History of Yoga
While the origins of yoga are open to scholarly debate, it is clear that it has been in practice for at least four thousand years, if not longer. Yoga can be traced to the sacred Indian text, Rig Veda, which is one of the oldest Indo-European texts.
Perhaps the most enduring text on yoga, is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Eightfold Path, which was written over three thousand years ago. The collection outlines, through a series of enlightening aphorisms, the purpose, practice, and lifestyle of yoga; however, most people from the West were not exposed to yogic philosophy until an explosion of interest in the 1960s. Today, yoga has become hugely popular among all walks of life throughout America. Yoga Journal estimates that nearly 16.5 million people in the U.S. practice yoga, though some sociologists estimate the number to be much larger.
Benefits of Yoga Practice
While yoga is not a religion, it does have a spiritual component that is compatible with whatever religion you choose to follow. The goal of yoga is to attain Samadhi, the state of absolute bliss one reaches when one understands the all-pervading Supreme Self. Yoga can be practiced by followers of many different belief systems because the yogic philosophy embraces non-violence, universal love, understanding, and removal of individual ego.
Focus, discipline, letting go, responsibility are all mantras of the yogi. The asanas practiced in yoga are designed to clear the mind of accumulated mental debris that blocks our concentration and dedication. For millennia, yoga has helped people reduce stress and improve their mental health by allowing them to take time to explore their inner thoughts, undisturbed from the chaos of the external world. Yoga brings focus to our mind, increasing our concentration, awareness and mental agility.
Yoga can help build muscle tone, increase strength, and improve balance. Through dedicated practice you’ll find your body leaner, your posture straighter, and your weight easier to maintain. For those new to yoga, you’ll be amazed how quickly minor aches and pains just drift away and how relaxed and de-stressed you will feel after a class. It is difficult not to sleep deeply, and soundly after a yoga class!