Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center
Yoga History and Facts

Yoga

History

Yoga started in the East as a spiritual practice with much of its focus on meditation.  In the West yoga is seen primarily as a physical practice with the focus being health and wellness.
Today yoga has become an increasingly popular method of breathing, physical exercises and meditation.  Yoga exercise has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve resistance to psychological stresses.  Strength, endurance and physical flexibility are especially beneficial to those with back problems.

Facts

A male who practices yoga is referred to as a yogi.
A female who practices yoga is called a yogini.
Yoga means to union, harmony and balance.
Yoga is believed to be made of eight limbs:
  • asana - postures
  • pranayama - breathing
  • dharana - concentration
  • dhyani - meditation
  • yamas - restraints
  • pratyahara - withdrawal of senses
  • niyamas - observances
  • samadhi - absorption

Yogis in India have conceptualized the seven "chakras," or wheels of energy since ancient times as the ethereal body (energy body that engulfs the physical body).  They take in vitality (prana) from the surrounding atmosphere.They are located along the central axis of the body. These chakras govern the seven levels of the spiritual life of the yogic practitioner.  The yogi strives to awaken or become conscious of these centers of energy through visualization and breathing exercises that concentrate attention on the areas in the body where they are located. Each is associated with a specific aspect of physical functioning and appears to be the center and energetic source of specific emotional qualities.


The root chakra is related to earth grounding.  It is also said to be the seat of the "Kundalini" or fiery serpent.  Kundalini is thought to be an energy derived from the sun, stored at the base of the spine. When liberated it is thought to rush up the spinal cord to the brain, activating all the chakras as it passes through them.

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The goal of traditional yoga is to achieve samadhi, which is a state of inward enlightment.