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Yoga: Art and Science of Healthy Living

Age-old exercises to unite the body, breath, and mind.

Yoga is the art and science of healthy living. Yoga is essentially a spiritual discipline, which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. Yogis practice Yoga, also known as Yoga Sadhana, to achieve the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness - indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, Man and Nature, Microcosm and the Macrocosm.
However, in common parlance, Yoga is used to refer Hatha Yoga - one of the seven primary types of yoga, which is a physical discipline that revolves around exercises, or Vyayam, for the well-being of the physical life. The vital energy needed by our physical body is known as Prana, or life, and it flows through thousands of subtle energy channels called "nadis" and energy centers called "chakras". The flow of energy through one's nadis and chakras determines one's state of mind and physical well-being. Yoga (Hatha Yoga, to be precise) helps in optimizing this flow of energy, and overcome jerky or broken flow due to partially or fully blocked nadis and chakras. By ensuring a smooth, steady and continuous flow of energy, Yoga helps the mind to remain calm, positive and enthusiastic. Through age-old exercises, the practice of Yoga makes one physically, mentally and spiritually strong:
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In recent times, Yoga has become a trendy practice - not only in the Western World, but also in Modern India. Garbed in yoga pants and equipped with colorful mats, the modern-day yogi attends one-hour classes that focus on physical stretching, movement, and detoxing from their busy modern lives.
Irrespective of how it is practiced, the benefits of Yoga - from its ability to decrease stress, chronic pain, as well as the risk for chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease - make Yoga worth every minute in one's busy life. In order to make Yoga easily accessible and easy to practice, especially for beginners, we advocate the guidelines and sequences in our Workout Sequences for Yoga Practice.

The fact that Yoga originated in Ancient India is established and popularly known. However, modern scholars have marvelled at its origin, primarily because the practice of Yoga is believed to have started with the very origin of the civilization - long before the first religions or belief systems (of Early Man) were born.
The earliest treatise on yogic philosophy is credited to Patanjali, considered the father of Yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, compiled around 400 AD, extensively discusses various asanas, or poses, and guidelines of practicing Yoga. After Patanjali, many great sages and yogis have contributed greatly for the development and preservation of the yogic philosophy, through their literature and well-documented practices. However, the much earlier Bhagavad Gita, which is approximated to 500 BCE to 200 BCE, explicitly mentions various teachings of yogic philosophy. Although, it does not directly discuss Hatha Yoga, the Bhagavad Gita amply clarifies the prevalent yogic philosophy. Archaeological findings of statuettes of men in yoga poses, and other Yogic motives and figures performing Yoga Sadhana, provide historical evidences of Hatha Yoga practiced in Indus valley civilization approximated around 2700 BCE - along with other phallic symbols suggestive of Tantra Yoga. This indicates the practice of Yoga in Pre-Vedic Era - long before the first scriptures of Vedas or the first language of Sanskrit - and indicates to the obvious belief that Yoga originated in Ancient India long before 2700 BCE and propagated through generations of oral traditions, which were only documented much later.
(Source: Wikipedia - Yoga, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Bhagavad Gita)
References of Yoga practices are abundantly found in teachings and traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism - in which the Hatha Yoga is provided with special importance. It is important to note that Hatha Yoga, as also emphasized in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, is essentially a preparatory process so that the body can sustain higher levels of energy - a process towards achieving "Moksha", or Self Realization, that begins with the body, then the breath, the mind, and the inner self. During the Vedic Era, it was a part of Upasana, and yoga sadhana was inbuilt in their rituals. The Pranayama (or Yogic Breath) was a part of daily ritual, and it is believed that the Surya Namaskar (or Sun Salutation) was invented later.
During the Medieval Era, a period from 500 AD to 1500 AD, the term Yoga was a loose notion, and it was difficult to pin down its meaning. Yoga was more of a vehicle for meditation, and other religious and spiritual practices. During this time, different schools of Yoga emerged. Most of these schools, at some point or other, recommended practice of Hatha Yoga as preparation for all the other yogas. In the Modern Era, Swami Vivekananda was instrumental in Yoga's popularity in the West, when Westerners at the time seemed intrigued by Indian culture. Having outlasted thousands of years, plenty of scientific studies have found that Yoga comes with a flurry of health benefits: It reduces high blood pressure, depression, chronic pain, and anxiety. It also improves cardiac function, muscle strength, and circulation. This popularized the practice of Yoga, all over the world.
However, Yoga has always been approached as a device for inner well-being, and does not adhere to any particular religion, belief system or community. Anyone who practices Yoga with involvement can reap its benefits of physical and mental well-being, irrespective of one's faith, ethnicity or culture. Irrespective of multiple schools of Yoga, practicing Yoga does not require to abide by any ritual or tradition. Also, although the benefits may be instantaneously experienced, a far reaching and life-long impact may only be achieved if Yoga is practiced regularly, and systematically.
For most, the practice of Yoga is restricted to Hatha Yoga and Asanas (postures). While physical and mental well-being are natural consequences of practicing Yoga, the goal of Yoga is more far-reaching. However, Yoga is commonly referred to Hatha Yoga and interpreted as a therapy or exercise system for health and fitness. Today, Yoga has become common parlance to refer exercises (or Vyayam) and postures (or Asanas) of Hatha Yoga.
The practice of Yoga is blossoming, and growing more vibrant every day, as millions of people across the globe continue to benefit by the practice of Yoga. The age-old exercises of Hatha Yoga to unite the body, breath and mind - makes Yoga the most popular gift of Ancient India to the world:
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