Yoga is a several thousand-year-old practice of breathing techniques (pranayama) and physical postures (asana) that are meant to cleanse and tone the body, allowing the mind to become calm, to think and act clearly, and bring about a greater personal well-being. Obviously, the whole tradition of yoga is not so simple as I’ve described here, and it contains many other aspects, but this is the essence of the practice.
In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the fundamental text of yoga, sutra (or verse) 1.2 states that yoga is the ability to direct and sustain the mind in a single direction, or on a single object. The practice of asanas and pranayama is a proven method of improving this capacity. The beauty of yoga lies in the fact that it is a personal journey. Each person will find certain aspects easier or harder and will progress in their own way and in their own time. There is no competition with the person next to you.
One of my favorite quotes, by Arthur Ashe, sums this up eloquently and is essentially the way that I look at yoga: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”