Yoga is a popular exercise implemented in the routine of many individuals in the Western world due to the extensive list of physical and mental benefits achieved through the practice. However, because Yoga has a long history dating back to ancient times, few are unaware of the full benefits that are achievable through the practice of Yoga – such as the spiritual ones.
Historians still debate the true origins of Yoga; however, the consensus agrees that the practice developed in ancient India. In Hinduism, the first Yogi, referred to as Adiyogi, endowed his knowledge of Yoga to the Saptarishis, who are close disciples to Adiyogi, so that they could share this knowledge with humanity. I am personally not Hindu, however, through my interest in Yoga I developed an extreme interest and appreciation for Hinduism, its philosophies, and its homage to the practice of Yoga. Contrary to Abrahamic religions, such as Christianity – the religion I was raised with, the beauty of Hinduism lies in its emphasis of diversity and acknowledgement of the reality that not everyone is
capable of following the same path. The philosophy of Hinduism does not require individuals to adhere to a specific God or to specific rules, its main goal is moshka – liberation from the cycle of birth and death. Regardless of your religion, race, gender, or sexuality you can achieve moshka. To achieve moshka one must simply advance spiritually. Adiyogi provided the Saptarishis with knowledge of skills to acquire individual transformation as he believed that the key world change could only be achieved
through individual change. The practice of Yoga progressively spread throughout cultures globally and as such has an extremely rich and fascinating history. Because of its global spread, however, there are several different types of Yoga with very unique historical and cultural ties. I therefore suggest to any readers interested in practicing Yoga to attempt researching the history of the particular practice they would like to engage in.
Although I began Yoga to reap the mental health and physical benefits from what I perceived to be simply an aerobatic exercise I soon learned that those goals were simply a by-product of the main goal of Yoga which is finding harmony between oneself and the universe. When I first started my main focus was on my body, I began to play close attention to my posture, my pose, and how I felt internally. I later learned that Yoga was teaching me how to introspect, or look within myself, by simply paying attention to my body. I also realized that the purpose behind incorporating exercise through postures in the practice is simply a preparatory process to help your body achieve higher levels of energy. As I progressed in Yoga I began to focus more on my breath. Focusing on my breath was when I really started to reap the spiritual benefits of Yoga as it helped me control my mind. Simply paying attention to my breathing allowed me to achieve a better awareness of my mind. Currently I am trying to implement controlled breathing exercises in my practices so that I can further progress towards understanding my inner self.