What is yoga?
The origins of yoga
It is unclear when exactly the yogic traditions started but we know that yoga has been around for thousands of years. Some accounts place the origins of yoga to 3000 BC to Northern India developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilisation. Yoga at its origins was a religion, and it is still practised as a religion by many in India and other countries. As all religious traditions yoga has gone through a long journey of discovery and development through its history. At the beginning, yoga was developed by the Brahmans (mystic seers) who created songs, mantras and other rituals for spiritual purification. In a later period, what we call the classical yoga period, a collection of verses surfaced and became accepted as the pillar of yoga: the Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali. As often is the case with sacred texts, we don't know if the Yoga Sutras were written by one person or if it's a collection of the writings of different authors. In any case, it is one of the most important texts of yoga that talks about the "eight limbed path" of yoga. It provides guidance for those who wish to live a yogic life.
In the West yoga is most often associated to the physical practice of yoga (asana) and thus it is often found in gyms and sport centres in addition to yoga studios. Asana practice became part of yoga a little over a century ago when yoga masters brought their attention to the maintenance of a healthy body in addition to seeking spirituality through the mind. Nowadays, yoga classes are largely based on the training of yoga poses, breathing exercises and mindfulness. It is a wonderful practice to gain strength, flexibility and to learn about ourselves. Mindfulness and meditation are an integral part of yoga as well, which brings numerous benefits to yoga practitioners.
Yoga & science - where the East and West meet
Ever since yoga became so popular in the West, scientists started to study the effects of yoga on our physical and psychological health. More and more scientific papers come out each year shining light on the benefits of yoga and meditation. Research on yoga, meditation and neurosciences is a wonderful example of eastern and western philosophy coming together. It also shows how ancient traditions can bring value to our lives even in the XXI century, moreover, it shows how yoga is a living, breathing tradition where each generation gets to contribute to it. Yoga got redefined multiple times through its history, we, yoga practitioners, have the privilege and responsibility to bring our own ideas into this rich tradition that has been handed down to us generation to generation. Therefore, I don't view yoga as a static, dogmatic system but rather a system in continuous development. Science is a wonderful tool that can help us in our self-discovery.
In a vinyasa class I guide students through creative movement sequences designed to challenge their strength, flexibility and balance. Through these challenges students gain insight into their physical and mental states. Vinyasa sequences also help students learn to have control over the fluctuations of their attention. These classes are fun and variable, each class focuses on a different aspect of movement to train different parts of the body. Breathing exercises and mindfulness practices are also often part of the class.