Yoga means "to yoke," or "to conjoin." This holistic practice is deeply rooted in ancient Indian culture that unites the mind, body and spirit through movement, breathing techniques and meditation. 
 
Yoga's exact origin and history is uncertain; however, we do know that it is thousands of years old, the earliest signs of yoga postures having appeared as drawings on artifacts dating back to 3000 B.C. Yoga was introduced in the West during the early 19th century where it began as a movement for health and vegetarianism, and by the 1960s, there was an influx of Indian teachers who expounded on yoga and are responsible for the myriad styles we have available to us today. The yogi Swami Sivananda, a doctor in Malaysia, is best known for codifying the "Five Principles of Yoga" which are now taught in yoga classes all over the world and facilitate strength, balance, flexibility, anti-aging and the curing of illness and disease. These five principles include:
Asanas (proper exercise)
Pranayama (correct breathing)
Saucha (proper diet)
Dhyana (positive thinking and meditation)
Savasana (complete relaxation)
The origin of yoga is a spiritual one. It was originally used as a means to move energy through the body in such a way that the student is left feeling calm enough to sit in meditation after the practice. While many schools of yoga still have these spiritual goals and components, many others focus on the physical aspects alone—using yoga as a form of exercise that builds strength, flexibility and balance.
 
On the physical level, yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen, and align the body, increase flexibility, and promote blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, keeping all the body's systems healthy and balanced. Sun salutations, warrior poses, standing balances, seated forward bends, twists, backbends, inversions and savasana are all standard poses that you will see in just about any yoga class, regardless of the style. Nearly every class generally follows a progression from standing to seated poses. While yoga is practiced by many with goals of spiritual union and improved health, make no mistake: It is quite a workout, too. Every muscle gets stretched, strengthened and challenged is a yoga class.
 
The yoga philosophy believes the breath to be the most important facet of health, because it is the largest source of prana, or life force, we have available to us, and when we learn to harness it, anything is possible. Hatha yoga, the primary influence in modern yoga, utilizes pranayama, which literally means "the science or control of breathing" to help the practitioner quiet the mind, embrace the present moment and manifest good health.
 
"Yoga is not a religion. It is a science, science of well-being, science of youthfulness, science of integrating body, mind and soul." – Amit Ray

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