Yoga is a set of ancient Indian spiritual practices from more than five thousand ago years. Yoga is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy. The people of India see Yoga as a means to both spiritual and physiological mastery. Outside of India, Yoga has developed into a fitness program mostly utilizing the practice of postures (asanas) of Hatha Yoga.
As a means of spiritual realization, Yoga is a key part of Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism (including Vedanta). Additionally, other religious and spiritual practices throughout the world have been influenced by Yoga. Many Hindu texts establish the basis for Yoga, such as the Upanishads, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita, and many others.
The four main paths of Yoga are Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Raja Yoga. A committed practitioner of yoga is referred to as a yogi, yogin (masculine), or yogini (feminine).
Yoga Asanas of Hatha Yoga
The physical aspect of Yoga, the asanas, has been much popularized in the West.
Generally, contemporary usage of the word 'asana' in reference to the practice of yoga refers to a physical posture or pose. Although 'asana' originally referred to sitting meditation, its scope has evolved over centuries to cover a great variety of body postures.
The practice of Yoga asanas:
- balances various internal and glandular functions
- promotes tendon strength
- massages the internal organs
- promotes muscle flexibility
Despite the common misconception that Yoga consists only of asana practice, Yoga asanas are actually part of Hatha Yoga, which is just one of several different yogic paths.
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Cool fact: 16.5 million people practice Yoga in the United States.