What is yoga, exactly? Is it just an exercise form? Is it a religion, a philosophy, an ideology? Or is it something else entirely?
Yoga is a mind and body practice with historical origins in ancient Indian philosophy. Various styles of yoga combine physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation or relaxation.
The word “yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning “to yoke or join together.” Some people take this to mean a union of mind and body. Yoga has become popular as a form of physical exercise based upon asanas (physical poses) to promote improved control of mind and body and to enhance well-being.
As Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Yoga is not just exercise and asanas. It is the emotional integration and spiritual elevation with a touch of mystic element, which gives you a glimpse of something beyond all imagination.”
The word “yoga” essentially means, “that which brings you to reality”. Literally, it means “union.” Union means it brings you to the ultimate reality, where individual manifestations of life are surface bubbles in the process of creation. Yoga means to move towards an experiential reality where one knows the ultimate nature of the existence, the way it is made. A male who practices this discipline is called a yogi or yogin and a female practitioner is called a yogini.
The ultimate purpose of yoga is to find liberation. It is a mean of improving oneself to overcome suffering. Yoga raises consciousness to provide inner peace, calm and mental clarity. The main principles of yoga include the following: nonviolence, honesty, righteousness, wisdom, simplicity, devotion, selflessness, discipline, self-education, contentment.
The ‘eight limbs of yoga’
The word chakra means “spinning wheel.” According to the yogic view, chakras are a convergence of energy, thoughts, feelings, and the physical body. They determine how we experience reality from our emotional reactions, our desires or aversions, our level of confidence or fear, and even the manifestation of physical symptoms.
There are seven major chakras:
- Sahasrara: the “thousand petaled” or “crown chakra”
- Ajna: the “command” or “third-eye chakra”
- Vishuddha: the “especially pure” or “throat chakra”
- Anahata: the “unstruck” or “heart chakra”
- Manipura: the “jewel city” or “navel chakra”
- Svadhishthana: “one’s own base” or “pelvic chakra”
- Muladhara: the “root support” or “root chakra”
The continued practice of yoga will lead you to a sense of peace and well-being, and also a feeling of being at one with their environment. The practice of yoga makes the body strong and flexible, it also improves the functioning of the respiratory, circulatory, digestive, and hormonal systems. Yoga brings about emotional stability and clarity of mind.