To understand yoga, it is essential to know that yoga is not just about physical positions, but is actually a lifestyle. Practicing yoga (whether regularly or irregularly) allows a person to understand why yoga is necessary and what its benefits are. Understanding yoga and its basics is necessary as yoga helps a person to lead a healthy life.
Nothing is known about the exact origins of yoga, except the fact that it came into being at a place, which was part of the Indus Valley civilization of Northern India, about 3000 to 5000 years ago.
However, the first known compilation on yoga and its practices became known only around 2200 years ago when Patanjali, published a book called the ‘Yoga Sutras’.
The ‘Yoga Sutras’ by Patanjali is actually a compilation of 196 principles of yoga, its practices and philosophy that one needs to incorporate into his/her lifestyle. ‘Yoga Sutras’ resulted in the development of ‘Raja Yoga’ or ‘Royal Yoga’ with primary focus on taming the body and mind apart from enhancing the spirit.
‘Raja Yoga’, divided into 8 steps or ‘limbs’, which focus on enhancing the lifestyle, body, purity, breathing, and meditation. Yama is the abstentions a person imposes on oneself for living a life without violence, truth, and continence.
Niyama is ability to discipline the mind and body. Asana, are postures practiced during meditation. Pranayama is a technique to regulate the breathing. Pratyahara is the ability to pull the mind out of the physical world.
Dharana is a technique of meditation to concentrate on an object. Dhyana is a technique of meditation with no consciousness of meditation, and Samadhi is enlightenment.
Modern day yoga is centered around ‘Asana’ and ‘Pranayama’ that more or less emphasize on fitness. Modern day yoga programs are related to ‘Hatha Yoga’, which is essentially a method to physically purify the body to get the benefits of Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. ‘Hatha Yoga’ comprises of a number of postures that help a person develop balance, poise, and strength.
Yogic body postures and breathing exercises are extremely beneficial for the health and fitness, lifestyle of a person. All in all the benefits of ‘Raja Yoga’ can surely help a person to lead an enlightened and enriched life.