Yoga (Sanskrit, Sans,) is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines that originated in ancient India. There is a wide variety of yoga schools, practices and goals in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Some of the best known types of yoga are Hatha Yoga and Rāja Yoga. The origins of yoga have been speculated to go back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions; it is mentioned in the Rigveda, but probably developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BC, in the ascetic and śramaṇa movements of ancient India. The chronology of the first texts describing the practices of yoga is not clear, it is variously attributed to the Upanishads. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date from the first half of the 1st millennium of the Christian era, but only gained prominence in the West in the 20th century. The texts of Hatha Yoga emerged around the 11th century with origins in Tantra. Yoga gurus from India then introduced yoga to the West, following the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as an exercise system throughout the western world. Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than just a physical exercise; he has a meditative and spiritual core. One of the six main orthodox schools of Hinduism is also called Yoga, which has its own epistemology and metaphysics, and is closely related to Hindu philosophy Samkhya. Many studies have attempted to determine the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma and heart disease. The results of these studies have been mixed and inconclusive. On December 1st 2016, yoga has been classified by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage.

The Sanskrit name translates to (and is related to) English “yoke”. It is derived from the root “attach, join, harness, yoke”. The spiritual meaning of the word yoga appears first in Epic Sanskrit, in the second half of the 1st millennium BC, and is associated with the philosophical system presented in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, with the main purpose of “uniting” the human spirit with the Divine. The term kriyāyoga has a grammatical meaning, meaning “connection with a verb”. But the same compound is also given a technical meaning in the Yoga Sutras (2.1), designating the “practical” aspects of philosophy, namely “union with the supreme” because of the fulfillment of duties in daily life . yoga can be derived from either of the two roots, yujir yoga (yoke) or yuj samādhau (“focus”). In the context of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the root yuj samādhau (to focus) is considered by traditional commentators as the correct etymology. In agreement with Pāṇini, Vyasa, who wrote the first commentary on Yoga Sutras, states that yoga means samādhi (concentration). According to Dasgupta, the term yoga can be derived from one or other of two roots, yujir yoga (“yoke”) or yuj samhadai (“to concentrate”). Someone who practices yoga or follows the philosophy of yoga with a high level of commitment is called a yogi (can be applied to a man or a woman) or yogini (traditionally designating a woman).

The term yoga has been defined in various ways in different Indian philosophical and religious traditions.

The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation), although the exact definition of what form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated. According to Jacobsen, “Yoga has five principal meanings:

The term “yoga” has been applied to a variety of practices and methods, including Jain and Buddhist practices. In Hinduism these include Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Laya Yoga and Hatha Yoga. The so-called Raja Yoga refers to Ashtanga Yoga, the eight limbs to be practiced to attain samadhi, as described in the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali. The term raja yoga originally referred to the ultimate goal of yoga, which is usually samadhi, but was popularised by Vivekananda as the common name for Ashtanga Yoga.

Yoga is considered as a philosophical school in Hinduism. Yoga, in this context, is one of the six āstika schools of Hinduism (those which accept the Vedas as source of knowledge). Due to the influence of Vivekananda, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are nowadays considered as the foundational scripture of classical yoga, a status which it only acquired in the 20th century. Before the twentieth century, other works were considered as the most central works, such as the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Vasistha, while Tantric Yoga and Hatha Yoga prevailed over Ashtanga Yoga.

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