An Introduction to Yoga
Yoga is a system of physical, mental and spiritual development which originated in India at least 3,000 years ago. It is not a religion or creed and can be practised by anyone of any age and by either sex. Yoga takes into consideration the entire man/woman, in every respect — nothing has been overlooked and the methods of physical discipline need no improvement, as they comprise everything that man needs for the perfection of his health — correct breathing, posture, exercise, diet, physical and mental relaxation and hygiene.
The Yogis succeeded in discovering how the body works and how they could consciously direct their energies towards sustaining health and vigour and the prolongation of their life span. Each asana (posture) is designed to have a specific, beneficial effect upon the functioning of the body. Sometimes it will simply be to regain or maintain the suppleness of muscle or joints, or it may be concerned with enriching the blood supply to certain glands to enable them to secrete more healthily, or a posture may, combined with certain breathing techniques, massage internal organs. However, the ultimate goal of Yoga is to attain Self Realisation — a total transformation within the individual consciousness involving an entirely different way of experiencing the world and oneself. Yoga is said to have originated in the Indus Valley. Archaeologists working there have unearthed statuettes of men in Yoga postures. These are said to be at least 5,000 years old. There is also a wealth of ancient literature on the subject.
Yoga philosophy is said to have reached Ancient Greece and the Holy Land two or three centuries before Christ. It had its followers in Britain two centuries ago. In 1785 the first English translation of the Bhagavad Gita was published. Several years before the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne the renowned teacher Ram Mohan Roy visited England, he was followed by many, through her long reign. One of them, Shri Govindananda, had no fewer than eighteen audiences with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
In 1895 and 1896 the famous Swami Vivekananda conducted missions in London. There has been an unbroken interest in Britain ever since.