One traditional description of yoga is that it is “the settling of the mind into silence”. (Patanjali). This verse from the Yoga Sutras, a fascinating text dating back perhaps to 200 - 400 CE, can also be translated as “Yoga is the blocking of disturbances in the mind” - that is, reducing circular patterns of thought and action that interfere with our peace and inner freedom.
Many people in the West begin their yoga journey with the physical practices derived from Hatha Yoga - asana (posture), pranayama (breathing practices) and relaxation, perhaps for health reasons. Some may stay with this and find it enough. But many people move on and start to explore other aspects of the great yoga toolkit - "yoga off the mat and into life " (Swami Pragyamurti). A holistic yoga practice incorporates the whole person, with practices that help us to develop tools and skills to cope with events on life’s journey. Union between the faculties of head, heart and hands is the purpose of yoga. When head, heart and hands unite, an ordinary moment can become divine.
All forms of yoga practised with sincerity bring us to balance and centeredness, using a focus on AWARENESS moment by moment. This kind of awareness is more commonly nowadays known as MINDFULNESS. There are many Yogas to choose from – or rather, tools in the yoga toolkit. We need guidance to select the practices most appropriate to our basic temperament, needs and daily life including time and motivation to practice.
Regular yoga practice helps with stress management, bringing benefits to physical and mental health, especially conditions where stress may worsen or even possibly cause the problem. But actually Yoga is a philosophy of living, a way to develop a more fulfilled life.