What is yoga?

There is no one definition.

Yoga, literally means “union” or “harmony”. It is both a philosophical system and a science with a goal of attaining self awareness.  Many define yoga as “the science of the mind”, that is, the understanding and complete mastery of the mind.

With its beginnings rooted  in the prehistory of India, evidence of yoga practices has been found in the Indus Valley civilization of 2,000-4,000 B.C.E. Although ancient, yoga is far from outdated as it has proven valuable to the modern world, including over 20 million Americans.  Yoga was introduced to the West by way of master Swami Vivekananda. It was later introduced to Hollywood in the 1940s and so began the versions of yoga that we are most familiar with today.  

The physical yoga, also known as Hatha Yoga was designed to facilitate the mental practice of yoga. Hatha yoga offers us the opportunity to deepen our self understanding through physical movement, breathing and meditation.

There are many different styles of yoga. Some styles are fast paced and vigorous while others are very gentle and slow-moving. All of the styles of yoga have benefits, so evaluating your individual needs and personality type will help point you in the right direction.

What are some benefits of yoga?

Benefits vary from person to person, as every body and mind is different. Common benefits of a regular yoga practice include:

  • Brings balance and harmony to the body, mind and spirit.
  • Helps with strength, flexibility range of motion and balance
  • Calms the mind, reduces stress and anxiety
  • Revitalizes the body and mind
  • Slows heart rate
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Increases circulation
  • Strengthens and tones muscles
  • Helps to detoxify system
  • Improves function of internal organs
  • Balances muscular system
  • Increases metabolism and energy
  • Can help reduce depression, stress and insomnia

NY Times Article: What is Yoga?