What is Yoga?

Yoga is an art and science of healthy living. The word "Yoga' is derived from the Sanskrit root 'Yuj', meaning 'to join' or 'to yoke' or 'to unite'. As per Yogic scriptures the practice of Yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness, indicating a perfect harmony between the mind and body, Man & Nature.

Yoga is a group of physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines.

Physical

The physical aspect of yoga is comprised of postures, known as asanas. Asanas are done to harmonise the body and become aware of the different types of imbalance within the physical structure

Mental

Another element of yoga is breathing exercises, called pranayama. The breath and the mind are very tightly connected, so by working on the breath you can change your mental states, and vice-versa. This can bring mental calm and clarity.

Spiritual

The spiritual aspect of yoga entails meditation which is actually the major focus of the practice and not the asanas. Essentially, all yoga practices exist to prepare you to meditate effectively, and to support your meditation practice.

Origin and Spread

The origins of yoga have been speculated to be most likely developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE in ancient India. Yoga gurus from India later introduced yoga to the west. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world. The number of American yoga practitioners has increased to over 36 million in 2016.

The following sections will zoom into the various aspects of Yoga in America.

Profile

There was a time when people confused yoga with yogurt but over the past years awareness about yoga has increased manifold and popularity of the practice has risen across the country. It has evolved from a niche activity indulged in by a few to being widely accessible and practiced by the masses. It has been adopted across genders and age groups.

Below is a visualization displaying the distribution of yogins across genders and age groups in America.

Source: Yoga in America Study in 2016 by IPSOS Public Affairs :https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016%20Yoga%20in%20America%20Study%20RESULTS.pdf

Motivations for yoga practioners

Due to its integral approach, the benefits of yoga extend beyond the physical realm. In addition to providing mental clarity and spiritual growth, it has also been found to be effective in providing relief for certain conditions. This has drawn in loyalties of lot of Americans to try practicing yoga and continue doing it. The visualization below shows American’s self report of motivations to start and continue practicing yoga.

Source: Yoga in America Study in 2016 by IPSOS Public Affairs :https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016%20Yoga%20in%20America%20Study%20RESULTS.pdf

Where do people practice yoga?

It is best to do yoga in fresh air at a quiet and clean place that suits the concentration and awareness yoga will create. Many natural spots like around water bodies and greenery have been adopted by yogis as a venue to pursue their practice. Additionally, human engineered environments like retreats, yoga studios have also been attracting yogins. The visualization below takes a closer look at the venue preference of Americans.

Source: Yoga in America Study in 2016 by IPSOS Public Affairs :https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016%20Yoga%20in%20America%20Study%20RESULTS.pdf

When and how often is yoga practiced?

One of the very best time to do yoga is first thing in the morning followed by early evening around sunset. Yogins have also been adapting the time based on their personal circadian rhythms and routines. Moreover, many yoga instructors agree that it can actually be more effective to practice frequently for shorter amounts of time (i.e. 15-30 minutes) than to have fewer longer yoga sessions. The following visualization reveals American’s preference with respect to time to do yoga, duration and frequency of yoga sessions.

Source: Yoga in America Study in 2016 by IPSOS Public Affairs :https://www.yogaalliance.org/Portals/0/2016%20Yoga%20in%20America%20Study%20RESULTS.pdf

Types of Yoga

Over time, different aspects of yoga - physical, mental, spiritual - got varying amounts of attention from different Yogis and evolved into different types of yoga. While some stressed more on the physical aspects focusing on alignment and stretch, others emphasized the spiritual aspects focusing on meditative practices. Moreover, as yoga spread beyond India and came in contact with different cultures, it imbibed elements from them and evolved into corresponding types. The more recent forms of yoga have been burgeoning as a result of style changes based on modern lifstyles. The following visualization sheds some light on some common types of yoga.

Overall type is the type this yoga is commonly known for.

Poses by Anatomy

The physical aspect of yoga comprises of various poses, also known as Asanas. Different Asanas are focused on different parts of the body and the following visualization depicts asanas by anatomy.

Credits:

This website is part of final project for Information Visualization, a course at the UC Berkeley School of Information. Team: Yoga (Neera Grover, Shrestha Mohanty, Divya Garg). All information about Yoga history, types and poses are taken from various sources like YogaJournal, Wikipedia.