What is Yoga?

fotolia_1396453The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj ‘ meaning to ‘yoke’ or ‘bind’ and is often interpreted as ‘union’ of the body, mind, breath and spirit. Around 2000 years ago the Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have compiled the practice of yoga into a collection of statements or threads known as the Yoga Sutras. These serve as a philosophical guide book for most of the yoga that is practiced today. The Sutras also outline the eight limbs of yoga:

  • yamas (restraints)
  • niyamas (observances)
  • asana (postures)
  • pranayama (breathing techniques)
  • pratyahara (withdrawal of senses)
  • dharana (concentration)
  • dyhana (meditation)
  • samadhi (liberation, enlightenment)

Today the majority of people that practice yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide physical strength and stamina for long periods of meditation.

Yoga is not associated with rebellion or revolution; instead, it is a practical response to our modern, hectic lives. The general practice of hatha yoga is one that strives to be progressive while maintaining basic tradition.

A Little about Hatha Yoga

There are many different types of yoga. The type of yoga that is generally practiced in western society is hatha yoga. Hatha is translated from Sanskrit to mean ‘sun’ and ‘moon’. This refers to the balance of masculine aspects – active, hot, sun – and feminine aspects – receptive, cool, moon – within all of us. Hatha yoga is a path towards creating balance of strength and flexibility. In practice we also learn to achieve equilibrium between effort and surrender in each pose.

Hatha yoga is a powerful tool for self-transformation. It asks us to bring our attention to our breath, which helps us to calm the fluctuations of the mind and be more present in the unfolding of each moment.