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Introduction to Yoga and its Origins

Yoga is an ancient practice that originated in the region of Southern Asia referred to as the Indian subcontinent, but has garnered considerable growth and popularity in the United States today. The practice of yoga in America can be traced back to texts known as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali compiled around 400 CE. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras are considered one of the primary philosophical texts of classical yoga and outline the principles and practices of the yogic path. There are also various ancient Hindu scriptures, such as the Vedas, The Bhagavad Gita, and the Upanishads, that contain references to yogic concepts and practices. These texts explore the interconnectedness of the body, mind, and spirit and provide insights into meditation, breath control, and self-study.

With roots in India, where many people practice the Hindu religion, some Americans may be curious if yoga is a religious practice. In 2013, however, the legal precedent in the United States was set with the case of Sedlock v. Baird, when the court ruled that the practice of yoga, especially as implemented in public schools throughout California, is classified as non-religious in nature. The court's perspective firmly established yoga as primarily for physical exercise and mental relaxation and was not inherently associated with religious affiliations (Law Justia, 2015).

Over time, the practice of yoga has evolved and integrated elements from various religious and spiritual traditions. In the modern context, yoga is often practiced as a form of physical exercise and stress reduction, separate from its religious origins. However, the spiritual roots and philosophies of yoga remain significant for many practitioners, particularly those who embrace yoga as a holistic lifestyle and a path to self-discovery.

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