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A Brief Overview Of Yoga
Yoga is an ancient form of exercise that balances mental and physical strength and flexibility, both mentally and physically. It targets the body's weak spots and challenges us to improve upon them. The spot may be a tight hamstring or stiff back, or a lack of patience. With dedication and time, the results are a sensitive, focused mind and a strong, supple body. But one of the best benefits is the joie de vivre that comes over us after a practice — an inexplicable happiness and calm that envelops us and keeps us moving throughout our day in a more peaceful state. Yoga can even provide therapeutic benefits for various conditions. In the end, yoga is a jouney to understanding and enjoying oneself.

The art of yoga comes from India. It is rooted in some of the most ancient writings known, "The Vedas", written about 4000 B.C. There are several versions, but Pantanjali's Yoga Sutras (circa 2000 B.C.) are what many instructors reference today. In "The Sutras", Pantanjali directs us toward a path to achieve the state known as "Astanga", or "Eight Limbs of Yoga". (This should not be confused with the Astanga method of yoga developed by K. Pattabhi Jois.) In a sense, this is an eight-step program for improving mind, body and spirit. The path begins with becoming aware of how we live, with others and with ourselves (yamas and niyamas). Then the mind is trained through physical awareness of body (asana) and breathing (pranayama). Learning to turn the awareness and concentration inward are the next three steps, (pratyahara, dharana and dhyana). Finally, the ultimate awareness that yoga reaches for is "samadhi", or total comprehension of an object or action without misunderstanding or misapprehension.

Fast forward to the 20th century. Although there are many different styles of yoga available today, most are a form of Hatha Yoga (the yoga of will power) and focus on the asanas. Nevertheless, the philosophical and spiritual roots of yoga yield benefits to body, mind and spirit for the devoted practitioner.

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