how to breathe in yoga class

A quick history of Yoga

Yoga is basically an ancient lifestyle. It is a physical and scientific approach towards a peaceful and harmonious life. Contrary to what some may believe, traditional Yoga in India does not talk about religion or caste. Anyone who is willing to practice can start doing it under the guidance of a yoga teacher.  Yoga merely aims to help people achieve the relaxation of the mind and the body even during the adverse situations in life.

The history of yoga dates back many centuries, even before the ancient Hindu scriptures were composed by sages and seers.  Yoga and its practices evolved through ages as a benefit for humanity to achieve the state of super-consciousness.  It is believed that yoga was written well before the Vedas were compiled. Vedas are the ancient spiritual texts of Hinduism, and the yoga texts themselves were likely compiled around the 5th century BCE.

In depth: While “Yoga Sutras (Aphorisms) of Patanjali” is the key to the world of yoga, later Hatha Yoga evolved where it is considered as part of Tantra, the basis of a movement popularized in modern day by figures like Sting and Madonna for its purported ability to increase sexual stamina and enjoyment. Later, several branches or paths of yoga arose like Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion), Raja yoga, Karma yoga (yoga of action), Jnana Yoga (yoga of wisdom).

What are the benefits of Yoga?

In the recent history, the word “yoga” has been explained and viewed from various dimensions by different people. Yoga is basically a lifestyle for your overall physical and mental well-being including your body, mind and soul.

The word yoga in Sanskrit means “to unite with”. It means the practices described in yoga are meant to help you commune with your inner being. Inner being means the “self” – your own self, who you truly are as a person.

The results of practicing yoga are experienced through both body and mind…it isn’t just meant to be a quick workout.  In a few weeks, most people who try yoga will automatically start observing the positive changes in their body. These changes go beyond mere flexibility and muscle tone, even leading to an improved mental state. A sense of peace and equanimity arise as the person becomes more balanced and centered.

From yogic perspective, your fundamental attitude has a physical counterpart in your body and vice versa. Once this counterpart is toned, the changes are naturally reflected in the mind.  Mind becomes relaxed and the thoughts become clear.

Historically speaking, yoga includes:

  1. Principles to be observed in one’s daily life for a healthy mind
  2. Cleansing practices to keep the organs of the body clean
  3. Body postures called as “asanas” to keep the you physically well
  4. Hand gestures called as “Mudras” for controlling the mind
  5. Breathing exercises known as “Pranayam” to activate the dormant cells in brain
  6. Meditation practice to gain concentration and increase awareness

When you practice yoga, keep in mind that you are joining an ancient practice that stretches from the eastern world to the west over centuries. Regardless of your background, the history of yoga reflects the deeper human desire to improve both body and mind so that one can be a whole person, relaxed and focused.