Yoga evolved several thousand years ago, in India, as a system of self-enlightenment. Today, in spite of all the benefits of 21st- century living, more and more people are turning to yoga for inspiration, confirming its timeless appeal.
The meaning of yoga
Originally, yoga evolves as a way of feeling closer to a higher, divine presence, and the focus of yoga practice was spiritual rather than physical. Today, yoga can can be enjoyed as a physical discipline, known as hatha yoga, as well as spiritual one. Many people still find that practising yoga can help to deepen their faith.
The Indians sages, or gurus, who first developed the idea of yoga believed that to attain spiritual enlightenment required a systematic approach. They devised a code of practice to follow in order to achieve all-round health, and believed that by training the physical body- the first step in yoga - they could tame the mind, improve the concentration, and find their inner self, or soul.
Nature knows best
The gurus sought their initial inspiration from the natural world around them. They watch and studied the patterns of nature and the behaviour of animals with a specific passion. They marvelled at the power and focus of predatory creatures and birds as they hunted, at their ability to conserve energy and to sleep soundly when the opportunity arose.
Admiring this balanced, instinctive way of living, the yogis- the gurus who developed and practised the yoga philosophy-began to imitate the way the animals moved and behaved , and soon they found themselves empowered with special qualities. And so the classical asanas, or animal postures, were born.
What the yogis learned
The gurus observed the breathing patterns of animals , and note that animals with slow heart rates, like the elephant and the tortoise, lived much longer than agile and nervous animals with quick heart rates, such as mice and rabbits.
They saw the sun as the centre of their energy universe after watching how plants and flowers grow upwards to bask in its warmth and energy. They admired the huge trees because they were at the same time strong and flexible, rooted firmly in the ground but with branches moving freely in the wind. Seeing these attributes as metaphors for a human code of living, they saw that people could be happier and healthier if they, too, could be both grounded and flexible.