In Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas, the definition of "yoga" is "union." "Yoga is the practice of uniting the body and the mind, of connecting the physical to the emotional," (Daut, 1). It's original purpose was to help awaken the divine, or Brahman, that lives inside of the souls, and eventually reach enlightenment, or moksha (Hay, 1). A yoga philosophy claims that if you react in a certain way when doing an uncomfortable or new pose, that reaction can reflect your reactions in similar life experiences, and if you focus on changing these reactions for the better in yoga, you can change them in life (Daut, 1). Practicing yoga in Hinduism originally helped clear the mind, cleanse the soul, get rid of distractions, and meditate, all leading to moksha. Today, not only does yoga still have its original purpose, but it has spread all over the world, and is all-inclusive. People in India and all over the world still practice yoga. It has become a popular exercise of the body and the mind.
Not only is yoga a practice in Hinduism, but it originated in hinduism, and it helps people advance on the path to moksha. The word "yoga" was first found in the Rig Veda, the oldest known Sanskrit text and a very important religious book (Daut, 1). "According to Oxford Dictionary of Hinduism, hatha-yoga is a form of yogic practice designed to bring about liberation and immortality in this life," (The Indian Panorama, 1). Liberation is referring to the release of the cycle of birth and rebirth, and immortality refers to moksha. Another Hindu principle is living in the moment. The Hindu word "vartamana" means both "living" and "current," signifying the connection between the two. Living is presence of the body and the mind (Daut, 1). While yoga is an activity or exercise that is valued everywhere, any sellers of yoga equipment must still be respectful of Hinduism. When a company released a yoga mat with an image of Ganesha, a Hindu leader protested, saying that having people sit on or do yoga on an image of one of the most important deities is disrespecting their culture (The Denver Post, 1).
Yoga has become very popular and widespread, and multiple studies have shown that it makes a positive impact on physical and mental health. It's a common method of exercise, used for self care, and companies (such as lululemon) make billions of dollars per year on yoga products and classes (Daut, 1). Multiple studies have shown that yoga can reduce compassion fatigue, reduce blood pressure which leads to reduced stress, and increase flexibility (Daut, 1). As a student, yoga reduced stress is really important!
The legacy of Hinduism is evident in yoga because it helps people reach a better state of mind, even moksha. It clears the mind, which is a way of eliminating maya, and awakens the divine in the soul, Brahman. Even though now anyone can do yoga, was it caste-specific in ancient India? As a student, a worshipper, a meditator, or just a human, yoga will make you feel more energized, calmer, and in some cases, even enlightened.