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What is Yoga?

Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice that originated in ancient India. It became popular in the West in the 20th century. The word, yoga, comes from the Sanskrit yuj, which means “to yoke” and "samadhi" or "concentration." Thus, yoga is the practice that aims to join the mind, body and spirit. The ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve liberation.

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years and, over the years, many different interpretations have developed about what yoga means. Each different type of yoga has its own emphasis and practices.

In the West, yoga is most often associated with the physical practice of asanas, particularly stretching exercises to build flexibility and relax the body. Yoga asanas can also build strength, coordination, balance and stamina. However, this is only one aspect of yoga as asana practice is just one of the "eight limbs" of yoga as listed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, a key sacred text on the philosophy of yoga.

These eight limbs are:
- Yama - Five abstentions (or outer observances)
- Niyama - Five inner observances
- Asana - Meaning “seat” and referring to the physical posture needed for meditation
- Pranayama - Controlled or suspended breath
- Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana - Single pointed concentration
- Dhyana - Meditation
- Samadhi - Liberation

There are many different paths of yoga, including Bhakti yoga, Karma yoga and Jnana yoga, but all are rooted in the yamas and niyamas, and have the same goal of samadhi.

Yoga is thought to be therapeutic for many physical and mental conditions. Studies have been carried out demonstrating its effectiveness as a treatment for back pain, stress and schizophrenia, to name a few.

Different styles of Yoga

You can try to identify your yoga type or figure out what your yoga personality is to see which of the following styles is best for you. There are many to choose from, but don't let that intimidate you. Here are some of the most common types of yoga.

Hatha Yoga
If Yoga was to be described as a tree, then Hatha Yoga would have to be considered as one of its many branches.

Kundalini Yoga
Kundalini Yoga is acknowledged as being one of the most difficult disciplines in the Yogic community.

Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti Yoga is a branch of Yoga that has more to do with the spiritual side of things than the physical.

Karma Yoga
Revered as the “discipline of action” in the Yogic world, Karma Yoga is derived from the teachings that can be found in the Bhagavad Gita.

Jnana Yoga
Jnana Yoga is one of the three classical Yoga forms that involves liberation from a world of illusion or maya.

Raja Yoga
Commonly referred to as ‘Royal Yoga’ or ‘Royal Union’, Raja Yoga emphasizes on the importance of achieving mental control.

Mantra Yoga
In the Yogic world, mantras or chants are highly important elements, and practicing these chants can have a significant impact.

Tantra Yoga
In many philosophies around the world, it is believed that the principles of the universe and the universal can be best understood.

Kriya Yoga
Kriya Yoga is one of the most ancient forms of Yoga and its aim is to spiritually develop its practitioners at a rapid rate.

See our list of places where you can practice Yoga in Japan.

How to list your yoga center on our website?