what is yoga

What Is Yoga? All You Need To Know

Modern Westerners associate Yoga mostly with physical fitness and health. The benefits gained from Yoga’s physical practises cannot be overstated. But Yoga is more than just a way to get in shape, calm your nerves, and heal yourself. Yoga is more than just breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation.

Research and analysis reveal current physical Yoga as an essential first step towards a healthy body and mind. This should allow one to access Yoga’s fundamental meaning: a spiritual discipline for awakening to the ultimate nature of oneself and all things to live in inexhaustible joy and contentment.

What Does Yoga Mean?

The Sanskrit term “guy,” from which our English word “yoga” is derived, implies to yoke or connect. When discussing joining forces, we’re not discussing literal body parts coming together. Also, unlike popular belief in yoga, it has nothing to do with the merging of spirit and matter.

When we say “yoga,” we’re talking about the union between our consciousness (how we perceive reality) and the awareness of the Divine (what we feel when we turn inside, calm our senses, and reunite with our own Supreme Self). The Vedas, one of the world’s oldest scriptures, includes Yoga philosophy as one of its six schools of thought.

Vedanta, the first school, posits that there is only one fundamental consciousness or truth from which all knowledge and experience emerge. Sankhya, the second school, explains how one consciousness manifests as an assortment of forms. The third division, yoga philosophy, explains how we might end our sense of separateness and the pain it causes by realising our essential oneness with all of existence.

Yoga aims to help one realise their everlasting self and the limitless possibilities of their intellect. Bhoga, or lasting happiness, and freedom from pain result from this ultimate union with the Divine.

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“Yoga” was first used in the ancient literary collection Rig Veda. According to etymologists, “yuj,” the Sanskrit word from which “yoga” is derived, implies “union” or “to join.” Over five thousand years ago, Yoga originated in northern India. In the late 1800s, Indian monks began teaching Yoga in the West. By the 1970s, Western countries had embraced modern yoga principles.


Yoga is practised with the belief that physical, mental, and spiritual well-being are interdependent. Yoga has six distinct practices. There is a distinct emphasis and set of features associated with each offshoot. The six subsets are:

  • Hatha Yoga: This subfield focuses on conditioning the body and brain.
  • Raja yoga: The emphasis is placed on the practice of meditation and the implementation of a structured self-disciplinary system known as the “eight limbs of yoga.”
  • Karma yoga: Characterized by a selfless way of life, aims to eliminate selfish tendencies and negativity from the global sphere.
  • Bhakti yoga: The objective entails establishing the groundwork for fostering dedication towards nurturing principles of tolerance and acceptance
  • Jnana yoga: This school of Yoga emphasises learning and knowledge, taking the scholar’s road, and growing one’s mind via contemplation and meditation.
  • Tantra yoga: The road of ritual, ceremonial, or sexual culmination.


The word “chakra” can be interpreted as “spinning wheel.”

According to Yoga, these vortices of energy, emotion, thought, and matter can be located everywhere in the body. A person’s emotional responses wants or aversions, confidence or fear, and even bodily symptoms and repercussions are all attributed to the chakras by yogic gurus.

Tiredness, anxiety, and digestive issues are just some mental, physical, and emotional imbalances resulting from a blocked chakra. Hatha yoga is characterised by its various physical asanas. Yogis use asanas to release blocked energy and realign chakras.

The seven primary chakras each serve a different purpose:

  • Sahasrara: The crown chakra at the top of the head is associated with a sense of oneness with the divine.
  • Ajna: The third eye chakra, located in the space between the eyebrows, is associated with psychic abilities.
  • Vishuddha: The immunity and the ability to express oneself verbally are related to the throat chakra.
  • Anahata: The centre of the chest houses the heart chakra, which affects personal and professional connections. If this chakra is out of whack, it will have repercussions for regulating oxygen, tissues, hormones, and organs.
  • Manipura: Located in the abdominal region is the solar plexus chakra. It reflects discernment, maturity, and control over one’s behaviour.
  • Svadhishthana: The sacral chakra links health, pleasure, and energy and is below the belly button.
  • Muladhara: The base of the spine houses the root chakra, which anchors the mind in the body. It regulates the parasympathetic nervous system and the sciatic nerves.

