What is Yoga?

Yoga is a form of exercise commonly utilized for meditation purposes.
Practicing yoga is a good alternative to gym workouts.
Chanting may be used during yoga.
India is typically seen as the birthplace of yoga.
Gentle yoga can help ease the back pain of pregnant women.
Ashtanga and other forms of fast-paced yoga help strengthen muscles and promote stamina.
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  • Written By: S Garden
  • Edited By: L. S. Wynn
  • Last Modified Date: 04 June 2015
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Yoga is best known as a type of exercise system that stretches and strengthens the body through various poses known as asanas, but it goes far beyond just a mere exercise routine. One of the most compelling reasons that people begin practicing is the holistic outlook it takes, working mind, body, and spirit. There are many different schools of yoga, all of which have their own unique practices and philosophies. Below are five of the most common, although schools and paths have been established with many different variations that aren't listed here. Some are even based on a particular instructor's habits and teachings.

Hatha: This is a very popular variety of yoga, and one that has been commonly taught for years. Focusing on perfecting the mind by way of perfecting the body, many asanas, breathing techniques, and meditations are used.

Ashtanga: This is another popular type, and it is considerably faster paced than the other schools. It could almost be considered a type of aerobic yoga, with quick, smooth transitions between poses.

Kundalini: This school is focused on awakening and focusing what is known as kundalini energy. Kundalini energy is most easily compared to life energy that lies dormant in the body. It is commonly represented by a coiled snake.


Mantra: This school is focused on calming the mind and body through the usage of words and sounds. The well known "om" chant is commonly heard in this school.

Tantra: This school is well known by way of its focus on sexual spirituality. They also focus on kundalini energy, although their intent for awakening it is much different from the Kundalini practice.

No one is entirely sure when or where the practice of yoga was started, although it's commonly believed to have originated in India. The Yoga Sutra by Patanjali, a 2,000 year old work, is the first written mention of the practice. Previous to this, it was an oral tradition passed from person to person.

Yoga is a very diverse practice, no matter which school you choose. People young and old can gain many benefits from regular practices, and asanas can be adjusted to fit physical limitations and other complications. It can be a good exercise for people who want a break from treadmills, weight rooms, or the pool. Not only does it work for people who are striving towards physical well-being, it can contribute to spiritual well-being as well.


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Post 8

@sevenseas - Good points. I was actually reading a story a while back about a guy who had completely changed his life by doing yoga.

He was in a war, Vietnam I think, and was wounded. He lost a lot of his ability to walk and gave up trying to recover. He eventually gained a lot of weight and lost even more movement. At one point, he decided enough was enough and contacted a former professional wrestler who had started an extreme yoga program.

The guy worked really hard and eventually gained his whole life back. He went from not being able to move without crutches to running full speed and doing handstands. I think it is just a testament to what yoga and hard work can accomplish.

Post 7

@kentuckycat - Even though I'm personally not a fan of doing yoga, I would agree with you that everyone should give it at least one try.

I started an exercise routine several months ago where they recommended you do yoga once a week. I had never done it before but was willing to give it a try. Like you, I found I was kind of good at it. I even did feel very relaxed when it was all over.

In the end, though, I thought it took too long to do, and I felt out of place in the yoga classes. Now I just run or do some sort of cardio exercise in its place.

Post 6
I didn't realize there were so many different types of yoga to do. Yoga classes are something that I just started doing very recently, and I really like it.

When my friend first told me about it, I thought she was a little crazy. I've only just seen the stereotypical view of yoga in the movies where people are contorting their bodies in crazy ways and doing meditation. She assured me it was nothing like that.

Post 5

@truthunter - Regardless of whether yoga is a religious act in other countries that doesn't mean other religions can't do it. Why should anyone care if it's religion in India and exercise in America?

I would say the reason books don't mention the religious side is because the vast majority of Americans aren't Hindu. They are buying the books and watching the videos to learn a relaxing, healthy exercise routine - not connect with a god.

I think Americans would be just as interested in yoga if they knew the whole story, because saying the words alone is not worshiping another god. Not to mention people who don't care about religion in the first place.

Post 3

The article writer states that yoga is best known as an exercise system. While this may be true in the United States of America, most people who are involved on yoga throughout the world are well aware that yoga is a religion.

Baba prem says in an article "there is no Christian yoga."

In virtually every American style yoga book, they either skirt the religious issue or deny it, but there is meditating and chanting in a foreign language. The number one thing they chant is "om" or "aum". What does this mean? "om" is the hindu symbol of the absolute, their sacred symbol representing brahman. Hindus say that to call this concept of brahman "god" is somewhat imprecise. But

they say that brahman is "the essential building material of all reality" "substance from where all things proceed," the "material cause and efficient cause of creation". They capitalize "material cause" and "efficient cause" like people do when referring to their god. Why don't they just say it's their god? When people are practicing yoga, they are chanting to a hindu god. It is their right to do this, but they should at least know what they are doing.

What do other religions say about yoga? Malaysia's top Islamic body, in 2008, passed a "fatwa" against Muslims from practicing yoga, saying that it had hindu spiritual teachings and that it was blasphemy. The muslims know it's a religion.

I think they do this because few in America would be involved if they knew the truth. As it stands, there may be as many as 20 million Americans involved in this religion unwittingly, at least in the beginning.

Post 2

All that described though brief is very precise and useful. Though the writer does not seem to be an Indian but the depth of knowledge is admirable. Thanks.

Post 1

There are numerous benefits when practicing yoga. Since you move in such a calm, slow and deliberate way, your whole body, and mind benefits. Some studies conducted with people doing yoga on a regular basis have found that yoga

1. Keeps your mind sharper, because it controls the level of cortisol, also known as stress hormone.

2. It slows down weight gain

3. It slows down the process of aging

4. It helps improve sleep

Not too bad for an exercise where you do not force anything just go as far as your body will let you.

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