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What is yoga?

woman doing yoga poseYoga is a spiritual tradition that began in India about 5,000 years ago. Historically its practices have been adopted by such religions as Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. However, the practice of yoga is compatible with any religion, as well as atheism.

The word yoga means union in Sanskrit. Many of the yoga traditions believe that the practices of yoga lead to union of a person with his or her true nature, or with God or the universe (however one wishes to conceptualize it). How this is interpreted and the means employed to get there differ in the various yoga traditions.

Patanjali, author of the classic yoga text, the Yoga Sutra, defined yoga as the quieting of the fluctuations of the mind. From a yogic perspective, the mind, and its ceaseless internal monologue, is the source of suffering. The various yoga practices serve to calm the mind. From a wellspring of relaxed concentration-the hallmark of yoga-comes inner peace, heightened creativity, and awareness of our essential nature. 

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