Introduction to Yoga

Originally from India, yoga is first of all a philosophy of life.

Patanjali is considered the “Father” of yoga, although we only know of him that he was the first one to write down some fundamental rules in his Yoga Sutra, during a period that goes from 400 to 200 B.C. But we are almost sure that yoga was already practised in India long before him, because it was part of Indian lifestyle, or Ayurvedic tradition, which was handed on from father to son. Ayurveda is a holistic science according to which the functions of the body are closely related to the individual’s mind and soul. Hence, according to Ayurveda, being healthy does not simply mean that the body is not affected by disease, but also that the mind needs to be happy and the person spiritually elevated, in order to be able to carry out all his tasks and therefore fulfil his dharma – a Sanscrit term which may be translated as life project. To date, there is no one in India who does not consider yoga as part of one’s lifestyle.

In western countries, yoga has been given a meaning different from the original one, that is, it is no longer part of a lifestyle, but it has become an exercise, just like stretching or pilates (which have drawn much from yoga). The main reason for the latter is, I believe, that in the West yoga’s positive contribution to psycho-physical well-being has highly been considered. As a matter of fact, in the early 1970’s American scientists started to investigate into its benefits by carrying out medical studies to understand whether yoga could be considered not merely as an exercise, but as an efficacious therapy in the treatment of some pathologies.

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