Yoga is a systematic practice of physical exercise, breath control, relaxation, diet control, and positive thinking and meditation aimed at developing harmony in the body, mind, and environment. The practice entails low-impact physical activity, postures (called asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), relaxation, and meditation. Most people are familiar with the physical poses or yoga positions but don’t know that yoga involves so much more.

What are the benefits of yoga?

In the health fields, yoga techniques are being applied in health promotion programs, substance abuse treatment programs, and as a complementary treatment for diseases such as anxiety disorders, depression, coronary heart disease, cancers, and HIV/AIDS. Yoga is a low-cost self-help approach to well-being.

The origin is a Sanskrit word Yog meaning union. Yoga is a union of the organ systems in the body with the consciousness in the mind. Philosophically, yoga produces a union of body, mind, and energy (or soul or spirit) to bring about a state of equanimity (calmness). Progressing to an even more advanced state, blending science and philosophy, one experiences a union of body, mind, internal energy, and the all-pervading cosmic energy, resulting in better physical health, mental control, and, ultimately, self-realization.

 

What Is the History of Yoga?

The origins of yoga are shrouded in the mists of time. The ancient wisdom is known as “the supreme science of life” is believed to have been revealed to the great sages of India several thousand years ago.

Yoga is an ancient system of physical and mental practices that originated during the Indus Valley civilization in South Asia. The fundamental purpose of yoga is to foster harmony in the body, mind, and environment.

Yoga professes a complete system of physical, mental, social, and spiritual development. For generations, this philosophy was passed on from the master teacher to the student. The first written records of the practice of yoga appeared around 200 BC in the Yogasutra of Patanjali. The system consisted of the eightfold path or Ashtanga yoga.

In the West, several schools of yoga are popular and use some or all limbs of Asthangayoga described by Patanjali. The eight limbs are as follows:

  • Yama: rules for successful living in a society
  • Niyama: techniques for managing and purifying self
  • Asaana: posture techniques for physical and mental balance (what most people think of as yoga)
  • Pranayama: breathing techniques for physical and mental balance
  • Pratihara: techniques for detaching the mind from the senses for mental balance and calm
  • Dharana: concentration techniques for mental balance and calm
  • Dhyana: meditation techniques for mental balance and calm
  • Samadhi: ultimate advanced meditation techniques and psychic procedures attained after regular practice for universal consciousness

The process involves the arousal of the Kundalini Shakti or serpent power, believed to be located at the base of the human spine. As one practices the various techniques, this power/latent energy rises through a series of centers or Chakras corresponding to various endocrine glands. When this power reaches the highest center, which is associated with the hypothalamus gland regulating the hormonal secretion of the endocrine system, control over the hypothalamus results. In this way, the secretion of hormones from various endocrine glands can be regulated. This mechanism may explain the importance of yoga as a stress management technique.

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