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Learning More About the Roots of Yoga

Practiced in so many different ways today, Yoga has been around for thousands of years. But how did Yoga start? Well, Yoga originated in India and is amongst the six schools of philosophy in Hinduism, and is also a major part of Buddhism and its meditation practices. 

If you have been in a Yoga Class before, you most likely have heard words that you couldn’t quite understand or recognize. That is because the language of Yoga is Sanskrit, which is the root of lots of Indian languages. Some of these Yoga words that are used in sessions are hard to understand- so here are a few that you may or may not have heard and their meanings. 


The term āsana translates to English as “seat” but is actually used in today’s world to refer to the physical part of Yoga. The physical parts of Yoga include movement and postures. An example of this Literally translated as seat, the term āsana these days is used to refer to the practice of physical yoga postures or poses. For example, Siddhasana, Padmasana, Bhadrasana, or Simhasana are all different types of poses or “asanas” that are used in the movement and physical part of yoga. 


In Sanskrit, Prāna refers to the life force within every being and is mostly connected with the breath. The breath is a very important thing that can control your emotions and the way you feel, and when you are not in control of your breath, panic and stress can flood in. This is why it is important to practice prānāyāma, which more specifically refers to breathing exercises. In practicing prānāyāma, your mind can clear the physical and emotional obstacles in your body to free the breath. An example of this would be Ujjayi, which translates to “Victorious Breath”. 

Although there are many famous yogis in the world, if there is one name you should know when it comes to Yoga, it’s Swami Vishnudevananda. In bringing yoga to diverse and global audiences, Swami Vishnudevananda kept in mind the lifestyle needs in current times, so he adapted the ancient wisdom of yoga into a few basic principles. Here are some examples of these principles: 

Proper Exercise (Āsana)

Proper Breathing (Prāṇāyāma) 

Proper Relaxation (Śavāsana)

Positive Thinking & Meditation (Vedānta & Dhyāna). 

With that being said, it is also important to discuss Mantras when speaking about the origins of Yoga, for they do play a huge role. Mantras are repetitive sounds used to “penetrate the depths of the unconscious mind” and “adjust the vibration of all aspects of your being”. Mantras can be chanted aloud, delved upon, or listened in to. In yoga, mantras are typically chanted in Sanskrit. The Sanskrit word mantra is derived from the root word “man”, meaning “to think,” and tra (from trai) meaning “to protect or to free from bondage” or “to free from the mind.” In today’s world, there are so many different kinds of mantras, whether it’s something you use during your yoga practice, follow as a way of life, or use as advice.

It is so fascinating to think about the evolution of Yoga, where it started as an idea from Hinduism and Buddhism and has progressed into so many variations. Now, Yoga can be used as a way to calm the mind, therapy, or simply release your built-up energy. Additionally, it has been adapted for all ages and physical abilities, so whether you’re 8 or 80 years old, there are ways for you to use it as a tool for a healthy and happy lifestyle. At Body Positive Works, we believe Yoga is a way of life and when you step onto your mat it is a safe space for you to breathe, let go, and learn more about your mind, body, and spirit.

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