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Yoga: India's Gift To The World

Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices which originated in ancient India.

Yoga: India's Gift to the World

A healthy body can increase one’s lifespan, making it more productive, fulfilling, and active. A healthy body has a well developed immune system that protects it from the risks of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and other illnesses. A healthy person is not just a healthy body but also includes a stable mind and spirit. Some of the ways of keeping the mind, spirit, and body healthy are by adopting a healthy lifestyle and staying in touch with one’s emotions through positive thinking. There are so many ways to attain a healthy lifestyle while simultaneously maintaining a healthy mind and getting in touch with emotions, and yoga has been gaining increasing popular around the world as a way to do exactly that.

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a word borrowed from Sanskrit word "Yuj" which means "to join" or "to unite". It is a form of exercise which focuses on breathing, strength, and flexibility to boost holistic well-being. The main components of Yoga are breathing accompanied by a series of movements aimed at increasing strength and flexibility. Yoga has origins in Ancient India that are over 5,000 years old, and experts such as Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar believe that yoga is not just an exercise but also "an integration of emotions and spiritual elevation with some mystic elements which gives a person a glimpse beyond imagination".

History of Yoga

The origin of yoga is often a matter of debate, although accepted sources include the Indus Valley Civilization and the Eastern State of India during the Vedic period. The Pashupati seal found in the Indus Valley depict figures and positions which resemble common Yoga and meditation poses. However, Indian researchers often favor the belief that yoga developed from ascetic practices within the early Sramana movement. Additionally, the first use of the word yoga is a hymn of the Rig Veda which was dedicated to the rising sun-god in the morning, although the hymn does not describe yoga or the actual practices. The first mention of the word yoga in terms of its modern practice is found in the Katha Upanishad as a definition for the steady control of senses. Yoga is also discussed in the Sutras of Hindu Philosophy and Macedonian historical texts. The Bhagavad Gita uses the term yoga in different forms and dedicates an entire chapter to traditional yoga practices. Yoga was introduced to the western world in the 19th century along with other Indian philosophies.

Goals of Yoga

A liberation known as "moksha" is the ultimate aim of Yoga. However, the form that moksha takes can vary. According to David Gordon White, the principles of yoga have developed over time to include:

1. A meditative means of discovering perception and cognition as well as releasing one’s self from suffering and attaining inner peace and salvation.

2. Raising and expansion of consciousness from self to being able to coexist with anyone and anything.

3. A path to omniscience enabling one to understand the permanent and the impermanent realities that surround the life of an individual.

4. A technique of getting into other bodies or generating multiple bodies and attaining other supernatural achievements.

These principles put forward by White are also considered to be the description surrounding yoga practices and ultimate goals that need to be attained if one is to benefit from yoga classes. The principles are recorded in Hindu literature and texts such as Bhagavad Gita, Nyaya, Tantric, and Nikaya.

Different Yoga Schools

Yoga has been used to describe different practices and methods which include the Buddhist and Jain practices. In Hinduism, yoga is considered as a philosophical school and is one of the six Astika schools. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are considered foundational scripture of classical yoga. The type of yoga described in Sutras of Patanjali is the Ashtanga Yoga and is the central text of the Yoga School of Hindu Philosophy. Hatha yoga concentrates on physical and mental strength building. The meditation among the Buddhists encompasses a different meditation technique that leads to the development of the mindfulness, concentration, and insight. Meditation is central to the Jainism spirituality along with the three jewels. The meditation is aimed at attaining salvation and taking the soul to complete freedom.

Significance of Yoga

Yoga promotes relaxation and reduces stress while increasing general health and stamina. In America, yoga is often marketed as a supplement to a cardio routine. Yoga is particularly recommended for those with arthritis since it is a gentle way of promoting strength and flexibility. Yoga also improves the mental health of a person and reduces the risk of asthma, as well as improving mood and anxiety. However, like other forms of exercise, precaution needs to be taken when engaging in yoga to prevent injuries and medical complications.

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