Yoga was brought to the West from India and may be undoubtedly the most versatile expression of spirituality in the world. The methods and lifestyles developed by the Indian philosophical and spiritual teachers and gurus over a period of at least five millennia have all had the same purpose: to help us break through the habitual patterns of ordinary consciousness and help us to realize our true nature.
Originally Patanjali wrote the sutras that presented us with the 8 limbs of yoga. The word "Yoga", meaning to unite or yoke together, is a method of training designed to lead to integration or union. Yoga, according to Patanjali is comprised of: Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. In Pantanjali's writings, or sutras, he elaborates and explains each aspect or "limb" of yoga thoroughly. The most well known limb that has been adopted in the West is Asana. This aspect of yoga is the most like "exercise" and was more easily adopted by the western culture of today.
Proper exercise acts as a lubrication system to the joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and so forth, by increasing circulation and flexibility. Yogic exercise can be compared to no other system in its complete overhauling of the entire being. A Yoga Asana (or Posture) is meant to be held for some time (the term "Asana" means steady pose.) Performed slowly and consciously, the asanas not only produce physical benefits, but are mental exercises in concentration and meditation.
Yogic exercise focuses first on the health of the spine. The spinal column houses the center of the nervous system, the telegraphic system of the body. As a direct extension of the brain, a healthy spine aids in the health of the whole body. By maintaining the spine's flexibility and strength through proper exercise, circulation is increased, the nerves are ensured their supply of nutrients and oxygen, and the body retains a youthful state.
Once you have committed to a regular practice of healthy exercise, breathing and balancing the mind, you will have a life full of energy, stamina, wellness and healthy mental activity. Everything is approached with more confidence and tasks become more rewarding. Your physical appearance will reflect an internal glow that emanates from an abundance of life-force flowing through the system.