What is Yoga, really?

2024-06-07 by Be Earth

In the Western world, yoga has become synonymous with physical postures and exercises. While the physical practice (asana) is certainly an important part of yoga, it is only one small aspect of this ancient tradition.


At its core, yoga is a philosophy and way of living that aims to unite the mind, body, and spirit. The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit word "yuj" which means "to yoke" or "to unite." The goal of yoga is to achieve a state of harmony and balance within oneself.


The origins of yoga can be traced back thousands of years to the ancient Vedic scriptures of India. The Yoga Sutras, written by the sage Patanjali, outline the eight limbs or branches of classical yoga:


Yama: Ethical principles and restraints, such as non-violence, truthfulness, and non-stealing.

Niyama: Personal observances, like cleanliness, contentment, and self-study.

Asana: The physical postures and exercises.

Pranayama: Techniques to control and regulate the breath.

Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses from external stimuli.

Dharana: Concentration and focus.

Dhyana: Meditative absorption.

Samadhi: A state of union and bliss.


These eight limbs are designed to work together, with the physical practice of asana serving as a gateway to the deeper, more subtle aspects of yoga. Through this holistic approach, yoga aims to cultivate self-awareness, inner peace, and connection with something greater than ourselves.


In modern times, the physical practice of yoga has become the most widely known and popular aspect of this ancient tradition. While there is immense value in the physical benefits of yoga, such as improved flexibility, strength, and balance, it's important to remember that yoga is not just about the body.


The true essence of yoga lies in its ability to quiet the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and foster a deeper sense of well-being and inner calm. By incorporating the various limbs of yoga into our lives, we can unlock the true transformative power of this practice.


So, the next time you step onto your yoga mat, remember that you're engaging in a practice that is far more profound than just physical postures. Yoga is a way of being, a journey of self-discovery, and a path to greater harmony within ourselves and the world around us.


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