What is Yoga?

Updated: Jul 10

What comes to mind when you hear the word YOGA?

When most people think of yoga, they envision complicated, twisted poses. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Yoga is much more than just the poses you see. Yoga is a 5000-year-old Indian body of knowledge derived from the Sanskrit word "Yuj," which means "to unite or integrate." It focuses on balancing the body, mind, and breath through various breathing techniques, yoga postures (asanas), and meditation.

As yoga becomes more diffuse and diverse, a single, standard definition on which everyone can agree is becoming increasingly difficult. To further complicate matters, the term "yoga" has been used for several thousand years and has changed meaning several times. Because the modern interpretation of yoga's physical practices is our primary focus, we'll base our definition on that.
The English dictionary defines yoga as "a system of exercises for achieving physical and mental control and well-being." Many people believe that yoga is simply stretching. While stretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about developing both strength and flexibility in the body through the performance of poses or postures known as asanas, each of which has specific physical benefits. The poses can be done quickly in succession to build heat in the body through movement (vinyasa-style yoga) or slowly to build stamina and perfect the pose's alignment. The poses are consistent, but how they are approached varies depending on the yoga tradition in which the teacher has trained.
Why we practice, yoga is a frequently asked question. Yoga, in a nutshell, makes you feel better. Postures, breathing exercises, and meditation help you be healthier in body, mind, and spirit. Yoga allows you to tune in, relax, and shape up all at the same time.

What are the benefits?
Yoga's benefits cannot be overstated. For starters, yoga is beneficial to your health. According to research, yoga specifically helps manage or control anxiety, arthritis, asthma, back pain, blood pressure, carpal tunnel syndrome, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, headaches, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, stress, and other conditions or diseases. Furthermore, yoga:
- Improves muscle tone, flexibility, strength, and stamina.
- Reduces stress and tension.
- Boosts self-esteem
- Improves concentration and creativity.
- Lowers fat and improves circulation.
- Stimulates the immune system.
- Creates a sense of well-being and calm.

Yoga is not a religion or an alien, it is simply a way of life that anyone can adopt. Even if you don't consider yourself particularly flexible or strong, you can begin a yoga practice. These skills will improve as you practice. Yoga is so beneficial that you will reap the benefits even if you only practice for one hour per week, and you will undoubtedly reap more benefits if you can do more than that. You can practice any of the various types or forms of yoga, such as Hatha or Bikram yoga, Ashtanga Vinyasa or Yin yoga, or any of the various schools of yoga, which will be discussed later.
Some people discover that the physical practice of yoga opens the door to spiritual exploration, while others simply enjoy a great low-impact workout that makes them feel great. Whatever your preferences are, there is a yoga class for you. Make yoga a part of your daily routine, and you'll reap the benefits.