It’s ‘Made in India’ and it’s trending and transforming lives all over the world. This Indian export is growing from strength to strength every day. Millions around the world practice it daily making it an 80 billion dollar industry. We are referring to the ancient Indian system called yoga.
Here are some interesting facts about yoga.
- The word yoga originates from ‘yug’ in the ancient Indian language Sanskrit. It means to ‘yoke’ or ‘bind and unite’. It is a system that sees the body, the breath and the mind as a union of the multi-dimensional aspects of human beings. Through this union of physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation, man strives to achieve better health, happiness and a higher level of consciousness.
- Lord Shiva is referred to as the first teacher of Yoga in Hindu mythology. As ‘Yogeshvara’ or the Lord of Yoga, he empowers his worshippers to master yoga.
- Shiva is shown most commonly in the lotus pose or ‘Padmasana’. This sitting pose in yoga is said to depict the perfect beauty of the lotus flower. Lord Buddha is also depicted in this perfectly symmetrical lotus position in his meditations as are all the famous Jain monks. The pose gives physical stability and the proper breathing necessary for proper meditation.
- The word yoga appears for the first time in the Vedic ‘Katha Upanishad’ composed around the fourth to third century BCE. However, as the ‘Pashupati’ seal found in the Indus Valley Civilization depicts figures in meditation poses similar to yoga, some historians believe that yoga may have been practiced even in pre-Vedic times. Hence, yoga could have originated almost 5000 years ago!
- A maharishi by the name of Patanjali is famous for his treatise on yoga. The famous work named ‘Pātañjalayogaśāstra’ is considered to be the most authoritative compilation on yoga and was compiled around 400 CE.
- Onesicritus, the companion of Alexander the Great on his expedition to India, has been quoted by Strabo about yogins in “different postures – standing or sitting or lying naked – and motionless”.
- Today, yoga enjoys high levels of awareness and popularity all over the world. Swami Vivekananda, Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, Swami Sivananda, B K S Iyengar, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Paramahansa Yogananda are some famous personalities who have made the practice of yoga popular in the West.
- The United Nations recognized yoga as a provider of ‘a holistic approach to health and well-being’ in December 2014.
- June 21 was designated as ‘International Day of Yoga’ and in 2015, around 35000 Indians led by Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, performed yoga for 35 minutes at Raj Path in New Delhi on that day. The event set the Guinness record as the ‘largest yoga’ class in the world with 35,985 people participating. The second record set on the day was of 84 nationalities participating in the event.
- Yoga has 8 branches or limbs. These are ‘Yama’ or the five abstentions, ‘Niyama’ or the five observances, ‘Asanas’ or postures, ‘Pranayama’ or suspending breath, ‘Pratyahara’ or the withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects, ‘Dharana’ or concentration, ‘Dhyana’ or meditation and ‘Samadhi’ or liberation.
- Asana is the third limb of yoga. It involves postures for the physical practice of yoga. 84 classic asanas taught by Lord Shiva find reference in ancient yoga texts.
- More than 100 different schools of yoga such as Hatha yoga, Jnana yoga and Karma yoga exist. New ones such as Bikram yoga, with different practices are evolving every day!
- In 2002, DOGA or yoga which helps humans establish harmony with dogs was announced in New York with owners taking part with their pets!
- Scientific studies have established a myriad range of health benefits from the practice of yoga. These range from helping in the case of simple headaches and insomnia to heart ailments, bone or joint disorders, mental disturbances, eating and digestive disorders to reducing stress and weight. A Norwegian study has shown how yoga boosts the immune system at a genetic level. Other studies have documented how Tibetan monks in thin robes, use tum-mo, a yoga meditation technique to withstand extreme cold at heights exceeding 15000 feet in the icy nights of the Himalayas. They do so by controlling their skin temperatures and lowering their metabolism rates!