What exactly is yoga?

The meaning and practice of yoga explained

‘Yoga’ is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘to join, unite or yoke together’, and the essential purpose of yoga is to bring together body, mind and spirit into a harmonious whole.

The central methods of yoga are physical postures or ‘asanas’ and movement, breathing techniques or ‘pranayama’ and meditation. Yoga includes guidance on healthy lifestyle, eating habits, mental attitude, and Ayurvedic medicine is also part of the Yogic path to health and balance.

Hatha yoga is the path of physical yoga, which is the most popular branch of yoga in the West. ‘HA’ means ‘SUN’, and ‘THA’, ’MOON’, so Hatha Yoga is the joining, or the yoking together of these different energies in harmonious equilibrium, positive and negative, active and receptive.

The yoga view of the human body

The body in yoga is the vehicle for the development of wisdom, of spiritual awakening, and as such the body is held to be sacred and mastery of our body is considered the foundation for spiritual progress. In yoga we learn a discipline of the body which comes out of awareness and attentiveness, tuning in to our body’s subtle energy flows and the life-giving rhythm of our breathing.

The idea is that through entering more deeply and subtly into our physical experience, we can become more connected with ourselves, more grounded, and less swayed by anxieties or neurotic cravings for things that will not truly satisfy us. This can be a very positive influence on our approach to life, offering an antidote to the alienated rushing and disconnection from ourselves that characterizes much of our modern world.

Recommended yoga books

‘Dancing the Body of Light – The Future of Yoga’
by Dona Holleman with Orit Sen-Gupta
Published by Pandion Enterprises

‘YOGA – The Path to Holistic Health’
by B.K.S. Iyengar
Published by Dorling Kindersley

‘Yoga the Iyengar Way’
by Silva, Mira and Shyam Hehta
Published by Dorling Kindersley

‘Yoga for Pregnancy, Birth and Beyond’
by Francoise Barbira Freedman

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