Yoga is a form of exercise and meditation that originated in India many centuries ago, which combines meditation, physical exercises and breathing regulation. It was originally used by saints and hermits in ancient India to achieve enlightenment through improvement of mind, body and soul. However nowadays, yoga is primarily known and used for it’s physical benefits, especially in the western world.
There are 5 yoga disciplines which are different from each other in various ways. These are Raja yoga (Royal yoga), Karma yoga, Jnana yoga (Knowledge yoga), Bhakti yoga (Faith yoga) and Hatha yoga. Among these, hatha yoga is the form of yoga most familiar in western countries. It includes a number of postures called asanas, each of which provides varying benefits to specific regions of the body. Yoga practice includes pranayama (Breath control exercises) and may also include meditational chants. A yoga practitioner needs no equipment apart from an optional yoga mat for more comfort and safety.
Yoga has many health benefits. Yoga improves body posture and alignment, physical flexibility and stamina, strength and muscle tone, respiration, digestion and blood circulation depending on the types of postures practiced. Yoga has mental benefits as well. It relaxes the practitioner, reduces mental stress and alleviates depression. Regular yoga practice also offers a person greater control over his breath and helps him achieve increased mental and physical awareness and concentration. Yoga is also useful for people who have sleeping difficulties, as it allows them to relax and sleep better.