Yoga is a science that originated about 6000 year ago in India. This science has been transmitted orally from Guru to teacher. About 2500 years ago Patanjali wrote the Yoga Sutra's, that are considered as one of the most important basic documents of the Yoga.
Yoga in the West
In our Western society there are a lot of misconceptions about Yoga. These misconceptions partially arose from the fact that some aspects of the Yoga are difficult to visualize and describe in writing (under which the philosophy and the breathing exercises).
In our Western Society we often only practice the physical aspects of the Yoga in which the student goes into acrobatic poses. Yoga is made up of 8 important components and the poses are only 1 part of this.
Quiet often only the physical aspect of the Yoga is considered. But there is a lot more to the Yoga than the poses you see in the books or online.
Yoga is an attitude to life, a philosophy and a science. The physical aspect of practicing the poses is only a small part of the whole. Next to the poses (asanas), there are also the breathing (Pranayama), the meditations (Dhyana & Dharana), learning to purify the mind (Pratyahara) and the rules of life and self discipline (Yamas and Niyames).
Lots of people think that Yoga is extremely difficult and that you need to be very flexible in order to practice yoga. It is most certainly not a necessity to be flexible for you to practice Yoga.
Important is that you start your practice in a gentle way, within the limits of what your body can handle. After a while you will notice that you slowly gain more flexibility. Then you can gently take the practice of your poses a little further and make progress. Over time, those who are willing to develop themselves in the full science of Yoga will start studying the other aspects of the Yoga as well.
There are different ways to practice Yoga. The basic level is practicing the asanas only. Beyond that there is also the spiritual level where you can practice Yoga on a more advanced level. Both ways of practicing Yoga are correct, but there is more to Yoga than just the poses.
Yoga is considered as the path towards prosperity and happiness. As a beginner it is important that you practice the poses with the right frame of mind. While your practice the poses: be happy and enjoy your pose. Be aware of the fact that Yoga can bring you prosperity and happiness and that it helps you developing your personality. Yoga needs time, patience and practice, it is good to strive for the state of Enlightenment from the very beginning of your practice.
Yoga and Happiness
Material pleasure does not bring real happiness and peace. Happiness that comes from material pleasure is only temporary. Real happiness continues and depends on our state of mind and not on external influences. We can loose our feelings of happiness through our expectations: quiet often we let happiness and grieve depend on somebody else or on material pleasure.
Yoga claims that you should not expect anything: do what you have to do, do your duty and do not expect anything in return. This kind of attitude towards life is Karma Yoga. "Karma" means that you do not expect anything in return. Base your expectations on your duties and enjoy the results. When you continue doing your duty without expecting anything it will lead you to permanent happiness.