The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings, and is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj - meaning “to control”, “to yoke” or “to unite”.
There are many different types of yoga. Yoga has its roots in India, but outside India, the term yoga is typically associated with a specific type of yoga called Hatha Yoga. Traditional Hatha Yoga is a holistic yogic path, including moral disciplines, physical postures (asana), purification procedures (shatkriya), poses (mudra), yogic breathing (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana). The Hatha yoga predominantly practiced in the West consists of mostly asanas understood as physical exercises. It is also recognized as a stress-reducing practice. In fact, traditional western medicine is finally recognizing yoga’s amazing recuperative powers, and many doctors are prescribing yoga for their patients to help reduce stress, improve breathing, circulation and flexibility in the mind and body.
Yoga dates back thousands of years – some scholars say as far back as 8,000 years. Its purpose is, and has always been to accelerate our path to enlightenment, or samadhi: a state of blissful existence in which we are living our full potential. Since humans have three bodies – physical, emotional/mental and spiritual, the “union” in yoga is about uniting these three bodies. Physically, yoga tones muscles, lubricates joints, increases flexibility, and increases stamina to keep all systems in the body in harmony and working properly. Emotionally and mentally, yoga reduces stress and replaces negative emotions with joy and peace. The mind becomes clear, focused and realizes a decrease of clutter and confusion, resulting in increased productivity. Once the negative issues of the physical and mental/emotional bodies are healthy, the spiritual body can do what it was designed to do – help us gain more insight, wisdom, discernment and full connection to our higher self.
Someone who practices yoga or follows the yoga philosophy is called a yogi or yogini. Each yoga practitioner must find the yogic path that resonates with him or her, taking from the practice exactly what the body, mind, and spirit needs.
“As a well cut diamond has many facets, each reflecting a different color of light, so does the word yoga, each facet reflecting a different shade of meaning and reflecting different aspects of the entire range of human endeavor to win inner peace and happiness.”