Yoga is a traditional practice from India that focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. It is also known as the art and science of healthy living. Yoga is a combination of postures (called asanas), breathing techniques (called pranayama), relaxation, and meditation.
The word ‘yoga’ is derived from a Sanskrit word, which means ‘to unite’. Hence, the practice of yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the universal consciousness, signifying a perfect harmony between the mind and body as well as man and nature. Yoga is also commonly understood as a therapy or exercise system for health and fitness, but the goal of yoga is far-reaching. Yoga does not adhere to any particular religion or community; it has always been approached as a path for inner wellbeing. The power of yoga is in its simplicity; the combination of movements creates a physical, mental, and spiritual syncopation.
It is assumed that yoga is a 5,000-year-old Indian body of knowledge. Yoga had its origin in India long before the first religion or belief system was born. According to the yogic lore, Adiyogi, the first yogi (yoga practitioner) transmitted the science of yoga to his seven disciples or the Saptarishis. Adiyogi had demonstrated 112 ways through which mortal beings can surpass their limitations and achieve their ultimate potential. Adiyogi’s offerings were carried to different parts of the world by these seven enlightened sages. There has been mention of yoga in Hindu mythology Mahabharata and Hindu religious scriptures like Vedas and Upanishads. But yoga is not limited to any religion or faith, mention of yoga can also be found in Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism1
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Though yoga was being practiced in the pre-Vedic period, the great Sage Maharshi Patanjali compiled and systematized the then existing practices of yoga, its knowledge through his yoga sutras. After Patanjali, many sages and yoga masters contributed greatly for the preservation, development, and dissemination of the yoga through their documentation of the practices.
One of the interesting facets of yoga is that traditionally in India it was transmitted using the Guru-Shishya model (master-disciple) with yoga gurus as the main guardian of skill and knowledge. Nowadays, there are opportunities to learn yoga from Ashrams or hermitages, schools, community centers and social media. Over the years, yoga has gained popularity worldwide and is well-accepted as a traditional process of healing. Yoga was inscribed in the UNESCO’s Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 20162.