Yoga is an ancient practice that involves physical poses, concentration, and deep breathing.
Yoga is now a popular form of exercise around the world. According to a 2017 national survey, one in seven adults in the United States practiced yoga in the past 12 months.
The first mention of the word “yoga” appears in Rig Veda, a collection of ancient texts. Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” which means “union” or “to join.”
Yoga can be traced back to northern India over 5,000 years ago.
Indian monks spread their knowledge of yoga in the West during the late 1890s. Modern yoga teachings became widely popular in Western countries by the 1970s.
The overall philosophy of yoga is about connecting the mind, body, and spirit.
There are six branches of yoga. Each branch represents a different focus and set of characteristics.
The six branches are:
- Hatha yoga: This is the physical and mental branch that aims to prime the body and mind.
- Raja yoga: This branch involves meditation and strict adherence to a series of disciplinary steps known as the eight limbs of yoga.
- Karma yoga: This is a path of service that aims to create a future free from negativity and selfishness.
- Bhakti yoga: This aims to establish the path of devotion, a positive way to channel emotions and cultivate acceptance and tolerance.
- Jnana yoga: This branch of yoga is about wisdom, the path of the scholar, and developing the intellect through study.
- Tantra yoga: This is the pathway of ritual, ceremony, or consummation of a relationship.
The word “chakra” means “spinning wheel.”
Yoga maintains that chakras are center points of energy, thoughts, feelings, and the physical body. According to yogic teachers, chakras determine how people experience reality through emotional reactions, desires or aversions, levels of confidence or fear, and even physical symptoms and effects.
Asanas are the many physical poses in Hatha yoga. People who practice yoga use asanas to free energy and stimulate an imbalanced chakra.
There are seven major chakras, each with its own focus:
- Sahasrara: The crown chakra, which is at the crown of the head, symbolizes spiritual connection.
- Ajna: Located between the eyebrows, the third eye chakra has to do with intuition.
- Vishuddha: The throat chakra corresponds to immunity and verbal communication.
- Anahata: The heart chakra, which is in the center of the chest, influences professional and personal relationships. Any imbalances in this chakra will affect oxygen, hormones, tissue, and organ control.
- Manipura: The solar plexus chakra is in the stomach area. It corresponds to self-confidence, wisdom, and self-discipline.
- Svadhishthana: The sacral chakra, which is beneath the belly button, connects pleasure, well-being, and vitality.
- Muladhara: The root chakra, which is at the base of the spine, connects the mind and body to the earth to keep a person grounded. It controls the sciatic nerves and the parasympathetic nervous system.