The Aims Of Yoga

As you might have suspected, the goals of Yoga extend far beyond physical fitness or even mental and spiritual harmony. The ultimate goal of this age-old method is to unlock the potential of the eternal self and the human mind.

Yoga is a never-ending quest to discover who you are. Consistent training will help you disassociate yourself from painful mental and emotional states. To discover who you truly are, you must delve deep within yourself. In this way, you will learn the secret of the infinite wellspring of inspiration. You can find pure happiness and ultimate release from suffering via the practice of ancient asanas, bandha, pranayama, mantras, and more.

Yoga is a spiritual discipline that purifies and heals the mind, the body, and the spirit. It broadens our awareness, allowing us to feel more in tune with the natural world and the cosmos beyond. Also, it opens up more of our inner resources that can instruct us on how to be more self-aware, patient, compassionate, thankful, humble, forgiving, peaceful, loving, and joyful.

Benefits Of Yoga

Ninety-four per cent of adults who do Yoga do so to improve their health. The emotional and physical benefits of Yoga are numerous.

  • increasing muscular strength
  • improving flexibility
  • encouraging improved breathing
  • in favour of heart health
  • aiding with addiction therapy
  • lowering chronic pain, anxiety, tension, and depression
  • increasing sleep quality
  • improving general health and quality of life

If you have health concerns, talking to a doctor before beginning a yoga routine is best.

Risks And Side Effects

When led by an experienced teacher, many styles of Yoga pose little risk to participants. Sprains are the most prevalent injuries experienced by yoga practitioners. However, before beginning a yoga practice, it’s essential to consider a few potential risks. Pregnant women and others with chronic conditions, including glaucoma, osteoporosis, or sciatica, should talk to their doctor before beginning yoga practice. There are various yoga postures that, depending on the individual’s health, should be avoided or modified.

Headstand, Lotus Pose, and other advanced techniques require strong breathing and body control, which beginners should not attempt. When dealing with an illness or accident, yoga should not be utilised instead of in place of traditional medical care.

Five Ways To Practise Yoga

Yoga offers five key avenues for achieving this state of spiritual harmony.

Hatha Yoga

The first, Hatha yoga, is the one most Westerners are familiar with since it involves the physical poses (asanas) that have made Yoga so trendy. In addition to asana, we can purify and strengthen our bodies through breathwork and other cleansing rituals, gaining mastery over our inner and outer selves. All of these were designed to help you relax your body in preparation for meditation.

Karma Yoga

The second type of Yoga is called karma yoga. It’s doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return. For Karma yoga to be effective, the yogi must behave with the awareness that the spirit is the ultimate actor in every situation. You’ll need to do some serious soul-searching and let go of your ego’s false sense of agency.

Mantra Yoga

As a third option, we have Mantra yoga. This is the practice of bringing one’s attention inward through meditation and reciting Sanskrit bija mantras that each reflect a different facet of the Divine. I am that is the meaning of the name So’ham. It declares that your unique self is inseparable from the greater, universal self.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga, the discipline of holy love, is the fourth way. Through the practice of Bhakti yoga, we seek to realise the essential oneness of all living things and to adore them without ceasing. Bhakti yoga, like Jesus’s teaching to “pray without ceasing,” is the way of total absorption in love.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana yoga, the supposedly most challenging of the five paths of practice, comes up at number five. The path of wisdom stresses the use of discernment to gain spiritual freedom.

Therefore, the mind acts inside the sensory, temporal domain and is limited, making this the most challenging.

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Who Ought To Engage In Yoga?

Medical experts generally consider yoga safe, and injuries are unusual among practitioners.

If you’re doing Yoga under the supervision of a trained professional, you won’t hurt yourself. A skilled trainer will analyse a student’s form and suggest improvements. People should see a medical professional before beginning a yoga practice if they:

  • had previous spine, hip, and knee injuries
  • have a high blood pressure
  • Have trouble with balance
  • 65 years of age or older
  • Pregnant (Some yoga positions may also be unsafe for pregnant women to attempt. If they are unsure whether or not they should begin or continue their practice throughout their pregnancy, they should consult a medical professional.)

Why Is This Important?

