Yoga: A Brief History of Its Origin, Philosophy and Practices

Yoga is an ancient practice that may have originated in northern India over 5,000 years ago. Indian monks spread their knowledge of yoga in the West during the late 1890s. Modern yoga gained popularity in Western countries in the 1970s. Yoga involves meditation, movement, and breathing techniques for overall mental and physical well-being. Ancient yoga did not place emphasis on fitness, rather it revolved around cultivating mental focus and expanding spiritual energy. According to Medical News Today, "a regular yoga practice can promote endurance, strength, calmness, flexibility, and well-being." (Medical News Today, April 4, 2021)

There are six practices of yoga:

  • Hatha yoga - The physical and mental branch that aims to prime body and mind.
  • Raja yoga - Involves meditation and strict adherence to disciplinary steps known as eight limbs of yoga
  • Karma yoga - Path of service that aims to create a future free from negativity and selfishness
  • Bhakti yoga - Establish the path of devotion to channel positive emotions, cultivate acceptance and tolerance
  • Jnana yoga - Wisdom, the path of the scholar, and developing intellect through study
  • Tantra yoga - Pathway of ritual, ceremony, or consummation of a relationship.

There are five major principles of yoga:

  • Proper exercise (Asanas)
  • Proper breathing (Pranayama)
  • Proper relaxation (Savasana)
  • Proper Diet and Nutrition
  • Positive Thinking and Meditation.

The style of yoga that someone may choose depends on their expectations and level of physical agility. However, there may be risks associated with yoga, like any regular exercise program. According to Medical News Today, "people with certain health conditions, such as sciatica, should approach yoga slowly and with caution." (Medical News Today, April 4, 2021)

The St. Tammany Parish Library has many great selections on the philosophy, methods, and techniques of yoga. As with any exercise program, consult your physician or health care provider before engaging in a new exercise regimen.


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