The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word Yug which means to join. Yoga enhances joining of body and mind, and also of Atman (soul) and Brahman (supersoul), which is the ultimate aim of Ashtanga Yoga (eightfold path of Yoga)/Raja Yoga (Royal Yoga).
Yoga practice alters the brain: an anti-ageing protein is induced which is involved in neurogenesis, neuronal repair, and neuroplasticity (ability of the brain to recover and restructure itself). Moreover, cerebral cortex layers are thickened, which is the part of the brain associated with higher learning, and which is involved in learning new things.
Yoga in medical practice has been used to treat severe conditions like depression, multiple sclerosis, carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. Long-term yoga participants showed a significant gain in bone density, which is attributed to the effects of muscles working against gravity, thereby affecting bones.
Total relaxation is an important aspect of yoga. This relaxation occurs when the body and mind are in a state of balance. What happens during relaxation is the release of chronic muscle tension, regaining of a natural diaphragmatic breathing and improvement of oxygen absorption.
Raja Yoga is the most elaborate, complete and the oldest existing form of yoga. Traditional yoga like Raja Yoga always consists of meditation. Yoga practices without meditation cannot be seen as original forms of yoga. Meditation brings you into a very deep state of relaxation by putting the brain into a state between sleeping and wake state. Yoga postures have many beneficial benefits for every major system of the body. Meditation adds a lot of very important benefits on top of the beneficial effects of the yoga postures and breathing exercises, for example decreasing brain ageing, increasing serotonin production thereby improving our mood and increasing melatonin production, which is beneficial for quality of sleep.
For overall improvement and maintaining a good physical and psychological health, Raja Yoga is one of the best practices one can perform for the human body!