Author: Richard Weil, MEd, CDE
Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
- What is yoga?
- Who invented yoga?
- How does yoga work?
- What are the types of yoga?
- Who's doing yoga?
- What about kids and yoga?
- What about seniors and yoga?
- What about prenatal yoga?
- Is yoga just another fitness fad?
- What are the health benefits of yoga?
- What equipment and props are needed for yoga?
- How does a yoga class work? What can I expect?
- What should be worn during yoga?
- Where can I try yoga?
- How much does yoga cost?
- How do I go about getting started with yoga?
- Is it safe to do yoga?
- What resources are available for people interested in yoga?
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.
What is yoga?
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 Iyengar school 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).
Who invented yoga?
There is no written record of who invented yoga because it was practiced by yogis (yoga practitioners) long before humans knew how to write. 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 be 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 the fundamental principles described by Patanjali more than 2,000 years ago. Buddhism and other Eastern spiritual traditions use many of the yoga techniques or derivations of those techniques.
Next: How does yoga work?
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