What comes into your mind when you hear the word Yoga?
Yoga is an ancient Indian body of knowledge that dates back more than 2.500 years ago.
The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline. Yoga then is about the union of a person’s own consciousness and the universal consciousness.
The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra which is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).
Ancient Yogis had a belief that in order for man to be in harmony with himself and his environment, he has to integrate the body, the mind, and the spirit. For these three to be integrated, emotion, action, and intelligence must be in balance. The Yogis formulated a way to achieve and maintain this balance and it is done through exercise, breathing, and Meditation – the three main Yoga structures.
In Yoga, the body is treated with care and respect for it is the primary instrument in man’s work and growth. Yoga Exercises improve circulation, stimulate the abdominal organs, and put pressure on the glandular system of the body, which can generally result to better health.
Breathing techniques were developed based on the concept that breath is the source of life. In Yoga, students gain breathing control as they slowly increase their breathing. By focusing on their breathing, they prepare their minds for the next step – Meditation.
There is a general misconception that in Meditation, your mind has to go blank. It doesn’t have to be so. In Meditation, students bring the activities of the mind into focus resulting in a “quiet” mind. Yoga helps us focus and relieves us from our everyday stress.
Yoga is an approach to life that values appropriate effort, based on balance and harmony, within each person and with each other.