This article is from the Alternative Medicine Therapies guide.
Yoga is an ancient philosophy of life as well as a system of exercises that encourages the union of mind, body, and spirit. In fact, the word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning "yoke" or "union." The ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve a state of balance and harmony between mind and body.
There is evidence that yoga was practiced as early as 5,000 years ago, although the first written description is found in the Yoga Sutras, a book from the second century B.C. that is partially attributed to the Indian physician and Sanskrit scholar Patanjali. The Yoga Sutras describe a multi-fold path to spiritual enlightenment that includes Hatha yoga, the system of physical exercises, breathing techniques, and meditation that is most often followed by Western yoga practitioners today. (Other forms of yoga include Bhakti, Jnana, Karma, Laya, and Raja.) All types of yoga subscribe to the belief that the body and mind are seamlessly connected, and that, for optimal health, they must be in a state of balance.