Yoga is a term for a range of traditional systems of physical exercise and meditation since ancient times in India. It is a commonly known generic term for physical, mental, and spiritual disciplines which originated in ancient India.
The Bhagavad Gita ('Song of the Lord'), uses the term "yoga" extensively in a variety of ways. In addition to an entire chapter (ch. 6) dedicated to traditional yoga practice, including meditation, it introduces three prominent types of yoga:
Karma yoga: The yoga of action.
Bhakti yoga: The yoga of devotion.
Jnana yoga: The yoga of knowledge.
Early Buddhist Pali canons (c. 29–17 BCE) are the oldest surviving texts to describe a systematic and comprehensive yoga discipline.
Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the mid 19th century
along with other topics of Hindu philosophy. The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga to a western audience was
Swami Vivekananda, who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s.
It has become popular as a kind of low-impact physical exercise, and are used for therapeutic purposes. "Yoga" in this sense and in common parlance refers primarily to the asanas but less commonly to pranayama.
Aspects of meditation are sometimes included. In a general sense, yoga is
a disciplined method utilized for attaining a goal.
In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a physical system of health exercises
across the Western world.
Many studies have tried to determine the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma and heart patients. In a national survey, long-term yoga practitioners in the United States reported musculo–skeletal and mental health improvements.
In the West, the term "YOGA" is today typically associated with Hatha yoga and its asanas (postures) as a form of exercise.