The History of Yoga & How It Can Help You Today

Yoga is tied to different cultures and religions and has now made its way to places all over the world.

You may see yoga videos on your YouTube homepage every now and then or maybe you’ve seen some of your favorite influencers share their experiences. The origins of yoga have a rich and deep history stemming from North India, home to one of the six main schools of Hinduism which dates back to the Upanishads during the 1st millennium B.C.E. It was first mentioned in the Rig Veda – a sacred text – but is was also mentioned in the infamous Bhagavad Gita. Yoga teachings have also been passed down orally, then transcribed in The Yoga Sutra: a guide that discusses meditation, physical poses, and ethical ways to deal with life.

Yoga philosophy delves into the core of its symbolisms and what it can teach us about life. Yoga is a split between two realities: “Purusha” (pure consciousness) and “Prakriti” (matter.) These two properties comprise the minds we have and the bodies we maintain. Their combination is the guide we use to reach our spiritual liberation, known as “moksha.” That is the ultimate goal of yoga, which can be reached through acting ethically and prioritizing the connection between the mind and body.

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Image by @yoga on Instagram

The philosophy of yoga is essential to keep in mind during the practice. It’s important to focus on improving your body while clearing your mind. Consistency is also a key part of yoga. Participating regularly will not only improve results but is a part of the journey of disciplining yourself. One of the most common exercises is the Surya Namaskar, otherwise known as the sun salutation. This 12-pose sequence moves the body in each direction, with the intention of clearing energy within and around. Its purpose is to align the body at the start of each new day. The best time to do the sun salutation is in the morning or even the evening, as each set contains two rotations. There are other exercises and poses, each with unique purpose and effect like soothing backaches, building stamina, or helping with digestion.

 

Yoga has many other positive effects overall. It’s commonly used to improve flexibility, strength, balance, muscle tone and strength, and overall respiratory health. Since the exercises are about concentration rather than pushing the physical limits of the body, yoga is a unique way to build a resilient body. Beyond the physical improvements, it is a mental tool that can help calm anxiety, establish focus, discipline, and increase energy. The spiritual practice also creates a sense of awareness for each participant, the way exercises and poses are constructed allows us to highlight what our bodies are capable of. This brings our minds to the present, relieving the stress of the future and the past, and permitting us to blend the mind and body in the same moment.

Over the course of 2020, yoga has grown in popularity but perhaps, it has also been watered down to simple exercises for the sake of self-care. While self-care is definitely essential and a possible reason to start practicing yoga, its spiritual meaning brings a much deeper element and goal which reaches “moksha.” Yoga extends beyond exercise and bleeds into a philosophy that can alter the way we overcome challenges, understand people, and view the world.

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UNSPLASH rishikesh yogpeeth

Shrusti Goswami

Social Media Associate

Shrusti is a passionate writer and poet. You can often find her drinking a cup of coffee and finding new places to go with her friends and family. After college, it’s her dream to keep traveling the world and bring diverse stories to the big screen.

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