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Yoga: The History and Evolution

What Is Yoga?

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice which holds its origin in India. It has been practiced for centuries and has become a method of acquiring discipline in life.

History

There is no specific evidence to date the beginning of yoga, but it is considered that the practice developed during the 5th and 6th century BC. The Hindu Upanishads and Vedas are texts that include age old Hindu practices and customs. Yoga has been mentioned in these sacred texts as a way to exercise, meditate,9 and attain spirituality.

The early stages of yoga included yoga sutras defined by Patanjali who devised yoga as the stages towards attaining enlightenment. These yoga sutras strongly influence the current day yoga poses. As centuries passed, Tantra yoga was developed as a way to cleanse the body and mind. The motive behind yoga had changed from attaining enlightenment to achieving a strong physical and spiritual connection.

With passage of time, the advantages of yoga started spreading around the world with more people embracing the practices of yoga. It is now considered one of the best ways to achieve peace of body and mind.

Etymology

Yoga, in Vedic Sanskrit implies joining or uniting in its most literal sense. The word can be derived from either yujir Yoga or yuj samadhau. The former means to bring under yoke or to bind closely in the sense where a person takes on the yoke of spiritual discipline as they start practicing yoga and another meaning is to bind one’s self with God or their own inner self. Yuj samadhau means ‘to concentrate’ which can again be linked to yoga as the practice of meditating to achieve inner peace.

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A yogi or a yogini (female) is a person who follows the philosophies and practices of yoga. In ancient times, they used to renounce the world to take up the practice of yoga. A yogi is seen as a person who holds no desires from the world and looks for absolute independence.

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What Are The Goals Of Yoga?

The ultimate goal of yoga in ancient times was the achievement of moksha which is liberation, however modern day yoga focuses more on gaining balance and control in the life of an individual.

  • The goal of yoga is to destress the mind and free the mind from confusion by providing a sense of calm through the various positions and breath control exercises. It rejuvenates the body and removes negative feelings which accumulate because of the accelerating pace of life where we find it difficult to take time out for ourselves.
  • Yogic poses are known to reduce many risk factors connected to the health of a person. It can cure many physical ailments and help patients get better quickly as they learn to inculcate optimism.
  • Practicing yoga poses helps you detoxify your body and increase blood circulation. The goal of yoga to help individuals achieve a better lifestyle is accomplished in doing so.

Types Of Yoga

Ashtanga Yoga – It is based on the yoga sutras described and practiced by Patanjali. It includes systematic exercises and self-development techniques that the body should follow. It also focuses on the spiritual and mental development of an individual.

Hatha Yoga – The term hatha is a combination of ha which refers to the forces governing the physical body and tha which stands for the mental forces. Harmonizing the two forces to achieve balance in life and a sense of calm which arrives from the perfect synchronization of the two.

Jnana Yoga – The practice of yoga for the conversion of intellectual knowledge into practical wisdom is known as jnana yoga. The word jnana means knowledge, and in yogic context, it denotes the attainment of awareness through meditation. It is not simply a practice to find answers to eternal questions, but it is more of a means of self-discovery and self-realization.

Kundalini Yoga – This type of yoga is associated with the awakening of chakras in the human body. There are six main chakras in the human body which are awakened through deep concentration. The concept behind this yoga is that the mind is made of different layers which are related to higher levels of consciousness. Through the chakras, we can reach these levels of consciousness drawing us closer to liberation.

Kriya Yoga – This system of yoga focuses on almost 70 kriyas which harmonize the mental and physical body. The word kriya literally means activity and it refers to the activity of the consciousness through yoga.

Swara Yoga The Sanskrit word swara stands for sound or note. Swara yoga is a practice which helps individuals rejuvenates their body by controlling and manipulating their breath.

Conclusion

The practice of yoga since ancient times has helped in achieving physical, mental and spiritual strength. Yoga helps us attain a higher level of consciousness as we carry out our day to day work.

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