What is Yoga? Yoga, also known as “union” or “yoking,” is a physical activity in which you stretch and bend your body into different poses. It originated in ancient India but has become popular worldwide. The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word meaning “union” or “yoke.” In Yoga, practitioners attempt to balance their mind, body, and spirit through postures that are designed to be held for long periods of time. These poses consist of two major categories: static and dynamic. Static poses are stationary positions that are held for 5-10 minutes with the aim being to better understand one’s own deepest self while dynamic poses are more active movements that require a lot of strength and breath control. The goal of Yoga is to transcend the limitations of the physical body by using the mind, breath, and spirit to establish a connection between the physical and spiritual self.
Yoga is an ancient practice originating in India. It is a form of exercise that involves physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Yoga is an ancient spiritual practice originating in India. It is used as a form of exercise and combines physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation. Yoga can be performed standing up (known as Ashtanga), sitting down (known as Iyengar), or lying on one’s back (known as Vinyasa). Yoga was introduced to the West in the 19th century by Indian yogis Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda who both preached the benefits of yoga for a healthy mind and body.
Yoga is an ancient Hindu philosophy that is deeply rooted in the belief in universal oneness.
Yoga is practiced for spiritual growth and physical well-being. The word “yoga” comes from a Sanskrit word meaning “to unite”, and has been in use since around 500 BCE.
The practice of yoga consists of eight elements:
- breathing exercises,
- cleansing methods,
- controlled diet,
- detachment from social norms and life’s material desires,
- selfless service to society and all living beings
Postures- A posture is a static position that requires the balance of holding one’s body in place. The human body is primarily made up of three types of muscle: smooth, cardiac, and skeletal. These muscles are used to flex (move from a relaxed position) and extend (to move from a flexed position). In Yoga, asanas are poses that are held for long periods of time ranging from five minutes to more than twenty minutes. These poses consist of two major categories: static and dynamic. Static poses are stationary positions that are held for anywhere from 5-20 minutes with the aim being to better understand one’s own deepest self while dynamic poses are more active movements that require a lot of strength and breath control. The goal of Yoga is not to achieve a totally perfect pose but to transcend the limitations of the physical body by using the mind, breath, and spirit to establish a connection between the physical and spiritual self.
Postures are used in meditation to help one’s mind focus on a particular thought or sensation. A meditator should maintain a flexed position of their spine throughout their meditation practice. These postures are usually held for twenty minutes or longer but can be held for up to five hours in extreme cases.
Breathing techniques- The human body has two major functions: movement and respiration. Movement uses skeletal muscle whereas respiration uses smooth muscle. Since the human body is primarily made up of skeletal muscles, most poses are designed to stretch the body. Proper breathing can help to lengthen and open a tight or closed posture. All breathing techniques in Yoga can be separated into two main categories: Inhalation and exhalation.
- Inhalation- Man has three cavities in which air travels: the upper chest cavity, the middle chest cavity, and the lower chest cavity. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle that separates these cavities and helps us breathe. When the diaphragm contracts it moves downward which increases the volume of both the upper chest cavity and lower chest cavity. This increase in volume allows a greater amount of air to enter the lungs. When the diaphragm relaxes, the volume of both cavity decrease and the air is forced out of the body.
- Exhalation- Lung capacity is measured in liters (where 1 liter = 1000 milliliters). By increasing the strength and size of one’s diaphragm one can increase their lung capacity. As with inhalation, exhalation can be separated into two main categories: forced exhalation and passive exhalation. A forced exhalation means that the body forcefully pushes the air out of the body. One can perform this by suddenly letting go of a pose or tightening their abdominal muscles and diaphragm. The opposite is passive exhalation which occurs when you slowly breathe out through the mouth while pushing with the abdomen and diaphragm. Breathing techniques are used in meditation to help one’s mind focus on a particular thought or sensation. A meditator should maintain a flexed position of their spine throughout their meditation practice. These postures are usually held for twenty minutes or longer but can be held for up to five hours in extreme cases.
Cleansing methods- Yoga practices require a controlled diet. Yoga teaches one to cleanse their body from gunas (colors or qualities that lead to imbalance and which need to be eliminated). The five types of cleansers are called the niyamas:
- Swadhyaya or self-study
- Santosha or contentment
- Tapas or austerity
- Svadhyaya or self study/study of other’s discipline
- Isvara pranidhana, God abiding in one’s heart (also known as Bhakti Yoga)
According to Swami Vivekananda, proper cleansing is essential for both physical and spiritual growth and well being.
Detachment from social norms and life’s material desires- Yoga teaches one to become detached from the world, to gain a level of understanding similar to that of a child. One learns in order to help others. Practitioners are encouraged to follow the path of “Sarvabhaumanah”, or “equal regard for all beings”.
Selfless service to society and all living beings- When one is able to achieve detachment from social norms, they are no longer hurt by others’ actions and are therefore able to perform selfless service for society. Yoga tries to achieve this by teaching one to look at oneself as part of the world and not separate from it. By doing this, one is able to give and not take as is taught in the Gita. Yoga is often categorized by the four “tetramargas”: The benefit of practicing the concept of “equanimity” in Yoga is that it enables one to gain a level of detachment from their surroundings and be able to see things as they truly are.
In conclusion, yoga is a holistic approach to holistic health. To achieve this, one must find the correct balance between the physical, mental, and spiritual realm. In other words, one should strive to be able to treat the body as an extension of their mind and soul.
The ancient Indian scripture, the Veda, says that “the mind is the field of action” — through yoga we learn to master our minds. It is important to find a style of yoga that suits you, whether it be for your physical health or spiritual enlightenment. To determine the best type of yoga for you, you must first try them out to discover what works best for you. There are many types of yoga that can help one with a variety of needs. Your physical health, your mental health, and your spiritual enlightenment all benefit from the practice of yoga.
Yoga originated in India around 5,000 years ago with its first historical evidence dating back to the 7th or 8th century BCE. The oldest known form of yoga comes from the Hindu text Tirukkuṛaḷ (also known as Tiruvalangadu). The oldest extant written reference is in the Maitrayaniya Upanishad dated c. 900 BCE. The Maitrayaniya Upanishad is also one of the earliest texts that mention meditation. In the Upanishad, there is a section called “Aupanisads with moksha-medha” which means “Aupanisad (texts) concerned with final emancipation.” It refers to an early group of texts called the Aitareya and Kena Upanishads as “having moksha-medha (liberation-aim), which are read by Brahmacharins (celibate students).