The practice of yoga can be traced back nearly 5,000 years, with some researchers suggesting it actually extends as far back as 10,000 years. Yogic teachings were mentioned in the Rigveda, an ancient spiritual text. The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which loosely translates to “to yoke,” “to unite,” or “to join,” and this makes sense when you consider how yoga was viewed during these early stages: as a means of uniting the physical body with the spiritual realm. As centuries passed, yoga also became celebrated for its purely physical benefits—how it energizes and strengthens the body—but to this day the belief that yoga helps bring the mind and body into harmony is one of the biggest things that draws people to their mat.
By the beginning of the 1900s, yoga began to make its way west. There are many different type of yoga, but the form that initially took hold in the west is considered Hatha yoga. Hatha is a general category that includes most of the yoga types we think of today, from Ashtanga to Iyengar. Hatha simply refers to practicing poses (or asanas) and breathing exercises (called pranayama) to find balance, release tension, and calm the body and mind. Today, there are yoga classes of many different varieties available at yoga studios, gyms, and even online. Whether you prefer more of a vigorous physical workout or a slow and reflective practice, there’s a yoga class for your mood and needs.