Yoga is a mind-body practice that includes physical and spiritual exercises and meditations with roots reaching back thousands of years to ancient India. Yoga postures, known as asanas, require a balance of effort, ease, stability and comfort, according to The Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, an ancient Sanskrit text that lays the foundation of yoga. Of its 196 verses, only three mention specific physical yoga postures, suggesting the practice goes beyond physical activity to include breathwork, meditation and more.
“The techniques of yoga are simple and natural, ” says Sri Dharma Mittra, an 83-year-old master yoga teacher plus founder of the Dharma Yoga Center in New York City. “The postures are what people most often think of when they think of yoga exercise in the West, but they’re really only one-eighth of the practice of cultivating radiant bodily health. ”
The coordination of movement and breath is an unique aspect of yoga, and focusing on deep breathing, which is common in the exercise of yoga, may improve focus, mood and stress levels, according to a study in Frontiers In Psychology .
“The word ‘yoga’ means union, to join or [to] yoke, ” says Brahmani Liebman, a yoga teacher and founder of Rivertown Center for Yoga and Health in Dobbs Ferry, New York, who has been teaching for more than 40 years “The beauty of yoga exercises and its many practices is that there’s something for everybody. These practices allow us to continue to enjoy our lives, to keep moving with our grandchildren [and] to appreciate the beauty of nature and all that life has given us. ”