Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yug”, which means to yoke or unite. One meaning of yoga is to unite mind, body and breath to create harmony and health.
The sage Patanjali says that yoga is the calming of the vacillations of the mind. Instead of being pulled around by the ups and downs of circumstances and habitual patterns (usually negative self talk), we can learn how to remain calm and abiding no matter what life brings us. Yoga offers us the tools and technologies to accomplish this.
Patanjali’s eight-fold path is known as “Ashtanga Yoga”. These eight steps are:
- Yama (ethics pertaining to our behaviours and attitudes to others)
- Niyama (ethics pertaining to our personal habits)
- Asana (physical postures, especially as preparation for meditation)
- Pranayama (breathing and energy practices)
- Pratyahara (calming and training the senses)
- Dharana (concentration and focus)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (absorption and flow)
Together, these elements guide us along the path of self-realisation, for our own benefit, and also for the benefit of all sentient beings, and the planet we inhabit together.
Asana is the most popular limb in our culture, and it is often the first experience we have with yoga. Exploration of all of the other limbs adds richness and depth to our practice, as they help us to align body, mind, breath and awareness.