Yoga is a popular discipline that educates and strengthens the body, mind and spirit and whose origins lay in ancient India. In fact, yoga is part of the Hindu philosophy and it represents one of its six schools; but yoga can be found to have more than one version, depending on the religion that practices it, because it is also present in Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. One of the first writings that present the precepts of Yoga is the ancient Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, out of which the form of Hatha yoga emerged, promoting the body’s health and purity.
The meanings of the word yoga are found in ancient Vedic and Epic Sanskrit and they are generally “to add”, “to unite” or “to apply” and, on some extended level, “endeavor” or “diligence”. What is clearly understood though is that it stands for hard work, adhibition, working towards some higher goal. If used for religious purposes, yoga is practiced in order to get in contact with powerful deities such as Vishnu or Shiva through meditation. But this form of meditation can also be used secularly, to calm and clear the mind, to see beyond the observable, to gain insight on a matter.
As the popularity of yoga spread throughout the world, it was adopted and adapted to serve other purposes as well, the most common in Western world being that for physical modeling. Thus, the physical postures that yoga requires are used to solve problems of the body and mind, to reduce stress, eliminate back and spine problems and it can also be practiced as a self-standing form of physical fitness, as a complete exercise. Yoga can also be used when recuperating from an accident, helping to balance the mind and heal the body.
Yoga arrived in the Western world in the 19th century, when it was preached in its original form as a philosophy and way of living, but it slowly grew to be a help for the body as well, its popularity reaching its peak in the 1960s. As years passed, it was scientifically proven that yoga has many beneficial influences on the body and that it is especially good for the heart’s health. Though not too difficult to practice, yoga requires training from a professional, because there are also more intense variations that may even provoke physical injury. However, the advantages it brings are very important, so it is a form of exercising recommended for people of all ages.