It is impossible define Yoga in just a few hundred words, what follows is really just a brief introduction that hopefully helps to reveal the depths of yoga and how by experiencing it we are able enrich mind, body and soul for the journey that unfolds before each of us.
As far as scholars know the physical practices of yoga known as Hatha Yoga, which includes asanas or postures, pranayamas or breathing exercises, relaxation and meditation, have been practiced for roughly 5000 years. Yoga has survived this incredible test of time and although our reasons for participating in yoga today may be very different from the practitioners way back in history yoga can still bring profound benefits to our modern lives.
Yoga back in the mists of time.
It is believed that Hatha Yoga was first practiced by members of the Vedic Civilisation, whose main settlements were on the banks of the Saraswati River in the Indian states of Haryana and Punjab between 4500BC and 1800BC. The first written records of Hatha yoga date from around 3000BC, they were written by the Sage Putanjali in the ancient Vedic language of Sanskrit. Even today the Sanskrit names for the yoga postures or asanas are still commonly used, this serves to reaffirm yoga’s foundations and age.
The Sanskrit words Ha and Tha translate to mean Sun and Moon. Yoga translates to mean yoke, union, join or fuse. Hatha yoga therefore can be descrided as the union of the Sun and the Moon, the joining of opposites to create balance.
Hatha Yoga was at first practiced only by men, usually the sages or rishes (seers or wise men) and was passed down from master to disciple within the environment of an Ashram; this system of learning was known as the Guru Kula. Boys would enter the Ashram at approximately 8 years of age, leaving their families behind to begin their yogic studies. They would learn from their teacher or yogi and perform daily chores which are known as Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga was practiced with the intention of removing any bad karma and preventing more from accumulating. The yogis believed that each soul had many incarnations, each incarnation was depicted by the level of Karma accumulated during previous incarnations and once all bad karma had been eliminated one could move towards Samadhi or enlightenment.
To achieve enlightenment Hatha Yoga was used to fine-tune body and mind so that both were free from impurities and illness. This would enable the practitioner to sit and meditate uninterrupted for very long periods of time without even minor aches and pains which could distract the mind and disrupt the path to enlightenment.
Over such a vast period of time Hatha Yoga has changed and evolved in many ways, the information and practices passed on by teachers to their students have varied as each individual brought their own experiences into their teachings and practice. As a result of this many different forms of yoga have been created and these are now used by millions of people around the world for countless different reasons.
Today enlightenment is still the ultimate goal for some yogis but for most practitioners yoga is an ever unfolding system which brings many, many physical and emotional benefits to their modern lives. We are able to utilise many parts of the yoga teachings to enhance different areas of our lives and help us enjoy a happier and healthier journey. Yoga is not just for the physically flexible amongst us, some form of yoga can be practiced by everyone regardless of their age or physical ability. Yoga is a powerful tool that enriches so many different areas of our lives and allows us to maintain a state of physical and emotional equilibrium that makes all challenges easier to overcome.
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For more information about yoga please visit the Yoga Articles section on this site. Here you will find more information about Yoga Asanas, Yoga Basics, Yoga for Health, Yoga Knowledge, Sport & Fitness Yoga, Pre & Post Natal Yoga, Meditation & Pranayama and a selection of Inspirational Quotes. Thank you for visiting Yoga 2 Hear.