscular system of the body and its regular practice ensures a balanced supply of oxygenated blood and perfect harmony to all the systems of the body, thus invigorating the entire psychosomatic system of human constitution.