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The Origin of Yoga Exercises
By:Naomi Bolton

Yoga is believed to be more than 5,000 years old, originating in the Stone Age Shamanism that was once integral to civilizations in Northern India. Yoga exercises consist of chanting, postures and controlled breathing exercises that have been practiced for centuries as a form of meditation. Different yoga styles were developed, with the Hatha Yoga being the most commonly practiced today as a form of fitness exercise.

Bondage and Discipline
The word "yoga" was first mentioned in the Rig Veda, an ancient collection of hymns and mantras, dating back to around 1,500 BC. Yoga is referred to in this book as a discipline, or a type of "yoking" or bondage. The Rig Veda however does not supply any further detail on what these bondage or discipline practices entailed. Yoga is mentioned in later books again, but this time as the exercise of controlled breathing.

Upanishads
Yoga is described in ancient Hindu scriptures, the Upanishads of 500 BC to 800 BC. "Upanishad" literally means to "sit down" or "to sit below," implying that sitting at the foot of his teacher was the only way for a student to become enlightened. Yoga meditation exercises were taught by the Maitrayaniya Upanishads in 200 and 300 BC who presented it in six folds: breath control, withdrawal of senses, meditation, concentration, contemplation and absorption.

Asanas
Yoga asanas refer to the different body postures which are taught by yoga teachers worldwide. The original Sanskrit word means "to sit." Classic texts of the Hatha Yoga tradition described several forms of the yoga asana postures, where each asana has a certain objective to bodily and spiritual healing. Yoga asanas involved posture training and developed to be regarded as a physical meditation exercise as well as a form of social medicine and overall cleansing.

Through the centuries, Indian spiritual healers (sadhakas) investigated the influence of Yoga Asanas on individuals and formulated a complete course of posture exercises to benefit self-healing. The early postures, which were mostly meditative poses, have evolved into a whole system of physical education.

Animal Postures
From its beginning, the yoga posture has had thousands of styles. People mimicked animal movements in their yoga postures, and gave it special names, such as "cobra," "locust," "fish," and "peacock."

Hatha and Tantric Yoga
Tantric and Hatha Yoga, which are the major disciplines practiced today, developed around 1000 AD during the Post-Classical Period. Tantra taught the principles of cleansing the body, mind and spirit, and to break ties binding you to physical existence. Hatha yoga was introduced to the U.S. in the late 19 century, and utilizes strengthening postures and controlled breathing to establish self-improvement.

Ashtanga Yoga
Ashtanga yoga is a form of yoga that provides a more intensive workout using powerful movements and postures rather than static poses. A lot of mythology exists around the origins of ashtanga yoga exercises. Krishnamacharya developed this style in the early 1930s, and most ashtanga teachers believe that the exercises are described in a "rediscovered" manuscript which only Krishnamacharya saw. Legend goes that the manuscript was written on crumbling palm leaves and in a state of disrepair when Krishnamacharya discovered it and studied it, and was subsequently eaten by ants. Some people, however, believe that this style was developed by Krishnamacharya by integrating martial arts and yoga with gymnastics from the UK.