In the past 60 years, yoga has gone from a little-known, esoteric Indian practice to a central activity of the cultural mainstream. But while it is commonly available in cities throughout the world and almost everyone has heard of it, yoga still remains something of a mystery to people who have never tried it. That’s because it resists an easy definition.
Yoga is a diverse and diffuse practice with numerous threads that can be interwoven in many ways.
Complicating matters further, the term yoga has been in use for several thousands of years and has shifted meanings many times. To start to unpack what contemporary yoga is, let’s take a look at yoga’s evolution and how it is practiced today.
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline. A male who practices yoga is called a yogi, a female practitioner, a yogini.
Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Various styles of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
In 5,000 years of yoga history, the term “yoga” has gone through a renaissance in current culture, exchanging the loincloth for a leotard and leggings.
Yoga has become popular as a form of physical exercise based upon asanas (physical poses) to promote improved control of mind and body and to enhance well-being.