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Yoga - An Introduction

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Imagine an activity that increases your flexibility, strengthens your muscles, centers your thoughts, and relaxes and calms you. Yoga does all that and more!

Yoga is an ancient physical and spiritual discipline and branch of philosophy that originated in India reportedly more than 5,000 years ago. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to yoke, join, or unite. The Iyengar school of yoga defines yuj as the "joining or integrating of all aspects of the individual—body with mind and mind with soul—to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life." The ultimate aim of yoga, they claim, is to reach kaivalya (emancipation or ultimate freedom).

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There is no written record of who invented yoga because it was practiced by yogis (yoga practitioners) long before humans knew how to write. Yogis over the millennia passed down the discipline to their students, and many different schools of yoga developed as it spread. The earliest written record of yoga, and one of the oldest texts in existence, is generally believed to be written by Patanjali, an Indian yogic sage who lived somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 years ago. Patanjali is credited with writing the Yoga Sutras (sutra means "thread" in Sanskrit), which are the principles, philosophy, and practices of yoga that are still followed today. Although many schools of yoga have evolved over the centuries, they all follow the fundamental principles described by Patanjali more than 2,000 years ago. Buddhism and other Eastern spiritual traditions use many of the yoga techniques or derivations of those techniques.

Yoga uses asanas (postures), focused concentration on specific body parts, and pranayama (breathing techniques) to integrate the body with mind and mind with soul.

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