Imagine an activity that increases your flexibility, strengthens your muscles, centers your thoughts, and relaxes and calms you. Yoga does all that and more! In this article, I will review a brief history and the philosophy of yoga, the different types of yoga, the benefits, equipment you need to do it, where to do it, how to get started, and a whole lot more.
Yoga is an ancient physical and spiritual discipline and branch of philosophy that originated in India reportedly more than 5,000 years ago. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to yoke, join, or unite. The Iyengarschool of yoga defines yuj as the “joining or integrating of all aspects of the individual – body with mind and mind with soul – to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life.” The ultimate aim of yoga, they claim, is to reach kaivalya (emancipation or ultimate freedom).
There is no written record of who invented yoga because it was practiced by yogis (yoga practitioners) long before any written account of it could have come into existence. Yogis over the millennia passed down the discipline to their students, and many different schools of yoga developed as it spread. The earliest written record of yoga, and one of the oldest texts in existence, is generally believed to have been written by Patanjali, an Indian yogic sage who lived somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago. Patanjali is credited with writing the Yoga Sutras (sutra means “thread” in Sanskrit), which are the principles, philosophy, and practices of yoga that are still followed today. Although many schools of yoga have evolved over the centuries, they all follow these same fundamental principles. Buddhism and other Eastern spiritual traditions use many of the yoga techniques or derivations of those techniques.