The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj that is derived from the same root as the Latin ‘to yoke’. English interpretations for yuj include ‘to harness’, ‘to unite’, or ‘to come together’.
On a physical level, Yoga joins breath with movement, effort with effortlessness, the body with the mind and the soul, bringing all aspects of the self into balance.
On a mental level, Yoga harnesses our attention to the present moment suspending the fluctuations of the mind. It is said to tie the strands of the mind together (Desikachar, TKV).
On a spiritual level, yoga unites the embodied or lower self and the ‘higher self’ which is sometimes referred to as the greatest version of ourselves, the Supreme Being, Universal energy or God depending on your belief system. This brings awareness of the reality of our existence and that we are not different or separate to others, we are all unified as one.
The origin of Yoga is not known with certainty. Lord Shiva is said to have handed the Yoga teaching down to his wife Pavarti as his first disciple to be given to human kind. Images of this scene are depicted on stone seals thought to date back to 3000BCE.
Yoga focusses the mind, purifies the body and calms the emotions and in order for us to reap the benefits of yoga it is necessary to practice regularly, consistently and mindfully. Since few of us can see ourselves truly objectively, it is recommended that guidance be sought of an experienced teacher.
Yoga encourages behaviour that assists cultivation of awareness, non-attachment and disciplined practice. That which distracts a student from moving toward the highest version of themselves is to be minimised and that which assists this path is to be encouraged. This includes behaviour toward both ourselves and others.
A students first introduction to Yoga is usually through the postures (asanas) and breathing (pranayama). Postures and breathing massage and strengthen the body, detoxify the physical systems of the body and release emotional tension. When the body is comfortable, this supports the quietening of the mind, allowing it to focus on the present.
Yoga is for all human beings. It does not require a belief in a certain God or deity. Nor does it require a certain intellectual, spiritual or physical proficiency. For many, Yoga will simply be an escape from the pressures of modern life. For some, Yoga becomes a trusted companion and guide on the journey of life.