What is Yoga?

What is Yoga?

Yoga is an ancient practice of the body, mind, and spirit, which originated in India thousands of years ago. The word 'Yoga' comes from the Sanskrit word 'Yug' which means to join, to yoke, or to unite. It is the science of uniting one's body, mind, and spirit into a whole human being. Yoga is most commonly practiced today as a form of physical exercise, and has many health benefits to the body, as well as to the well-being of the practitioner.

Yoga is more than just a physical practice. It encompasses a philosophy and a way of life which has as its ultimate goal, the union of oneself with the higher self, or the Universal Self. In Yoga philosophy, the higher self is called the 'Atman', and the practices of Yoga are a means to feel or experience one's connection to the Atman, or the Divine within oneself.

Yoga practices were passed down from teacher to student for centuries, but one teacher by the name of Patanjali, compiled the Yoga teachings into a set of Aphorisms, or Yoga Sutras (threads of knowledge) and laid the groundwork for the Yoga phiosophy that we know of today. Historians approximate that Patanjali compiled the Yoga aphorisms anywhere from 1,400 to 2,400 years ago.

The path of Yoga, as described by Patanjali, consists of eight "limbs" or practices, which are designed to lead the Yoga practitioner to self-realization, and to unity with the Divine Self. The Sanskrit word "Ashtanga" means eight limbs (Ashtanga Yoga is one of the many styles of Yoga practiced today). The eight limbs of Yoga practice are:

  1. Yama: The Yamas are ways of being in the world that contribute to harmony in social relationships, such as being non-violent, being honest, not stealing, and not coveting things..
  2. Niyama: The Niyamas or more internal ways of being that create inner well-being, such as purity of body, contentment, austerity, and study of spiritual ideals.
  3. Asana: The word 'Asana' means posture, and the practice of Asana is the practice of Yoga postures. This is what is commonly done in most Yoga classes.
  4. Pranayama: 'Prana' means breath, or energy, and 'Ayama' means expansion, stretching, or restraint. Pranayama is the practice of breath expansion, stretching or restraint. Simply put, Pranayama is an exercise in breathing, and there are many techniques of Pranayama that can be practiced. Pranayama is often taught in Yoga classes.
  5. Pratyahara: This is the practice of sense withdrawal or detachment from the distractions of the outer world.
  6. Dharana: The practiice of mental concentration.
  7. Dhyana: The practice of meditation, or diving within to explore one's inner world.
  8. Samadhi: The experience of higher states of consciousness, and the connection to the divine self within. Samadhi occurs as a result of practicing the other seven limbs of Yoga.

Bruce Guterman, the founder of this website, has designed workshops in Yoga Philosophy, Pranayama, Meditation, and more, so that you'll have the opportunity to learn more about this ancient practice, and the wisdom that it holds. See information on Bruce's workshops. Bruce also teaches private and group Yoga lessons. See information on services provided at Full Body Yoga.com.

OM, Prayer Twist, Crescent Lunge, Triangle Pose, & Shanti (the Peace Symbol)
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