The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj,” meaning to yoke, join or unite. Yoga is an art and science that combines physical, mental and spiritual disciplines to achieve union between mind, body and spirit. Its origin is from India and dates back more than 3,000 years ago. The foundations of the philosophy or eight limbs of yoga were written down in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, approximately 200 A.D.
Today, it is well-known as a form of exercise. Classes are given at almost every health club, church and community center. It is a combination of exercise, breathing and meditation as a means to promote better health for the mind, body and spirit. Learning to control and increase breathing is central to yoga, as breath is the source of all life. Mastering the yoga poses creates balance in the body by developing strength and flexibility. Each pose promotes specific physical benefits.
However, yoga offers much more than just a stretching class, it is a way of life and looking at the world — it is a spiritual healing method and a personal spiritual quest. The structural framework of yoga practice is the attainment of its eight limbs, or philosophies. Each of the eight limbs of yoga builds upon the other, and only one limb actually involves a specific yoga pose. Listed below are descriptions of the eight limbs.
1. Yama – The five ethical guidelines toward others are ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (non-lust) and aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
2. Niyama – The five observances toward oneself are saucha (purity and cleanliness), santosa (contentment), tapas (austerity), svadhyaya (self-study) and isvara praindhana (surrender to god).
3. Asana – This literally means “seat” and refers to the seated position, which is used for the postures in yoga meditation.
4. Pranayama – Suspending breath, to control the life force.
5. Pratyahara – Withdrawal or control of the senses from material objects.
6. Dharana – Concentration or fixing one’s attention on a single object without disruption from any external forces.
7. Dhyana – The intense and perfect contemplation and meditation on the Divine to seek awareness.
8. Samadhi – The attainment of pure bliss through a spiritually awakened and elightened state. A true union with the Divine, a true yoga.