"Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind"

~The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means 'unite'. It is commonly interpreted as the union between an individual soul and the Supreme Being, or God.

One way to achieve this state is through Bhakti Yoga or expression of one's devotion through music, dance, art or meditation. Another path is through Karma Yoga, performing an action without attaching to the fruits of one's labor. Both Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga are widely practiced in India but are not as popular in the West.

Another classic definition of Yoga involves the union of the primordial energy, Shakti, that resides in the form of a coiled serpent (kundalini) at the bottom of the spine, with the supreme principle of Shiva, which sits on the top of the head. Through specific physical and meditative exercises, kundalini energy is aroused in the base chakra and moves up the spine through six other chakras to finally integrate with the Shiva principle. This is Kundalini Yoga.

The unity between the sun and moon principles, ha and tha, though asanas (postures) and pranayama (breath control), is called Hatha Yoga. In practical terms, the sun and moon principles are respectively prana, which is responsible for the beating of the heart and breathing, and apana, which deals with the elimination of waste products from the body. One way to interpret it is that hatha yoga increases blood circulation in the entire body which leads to the improvement of many systems, including the digestive and cardiovascular systems. Hatha Yoga is the most commonly practiced system of yoga in the West, and encompasses many well known styles such as Ashtanga, Iyengar and all the numerous Vinyasa styles. The asana and pranayama aspect of Vinyasa Krama is also a part of Hatha Yoga.
The word Yoga is also derived from the root yuja to mean samadhana, 'to put in place perfectly'. By this definition, the goal of yoga is the removal of all distractions of the mind. It is called Raja Yoga (Royal Yoga) and was first described in The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the foundational text on yoga. The ultimate goal of Patanjali's Yoga is kaivalya - the freedom from samsara, the never-ending cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth.

Patanjali outlines a path for achieving this ultimate state in an eight step process, Ashtanga Yoga or eight-limbed yoga (which is different from the Ashtanga Yoga practiced in the West). Vinyasa Krama practice can cover 6 of these steps in the following order: asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi.

"Breath is central to yoga because it is central to life...and yoga is about life."
~Sri T. Krishnamacharya

Subpages (1): Contact Me