Origin of Yoga
Yoga originated during the Indus Valley (modern-day India and Pakistan) Civilization 5000 years ago. The earliest reference to Yoga was in Rigveda composed 3000-3500 years ago. In the Vedas, Yoga was a means to harness the mind and achieve spiritual enlightenment. Yoga as a systematic and codified practice emerged much later in history.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, compiled around the 2nd century BCE, is one of the most influential texts on yoga. Patanjali’s 196 sutras (aphorisms) give guidance on various aspects of yoga such as ethical principles (yamas and niyamas), physical postures (asanas), breath control (pranayama), sense withdrawal (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and ultimate liberation (samadhi).
Paths (Schools) of Yoga
Yoga was primarily transmitted orally from teacher to student. The major paths (schools) of yoga that emerged are:
Hatha Yoga: Physical postures (asanas) and breath control (pranayama). It was popular during the medieval period in India. From it emerged several of modern yoga styles.
Bhakti Yoga: Prayer, chanting, and acts of service to cultivate a deep connection with a deity or the divine.
Karma Yoga: Selfless action, service to others, and performance of duties without seeking personal gain.
Jnana Yoga: Contemplation, self-inquiry, and the study of philosophical texts to gain knowledge and wisdom and to realize the true nature of oneself and the universe.
Raja Yoga: Encompasses all aspects of yoga, to achieve mental and spiritual mastery.
Modern Day Yoga
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Swami Vivekananda and Paramahansa Yogananda took yoga philosophy and practices to a broader audience. They emphasized Yoga’s benefits for physical health, mental well-being, and spiritual growth.
Today, yoga has presence in almost every country. It is popular in Western countries such as the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. And has influence in Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. Hundreds of millions of people practice yoga globally. Yoga is versatile and adaptable. Thus, many schools of yoga have emerged. A few major ones are Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Iyengar, Kundalini, and Yin yoga.
Yoga’ popularity is mainly for fitness and wellness. But yoga has also emerged as a complementary therapy for various ailments. And Yoga is emerging as big business.
Yoga for Fitness and Wellbeing
Yoga helps in fitness and wellbeing in following ways:
Physical Fitness: Yoga improves strength, flexibility, muscle tone, balance, posture and enhances core strength.
Cardiovascular Health: Certain types of yoga, such as Vinyasa or
Power Yoga: Elevates the heart rate and thus improve cardiovascular health, increase endurance, and boosts overall fitness levels.
Stress Reduction and Relaxation: Breathing techniques (pranayama) and relaxation exercises reduce stress, tension, anxiety, depression; and improve mood, mindfulness, and overall mental resilience and well-being.
Enhanced Focus and Concentration: Meditation techniques and specific asanas such as balancing poses, improve focus, concentration, mental clarity, memory; and enhance cognitive function.
Better Sleep: Yoga improves sleep quality.
Yoga as Complementary Therapy
In recent years, much research has focussed on efficacy of yoga as a complementary therapy. More high-quality research is needed to reach definite conclusions. But scientific evidence till now shows that yoga is beneficial in several ailments such as these:
Chronic Pain: Yoga can reduce chronic pain, such as back pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia. A review of multiple studies published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2017 found that yoga was associated with small to moderate improvements in back pain and functional ability.
Stress and Anxiety: Breath control and relaxation techniques of yoga reduce stress and anxiety. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2017 found that yoga was associated with significant reduction in anxiety symptoms.
Depression: Yoga is effective as an adjunct therapy for depression. A review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2017 concluded that yoga reduces depression symptoms. But larger and more rigorous studies are needed to confirm these findings.
Cardiovascular Health: Yoga improves cardiovascular health. Research published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in 2019 showed that yoga improved cardiovascular health indicators such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart rate variability.
Sleep Disorders: Certain yoga asanas and relaxation techniques improve sleep quality. A systematic review and meta-analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine in 2017 found that yoga significantly improved sleep quality and efficiency in individuals with sleep disorders.
Cancer-Related Symptoms: Yoga helps reduce cancer-related symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety, and sleep disturbances. A review published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2014 reported that yoga was associated with improved quality of life in cancer patients.
Yoga is not a substitute for medical treatment. It can be used as a complementary therapy under the advice of a doctor.
Yoga has grown into a big global business. Ita main components are:
Yoga Studios provide dedicated spaces for yoga classes, workshops, and events.
Yoga Retreats offer an immersive yoga experience in serene and picturesque locations.
Yoga Teacher Training provides in-depth knowledge and practical training in yoga philosophy, asanas, anatomy, teaching methodology, and ethics to aspiring yoga instructors.
Online Yoga Platforms offer pre-recorded or live-streamed yoga classes accessible to a global audience.
Yoga Apparel and Merchandise such as yoga clothing, mats, blocks, and props.
Yoga-Related Services: such as private yoga sessions, yoga therapy, corporate yoga programs, prenatal yoga, and yoga for specific populations, such as children or seniors.
The global yoga industry, which includes yoga components listed above and sale of yoga apparel, accessories, and equipment, was valued at about $180 billion in 2020.
In comparison, the global fitness industry which includes revenue from health clubs, gyms, fitness studios, personal training services, fitness equipment, and digital fitness platforms was valued at about $96.7 billion in 2019.
The global yoga business is set to grow at a rapid pace because of the increasing interest in fitness, health, well-being, and mind-body practices.
Yoga began in ancient India as a spiritual practice. But developed into a complex practice that benefits fitness, balance, physical, mental, and emotional health, pain management, stress management, and promotes healthy eating and sleep.
Yoga may help weight-loss, quit smoking; and in coping with menopause symptoms, and decreasing stress, anxiety, and depression during pregnancy.
Because of its several benefits, Yoga has become a thriving, expanding global business.
Yoga transforms the practitioner. The body benefits from movement, and the mind benefits from stillness.