Yoga is a philosophical teaching originating from India, which includes a series of mental and physical exercises or practices such as yama, niyama, asanas, pranayama, pratyahara, kriyas, meditation and asceticism.
The term yoga can mean “union” or “integration” and can also be understood in the sense of “harnessing” and “tensioning” the body to the soul for collection and concentration or becoming one with consciousness.
Since any path to self-knowledge can be called yoga, there are numerous names in Hinduism for the various paths of yoga, adapted to the dispositions of those seeking self-knowledge.
Yoga is one of the six classical schools (darshanas) of Indian philosophy. There are many different forms of yoga, often with their own philosophy and practice. In Europe and North America, until recently, the term yoga was often understood to mean only physical exercises – the asanas or yogasanas – and the term was thus largely equated with hatha yoga.
Some meditative forms of yoga place an emphasis on mental concentration, others more on physical exercises and postures as well as breathing exercises (pranayama), other directions emphasize asceticism. The philosophical foundations of yoga were summarized above all by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads also provide information about yoga.
Yoga as taught in the West is based on a modern form that arose from the mid-19th century, often marked by an adoption of Western esoteric ideas, psychology, physical training, and scientific assumptions by English-speaking and Western-educated Indians.
In these cases, modern yoga represents a New Age way of life rather than a form of Hindu spirituality. Traditional Indian yoga is fundamentally different from Western modern yoga and contains much more complex teachings and practices than the modern forms.
The yoga practitioner and especially a master of yoga is called yogī or jogi (Sanskrit योगी) or yogin (योगिन्).
The female form is Yoginī (योगिनी), which also means “sorceress”.
On December 1, 2016, Yoga was recognized as an Intangible World Heritage Site by UNESCO.