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What is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient practice focusing on breathing, flexibility and strength to boost mental and wellbeing. It is composed of a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines.

The main components of yoga are breathing and postures (a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility.)

The practice is said to have originated thousands of years ago in India and has been adopted by other countries in a variety of ways. 

Yoga Origins

Yoga's origins can be traced to the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in northern India over 5000 years ago. The word yoga was first mentioned in ancient sacred texts called the Rig Veda. The Vedas are a set of four ancient sacred texts written in Sanskrit. The Rig Veda is the earliest amongst the Vedas and is a collection of over a thousand hymns and mantras in ten chapters known as mandalas, which were used by Vedic age priests. Yoga was refined and developed by Rishis (sages) who documented their practices and beliefs in the Upanishads, a huge work containing over 200 scriptures.

Yoga is amongst the six schools of philosophy in Hinduism and is also a major part of Buddhism and its meditation practices. 

Yoga Terminology

If you’ve ever taken a yoga class, you may have heard some words that you didn't recognize. The language of yoga is Sanskrit and the root of many Indian languages. It's one of the oldest in the world.

Here are a handful of words often used in a session of yoga and what they mean:

 

Āsana- Literally translated as seat. The term āsana in western yoga is used to refer to the practice of physical yoga postures or poses.

Prānāyāma - Prāna in Sanskrit refers to the life force within every being. In relation to modern-day yoga classes, the term prānāyāma is used to describe breathing exercises, which clear the physical and emotional obstacles in our body to free the breath.

Ujjayi - Commonly translated as “victorious breath”, ujjayi breath is performed by restricting the airflow at the back of the throat, while breathing in and out of the nose. This creates a note on exhalation, often compared to the sound of the oceans.

Dristi - Focused gaze.