Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India. Yoga is one of the six ...
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yoga[a][b] is mainly a physical activity consisting largely of postures called asanas, often connected by flowing sequences called vinyasas, sometimes accompanied by the breathing exercises of pranayama, and usually ending with a period of relaxation or meditation. It is often known simply as 'yoga',[c] despite the existence of multiple older traditions of yoga within Hinduism where asanas played little or no part, some dating back to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, and despite the fact that in no tradition was the practice of asanas central.
Modern yoga was created in what has been called the Modern Yoga Renaissance by the blending of Western styles of gymnastics with postures from Haṭha yoga in India in the 20th century, influenced by the popular physical culture of the time. Before 1900 there were few standing poses in Haṭha yoga, which had been held in low regard in India. Asana practice was revived in the 1920s by yoga gurus including Yogendra, Kuvalayananda and Seetharaman Sundaram. The flowing sequences of salute to the sun, Surya Namaskar, were pioneered by the Rajah of Aundh, Bhawanrao Shrinivasrao Pant Pratinidhi, in the 1920s. Many standing poses used in gymnastics were incorporated into yoga by Krishnamacharya in Mysore from the 1930s to the 1950s. Several of his students went on to found influential schools of yoga: Pattabhi Jois created Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, which in turn led to Power Yoga; B. K. S. Iyengar created Iyengar Yoga, and systematised the canon of asanas in his 1966 book Light on Yoga; Indra Devi taught yoga to many film stars in Hollywood; and Krishnamacharya's son T. K. V. Desikacharfounded the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandalam in Chennai. Other major schools founded in the 20th century include Bikram Choudhury's Bikram Yoga and Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh's Sivananda Vedanta Schools of Yoga. Modern yoga spread across America and Europe, and then the rest of the world.
The number of asanas used in modern yoga has increased rapidly from a nominal 84 in 1830, as illustrated in Joga Pradipika, to some 200 in Light on Yoga and over 900 performed by Dharma Mittra by 1984. At the same time, the goals of Haṭha yoga, namely spiritual liberation (moksha) through the raising of kundalini energy, were largely replaced by the goals of fitness and relaxation, while many of Haṭha yoga's components like the shatkarmas(purifications), mudras (seals or gestures including the bandhas, locks to restrain the prana or vital principle), and pranayama were much reduced or removed entirely. The term "hatha yoga" is also in use with a different meaning, a gentle unbranded yoga practice, independent of the major schools, sometimes mainly for women. All the same, modern yoga contains many reworkings of the ancient spiritual tradition, and practices vary from wholly secular, for exercise and relaxation, through to undoubtedly spiritual, whether in traditions like Sivananda Yoga or in personal rituals. Modern yoga's relationship to Hinduism is complex and contested; some Christians have rejected it on the grounds that it is covertly Hindu, while the "Take Back Yoga" campaign attempted to insist that it was necessarily connected to Hinduism. Yoga has however evolved in many directions in modern times, and people are using it with different combinations of techniques for multiple purposes.
Yoga has developed into a worldwide multi-billion dollar business, involving classes, certification of teachers, clothing, books, videos, equipment, and holidays. The ancient cross-legged sitting asanas like lotus pose(Padmasana) and Siddhasana are widely-recognised symbols of yoga.
The Sanskrit noun योग yoga, cognate with English "yoke", is derived from the root yuj "to attach, join, harness, yoke". Its ancient spiritual and philosophical goal was to unite the human spirit with the Divine.
The practice of yoga using postures called asanas is often vaguely traced to Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (before the 4th century CE), but the sutras do not mention any asana by name: they state only that asanas must be "steady and comfortable". However, scholars of yoga suggest that Patanjali actually composed an integrated work, the Patanjalayogasastra, combining a summary of older traditions of yoga (the Sutras) with his own commentary, the Bhasya. The Bhasya names 12 seated asanas including Padmasana, Virasana, Bhadrasana, and Svastikasana. The philologist James Mallinson notes that in ancient times asanameant simply a meditation seat, a sitting posture, until about 1000 AD. Yoga is sometimes attributed to the Vedas, but they do not mention it.