Once we understand that:

We do Yoga because it requires mental and physical concentration and helps us connect with and participate in the world. 

We don’t perform Yoga traditionally—by stretching out on a mat or attending a group session. What we do in the classroom or on the mat is what counts. When we focus our awareness on moving and breathing, we are engaged in Yoga. It’s a give-and-take process in which one person directs another and vice versa. It sheds light on the various “types of yoga” that exist. If Yoga is not a word, we can engage in “yoga” in various contexts. And that sums up the range of Yoga nicely. 

Asana, or physical yoga poses, are the basis for the creation of Yoga by some. Others take part by practising Yoga, meditating, or chanting. They are all forms of Yoga.

If we need help relaxing and visualising the benefits of meditation, this can be helpful. Or perhaps we are pressed for time yet determined to maximise its usefulness by “working out” our bodies while quieting our minds. To tune into the inner world, we need physical movement.

Yoga is a practice that can help us become more in tune with our bodies, their movements, and their functions. We can work with our minds to learn more about them, their tendencies, and how to direct them. And we can learn to control our reactions by paying attention to our feelings. Then we may expand on that by introducing the concept of space, allowing us to do more than react to stimuli. Finally, the yoga pants we wear to aid in the process of relating to the outside world. Pants are the recurring theme.


Yoga is a spiritual practise that helps people get in shape, feel better mentally and spiritually, and feel closer to the Divine. It’s not just about working out your body; it’s also about how our minds and the Divine can work together. The Vedas is one of the oldest books in the world. It has six schools of thought, including Vedanta, Sankhya, and Yoga. Yoga is meant to help people realise that they are eternal and that their minds can do anything. This leads to lasting happiness and freedom from pain.

Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Tantra Yoga are the six parts of yoga. Each area has its own focus and characteristics, and each subset looks at a different part of well-being. Chakras, which look like spinning wheels, are all over the body and can be linked to mental, physical, and emotional problems. Hatha yoga uses different physical poses, called asanas, to move stuck energy and balance the chakras.

The main goal of yoga is to help the mind and the eternal self reach their full potential. Training regularly helps you separate yourself from painful mental and emotional states and look deep inside yourself to find pure happiness and freedom from suffering. Yoga is a spiritual practise that cleans and heals the mind, body, and spirit. It makes us more aware of the world around us and helps us feel more connected to nature and the universe beyond.

Yoga has many benefits for adults, such as improving muscle strength and flexibility, breathing, heart health, treating addictions, reducing chronic pain, anxiety, tension, and depression, getting a better night’s sleep, and improving general health and quality of life. But there are risks and side effects to think about, like the possibility of getting hurt. Before starting yoga, pregnant women and people with long-term health problems should talk to their doctor. Headstand, Lotus Pose, and Headstand are advanced poses that require strong breathing and control of the body. Beginners should stay away from these poses.

Hatha yoga, Karma yoga, Mantra yoga, Bhakti yoga, and Jnana yoga are the five main ways to practise yoga. Hatha yoga includes physical poses, breathing exercises, and cleansing, while Karma yoga is about doing something for someone else without expecting anything in return. Mantra yoga is done by meditating and repeating Sanskrit bija mantras. Bhakti yoga, on the other hand, is all about how all living things are really the same and getting lost in love. Jnana yoga is the hardest way to reach mental freedom, because you have to be able to think for yourself.

Most doctors think yoga is safe, but you should talk to a doctor before starting a yoga practise if you have a history of accidents, high blood pressure, trouble keeping your balance, are 65 or older, or are pregnant. Yoga takes both mental and physical focus, and it can be done in many different ways, such as in a classroom, on a mat, or while meditating. By paying attention to how we move and breathe, yoga helps us become more aware of how our bodies move and what they do.

