Yoga is an ancient method of uniting the body and mind to reach enlightenment. It is thought to have originated as a Hindu practice but later became popular among Buddhists as well. Yoga is not merely the physical actions and positions, called asanas, as most Westerners believe. Instead, yoga is the study of philosophy and beliefs, meditating, performing breathing exercises and cleansing the physical body, all in addition to the physical practice of the asanas. The spiritual goal of yoga is for humans to realize their nature as part of the whole. This goal is derived from the basic beliefs of Hinduism.
According to archaeologists, images depicting yoga asanas and postures have been found on ceramics in the Indus River basin of India as early as 3000 BCE. By the second century BCE, Indian philosopher Patanjali had created a book called Yoga Sutras which described the basics of raja or kingly yoga. This, the most common and most complex form of yoga, is the yoga from which most other forms were later derived. When Buddhism was created by India's Prince Siddhartha Gautama, he included yoga as a common practice in the religion. As Buddhist monks travelled into China, they brought with them both their religion and their yogic practices.
Types of Yoga
There are nine different systems or types of yoga which have been created to fit the personalities of different people who decide to participate in yoga. While each of the yogic methods differ slightly, the ultimate goals are relatively the same.