Many approaches to yoga exist today. In the United States, three methods are most well known; hatha, kundalini and ashtanga. At the Ayurveda Health Center we use and teach hatha yoga as a therapeutic measure for healing and wellness.

Yoga literally means "union" but the real meaning is much more complex. A simple answer to what yoga means is that it harmonizes the multiple energies and elements of the body and brings about health but again this is to simple.

Physically, yoga means the union of pran (inward moving air) with apan (down/out -ward moving air). This is a union in which all the energy in the body comes together and flows up the sushumna or main inner tube of the spine. This idea of the union of energy is further developed through the union of the secondary energy pathways on either side of the spine. The right side holds the pingala or solar tube. This pathway is pitta predominant and hot in its nature. The left side holds the ida or lunar tube. This pathway is vayu / kapha predominant and cool in its nature. In the physical sense yoga is the union of the physical energies of the body, which move in the secondary tubes and joining them in the sushumna. This energy then moves to the higher energy centers and begins the purification process necessary for advances meditation practice.

Yoga as union does not stop here. The physical union we just spoke about serves as the foundation for the union of prana (life energy) and mind. It brings about the evolution necessary to integrate the mind and body. This integration is often thought of as the ultimate goal but again it is only a stage. Once the mind and body (prana) are integrated and the energies united the body can be cleansed of any impurities that it may contain. This cleansing process is detailed and very important to the practice of yoga. Once the body is cleansed it can be transcended. The person can move from the gross reality of the human body and its dependence on sensation to the subtle reality that exists beyond the illusion of physical sensation.

Finally, yoga is the union of the mind (prana) with the self or ultimate reality. This is a union of pranic energy (shakti) with universal consciousness (shiva). Once this union is accomplished, the goal is to exist within its grace as much a possible. To live in universal consciousness is in fact to become one with God, whatever that is.

In the modern world yoga is presented, taught and understood as a form of exercise that promotes health by improving strength, flexibility and reducing stress. In fact, all of these are true however; they are only side effects of yoga not goals. According to Ayurveda the practice of yoga has three purposes.

*Hatha yoga asana are an excellent method to promote the healing of specific illnesses and physical problems.
*Hatha yoga will automatically cleans and integrate the body and mind.

*Hatha yoga prepares the student for advanced spiritual practices. Hatha yoga is used as the first step in the self-realization process.

The Ayurveda Health Center uses yoga to heal current problems as well as promote general health. The primary goal however is always self-realization and that is the foundation for all of the center's practices.