What is Yoga?

Yoga was first originated in India thousands of years ago. In Sanskrit, the historical language of India, yoga means "union". In the United States, the word yoga is often used interchangeably with the Sanskrit word "asana", which is the practice of physical postures and poses. To be more accurate, asana is only one of the eight limbs of yoga, which are:

  • Yama - ethics: non-violence, non-stealing, truthfulness

  • Niyama - self-purification and study: study of self, scripture, and self - surrender

  • Asana - practice of physical postures

  • Pranayama - breath control

  • Pratyahara - sense control and withdrawal

  • Dharana - concentration

  • Dhyana - meditation

  • Samadhi - bliss state where the self exists in it's own pure nature

Exercise, breathing, and meditation are the three main yoga structures. All three are needed to unify the body, mind, and spirit in order to achieve a state of oneness with the universe. Yoga improves the health of those who practice both mentally and physically. It brings a sense of peace and relaxation, while improving flexibility, balance, and strength. Yoga is also known to improve respiratory, circulatory, and digestive health. More recently, yoga has been introduced in hospitals specifically for breast cancer patients, but other cancer patients have also seen improvements. The poses are modified and often use chairs, so everyone can benefit.

Yoga is a spiritual practice, not a religion. It can be integrated into any belief system because the philosophies are universal. In the West, what most refer to yoga is Hatha Yoga, one of Yoga's several paths. Each path takes a different approach but all lead to the same goal of unification.