Yoga was developed in ancient India as far back as 5,000 years ago; sculptures detailing yoga positions have been found in India and date back to 3000 B.C. Yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word which means “union”. It is a system of living designed to promote health, peace of mind and a deeper awareness of ourselves. Ashtanga yoga (yoga of the 8 limbs) is one of the 4 main yoga paths, others being Jnana yoga, Karma yoga and Bhakti yoga.
These eight steps of the Ashtanga yoga include moral and ethical considerations (such as honesty, non-aggression, peacefulness, non-stealing, generosity and sexual propriety), self-discipline (including purity, simplicity, devotion to God and self-knowledge), postures, breath control, control of desires, concentration, meditation and happiness. According to yogis, if these steps are followed diligently, a person can reach high levels of health and mental awareness. The mental component in yoga is as important as the physical movements. Yoga is not a competitive sport, but a means to self-awareness and self-improvement. An attitude of attention, care and non-criticism is important; limitations should be acknowledged and calmly improved. Patience is important, and yoga stretches should be slow and worked up to gradually. The body should be worked with, and never against.