The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj which means to yoke or bind and so it is often translated as “union”. In this way, it may be said that Yoga is the union of our body, mind and spirit.
The so-called father of classical Yoga, Patanjali, is believed to have collated all the wisdom from the ancient Yoga texts bringing it together in his Yoga Sutras an estimated 2,000 years ago. This collection of 196 statements serves as a philosophical guide for most of the Yoga that is practised today. It also outlines what is called the eight limbs of Yoga, ie. the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (physical poses), pranayama (breathing practices), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we learn to control our body and mind and then gradually begin to take our focus to our inner world, a place of beauty, deep peace and calm.
Today, most people practising Yoga in the West are engaged in the third limb of Yoga ie asana, which is a programme of physical postures designed to purify the body and allow the body to sit comfortably and steadily for meditation. And so, whatever style of Yoga you are practising, be it Sivananda, Iyengar, Viniyoga or any other, all will encourage an opening of the body and then, later, an opening of the mind and emotions to create a profound sense of well-being and joy.