First set down in writing in the second century B.C., yoga teaches the principle of mind/body unity: if the mind is agitated, the health of the body will suffer, and if the body is in poor health, mental strength and clarity will be compromised.
Classical yoga is divided into eight “limbs” that provide a basis for spiritual, physical, and mental health by outlining a means to bring the mind and body into harmony, then into deeper stages of meditation. The most widely known yogic practice is asana, or hatha yoga, which includes a variety of physical postures that may be divided into two categories: meditative and therapeutic.
Meditative postures deal with bringing the mind to a state of relaxation through spinal alignment and proper blood flow, while therapeutic postures focus on improving physical health and well-being. In addition to asana, pranayama focuses on regulating breathing to calm the mind and prepare for meditation, a state of concentration that may result in a heightened sense of awareness and relaxation. Yoga is believed to benefit health, vitality, and peace of mind as well as treat numerous physical ailments.