is much more than that. At its core, yoga is a lifestyle. It is a combination of physical positions, controlled breathing patterns and meditation techniques, and some yoga followers even incorporate philosophical studies into their routines.
The word “yoga” actually comes from the Sanskrit word “yug”, which literally means “yoke” but is more symbolic of the word “union”. Yoga is all about bringing together the mind, body and spirit, and keeping them one.
So, why should the average person consider taking up yoga? The shortest answer to this question is that doing yoga makes you feel better. After just one yoga session, many people report feeling de-stressed and alert, with an overall sense of well-being.
The stretching involved in yoga can also help lessen or even eliminate muscle and joint pain, and that is just one of many reasons why so many doctors and athletic trainers recommend it to their clientele.
Originating in India, yoga has been practiced for centuries as a means of calming the spirit, strengthening the body and releasing built up tension (Mahatma Gandhi even practiced yoga!). Some say that yoga is as old as civilization itself, but the earliest physical evidence of yoga is actually from somewhere around 3,000 B.C.
It wasn’t until the 20th Century that yoga became widespread in the U.S. and the rest of the Western world, but over the past few decades it has become a very mainstream practice. Today, there are literally dozens of different types of yoga and thousands of poses and variations of these poses.
There is even “prenatal yoga”. The positions and stretches in each are very similar for the most part, but each type has a different focus and slight changes in technique. These are several of the most commonly seen yoga types (though there are far more in existence, including variations of the ones listed here):
Ashtanga Yoga — Westernized forms of Ashtanga are often called “power yoga” because it is fast-paced and incorporates movements like deep lunges and even pushups.
Bikram “Hot” Yoga — Because it focuses on flushing out toxins and loosening up muscle stiffness, Bikram is commonly practiced in a room above 90 degrees.
Hatha Yoga — This is a more calming form of yoga that focuses on relaxed, gentle movements, combined with breathing and meditation techniques.
Iyengar Yoga — While most forms of yoga help with body alignment, Iyengar yoga focuses on it specifically. It consists largely of standing poses held for long periods of time while lengthening and aligning the spinal column.
Vinyasa “Flow” Yoga — This form is less about holding positions for long periods of time and more about flowing from one position to the next. It also focuses on matching up breathing patterns with movement and strengthening muscles. Vinyasa yoga is extremely popular in the U.S.
Even though it has branched out into many different forms and techniques over the years, yoga fundamentally has deep roots in Hinduism, Buddhism and a few of the smaller India-based religions. But you don’t have to be a follower of any one of them to enjoy the benefits of practicing it. In fact, the spread of yoga around the world has seen it separated from religion in most countries (including the U.S.). To put it simply— yoga is for everyone!.