Content Summary

  • Yoga is associated with physical fitness and health in the modern Western world.
  • Benefits of Yoga’s physical practices are significant.
  • Yoga is more than physical fitness – it’s a way to calm nerves and heal.
  • Yoga encompasses breathing exercises, physical postures, and meditation.
  • Physical Yoga is a first step to a healthy body and mind.
  • Yoga’s fundamental meaning is a spiritual discipline for awakening.
  • Yoga is about connecting consciousness and awareness of the Divine.
  • Vedas include Yoga philosophy as one of their schools of thought.
  • Yoga philosophy explains ending separateness for oneness.
  • Yoga helps realise one’s everlasting self and intellectual potential.
  • Lasting happiness and freedom come from uniting with the Divine.
  • The term “Yoga” originated in the ancient Rig Veda.
  • Yoga started over five thousand years ago in northern India.
  • Indian monks brought Yoga to the West in the late 1800s.
  • Western countries embraced modern Yoga principles by the 1970s.
  • Yoga believes well-being is interdependent – physical, mental, spiritual.
  • Yoga has six distinct practices: Hatha, Raja, Karma, Bhakti, Jnana, Tantra.
  • Hatha Yoga focuses on conditioning the body and mind.
  • Raja Yoga emphasises meditation and the “eight limbs of yoga.”
  • Karma Yoga aims to eliminate selfish tendencies.
  • Bhakti Yoga fosters dedication towards nurturing principles.
  • Jnana Yoga emphasises learning, contemplation, meditation.
  • Tantra Yoga involves ritual, ceremonial, or sexual culmination.
  • Chakras are energy vortices found throughout the body.
  • Chakras affect emotional responses, bodily symptoms, and more.
  • Blocked chakras lead to imbalances like tiredness and anxiety.
  • Hatha Yoga’s asanas release blocked energy and realign chakras.
  • Seven primary chakras serve different purposes.
  • Yoga’s ultimate goal is unlocking the eternal self and human mind potential.
  • Yoga is a quest to discover oneself and transcend suffering.
  • Yoga purifies and heals mind, body, and spirit.
  • Yoga broadens awareness and connects with the natural world.
  • Yoga nurtures self-awareness, patience, compassion, and more.
  • Yoga improves muscular strength, flexibility, breathing, heart health.
  • Yoga aids addiction therapy, and reduces chronic pain, anxiety, depression.
  • Yoga enhances sleep quality, general health, and quality of life.
  • Consult a doctor before starting a yoga routine, especially with health concerns.
  • Many Yoga styles are safe with experienced teachers.
  • Consider potential risks before starting a yoga practice.
  • Pregnant women and those with chronic conditions should consult a doctor.
  • Advanced yoga techniques like Headstand require experience.
  • Yoga isn’t a substitute for traditional medical care during illness or accident.
  • Yoga offers five avenues: Hatha, Karma, Mantra, Bhakti, Jnana.
  • Hatha Yoga involves physical poses, breathwork, and meditation.
  • Karma Yoga is selfless action without expecting returns.
  • Mantra Yoga focuses on meditation and recitation.
  • Bhakti Yoga embraces love and oneness with all living things.
  • Jnana Yoga is the path of wisdom and discernment.
  • Yoga is generally safe, especially under professional supervision.
  • Yoga helps connect with and participate in the world, even in different contexts.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Yoga, And Why Is It Important?

Yoga is a practice that connects the body, breath, and mind. It uses physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation to improve overall health. Yoga was developed as a spiritual practice thousands of years ago. Today, most Westerners doing yoga do it to reduce stress or exercise.

What Is Most Important During Yoga?

Slow movements and deep breathing increase blood flow and warm up muscles while holding a pose can build strength. Balance on one foot while holding the other to your calf or above the knee (but never on the knee) at a right angle.

What Is The Importance Of Yoga In Modern Life?

The art of practising yoga helps in controlling an individual’s mind, body and soul. It combines physical and mental disciplines to achieve a peaceful body and mind, helps manage stress and anxiety and keeps you relaxed. It also helps in increasing flexibility, muscle strength and body tone.

Why Is Yoga Important For Self-Development?

Yoga in the development of ‘Self’ can play a significant role. Through yogic asanas, pranayama and meditation, the body, mind, vital force and intellect are properly nurtured, which results in healthy development. It enhances self-esteem, self-confidence and self-respect.

What Is Understanding Self And Yoga?

It relates directly to knowing the true purpose of life—the reason for one’s existence. The question “Who am I?” is a real-life question. Nothing is more important and relevant than to know who you are. Yoga is the science of understanding the true identity of oneself.