When one mentions the word “Yoga”, it immediately evokes a lot of different imagery. One of the common ideas that come to mind is perhaps of flower children from the 1960’s sitting in a circle with their legs in impossible positions chanting “Ohm” around a huge candle in a poorly lit room. Yoga is an ancient art form that has been practiced for centuries. Throughout the years, it has become popular as a way to stay active, stay in touch with one’s inner self, and keep a sense of sanity in a sometimes insane world.
Although yoga became popular in the 1960s after Maharishi Mahesh Yogi popularized Transcendental Meditation (TM) in association with the Beatles, yoga practitioners have brought the ancient practice to the forefront of wellness in recent years.
Yoga is believed to date back over 5,000 years to the dawn of civilization. Yoga is thought to have developed from Stone Age Shamanism due to the cultural similarities between Modern Hinduism and Mehrgarh, a neolithic settlement (in what is now Afghanistan). Many of the Hindu ideas, rituals, and symbols of today can be traced back to this shamanistic culture of Mehrgahr.
Archaic shamanism and early Yoga both sought to transcend the human condition. Shamanism primarily served as a method of healing and representing the religion of the community. Archaic Yoga was also community-oriented, as it sought to discern cosmic order through inner vision, then apply that order to daily living. As Yoga evolved, it became a more inward experience, with Yogis concentrating on their own enlightenment and salvation.
The widest range of spiritual practices is found in yoga. Yoga crosses many cultures (including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and the West), and it is also spoken in multiple languages, including Hindi, Tibetan, Bengali, Sanskrit, Tamil, Prakit, Marathi, and Pali. Despite its long existence, Yogic traditions continue to spread their message of peace.
Fitness centers, wellness centers, and even the local YMCA offer yoga classes. However, you don’t have to take a class to practice yoga. This can be done just as easily at home or at your desk while at your job. If you are stressed, yoga can help you relax. It can even relieve headaches, backaches, and menstrual cramps.
As studies continue to reveal yoga’s many health benefits, this centuries-old Eastern philosophy is fast becoming a fitness lover’s best friend. Many contemporary devotees are high-powered executives striving to maintain a healthy heartbeat, as well as image-conscious Hollywood stars trying to maintain a slim physique. Yoga is being used by prominent athletes to develop balanced, injury-free muscles and spines.
Then again, to praise yoga for its physical benefits alone would only diminish what this entire system has to offer. As you practice yoga regularly, you may be surprised to discover that you’re building much more than a strong, flexible body.
Yoga was originally practiced solely for the purpose of gaining spiritual enlightenment. The word yoga means “yoke” in Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), describing the union of mind and body to strengthen one’s connection with one’s own pure, essential nature.
Most popular hatha yoga classes in the United States focus on asanas (postures) and breathwork to prepare the body for spiritual pursuits.
Through yoga positions and yoga exercises, along with meditation techniques, we will illustrate some basic aspects of the ancient practice of yoga. Yoga and meditation can help you achieve a new level of enlightenment in your personal life and improve the quality of your existence.
Yoga is no longer a mysterious phenomenon. You can simply think of it as a way to stay healthy and aligned. Read on to learn more about yoga and meditation in my book “Introduction to Yoga and Meditation” on Amazon Kindle.