From its Indian origins as far back as 4000 years age, yoga has been continually practiced, but it is only in the present century that is use has become more widespread. Yoga has an effect on the whole person, combining the physical, mental and spiritual sides. The word ‘yoga’ is derived from a Sanskrit word that means ‘yoke’ or ‘union’ , and thus reflects on the practices of yoga being total in effect. For many hundreds of years in India only a select few, such as philosophers and like-minded people with their disciples, followed the way of life that yoga dictated. The leaders were known as ‘yogis’ and it was they who taught their followers by passing on their accumulated knowledge. These small groups of people dwelt in caves or woods, or sometimes a yogi would live like a hermit. Yoga has had quite far-reaching effects over many hundreds of years in India.
The basics of yoga were defined by a yogi called Patanjali who lived about 300BC. He was a very well –respected teacher and commanded great influence at that time, and his classification is one that is used now. He established the fact of yoga being separated into eight different parts. The first two concern a person’s lifestyle, which should be serene with the days spent in contemplation, study, maintaining cleanliness, and living very simply and at peace with others. Anything that involves avarice or greed, etc, or is harmful to others has to be avoided. The third and fourth parts are concerned with physical matters and list a number of exercises designed to promote peace and infuse energy into both the mind and body.
The remaining four sections are concerned with the advancement of a person’s soul or spirit and mental faculties by being able to isolate himself or herself from outside worries and normal life, contemplation and broadening mental faculties by being able to isolate himself or herself from outside worries and normal life, contemplation and broadening mental faculties with the ultimate knowledge known as somadhi. Mentally, this is a complete change that gives final realization of existence. Much more recently, yoga because available in India to everyone, in complete contrast to centuries ago. Doctors and teachers taught yoga, and it is now the rule that all schoolchildren have lessons in some of the exercises.