What is yoga? - Helen's website 2017

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So what is yoga?

Patanjali
Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy and spiritual practice - a complete system for balancing the body, mind and spirit. One of the oldest systems of personal development in the world it provides practical tools to cope with the challenges of life. It is an art, a science, a philosophy and a way of life.

The history of yoga is not well charted but evidence suggests that it has been evolving since 300BC and maybe earlier. It is rooted in the investigations by Indian yogis of ancient times who studied the human psyche and explored what it was to be a human being and how best a person could live in harmony with him/herself and the environment.

It is believed that yoga teachings were first collated about 1700 years ago by the sage Patanjali into the Yoga Sutras. He is also credited with collating and writing the first records of Yoga, Ayurvedic Medicine and Sanskrit Grammar.
 
A second meaning of the word Yoga, in Sanskrit, the classical language of India, is to join or unite . There are different interpretations of this but in essence it refers to the union of body, mind, intelligence, and spirit and to the union of the individual consciousness with the universal, divine, consciousness. In practical terms being “at one with the world”. The various yoga practices are a methodology for reaching that goal, integrating from the outermost layer to the innermost self.

Patanjali defines yoga as a means for restraining the swirling current of thoughts in the mind and stilling the fluctuations of consciousness, enabling us to keep an equilibrium in success and failure. Patanjali's 196 sutras (aphorisms) cover all aspects of life and are still powerfully relevant and of great value for people today, proving ever popular.

He advises us to cultivate good character traits: be friendly, kind and compassionate; be cheerful; do not look for faults in others but rather look to improve oneself.

He warns against attitudes such as self-importance, anger, hatred and excessive attachment and identifies sickness, laziness, doubt and lack of concentration as common obstacles to progress in life.
 
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