What is yoga?

Yoga is a religious discipline as well as a religious philosophy which is part of the teachings of Buddhism and Hinduism. Both Hinduism and Buddhism practice a kind of yoga which comprises physical exercise through postures or poses; mental exercise through meditation; and mental discipline through deep breathing.

The discipline and practice of yoga are described in the holy writings of Hinduism which are called the Vedas. It is believed that yoga is practiced in order to detach oneself from the physical life and all its chaotic concerns and emotional turmoil to a place of enlightenment and peace.

woman doing yoga pose

As centuries went by, several different kinds of yoga were practiced within Buddhism and even within Hinduism. Some strict ascetics and monks believe and teach that in order to attain eternal life and unity with the divine, one must take the path of yoga. By continuously emptying oneself and detaching oneself from one’s surroundings, one can control the body so that it will do what the mind says it can.

The strict adherents of yoga are known to be able to contort their bodies and endure pain or sit in the lotus position for days, even months, on end without eating, drinking or even sweating because their bodies are so finely attuned and compliant with the will of their minds. They believe that even when their bodies are still here in a specific time and place, their minds and spirits are communing with the divine through the deep meditation in yoga.

In Buddhism, yoga is part of the discipline of the martial arts. They believe that yoga disciplines the mind as well as the body against violence and that the human body can be a weapon only to be used to defend oneself.

One thing is certain, in all disciplines and teachings of yoga, the three indispensable component parts are: postures or physical exercises (asanas), meditation (dyana), and controlled breathing (pranayama)