What is Yoga?

woman in pink crew neck t shirt and black leggings standing near white wall
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I often ask my students “Why do you do yoga?”. The answers can vary from person to person and class to class but they all have the same underlying theme : calming the mind and controlling the body. When however, I put the question “what is yoga?” to them however you see a few truly blank faces. What is Yoga? Where does it come from and where is it going?

Yoga shares the same root at the English word “yoke” which means “to join, attach, harness”. Ok, but what are we trying to unite? In the West we describe yoga as a series of physical, mental and spiritual practices. According to the Yoga Sutras of the sage Patanjali, when asked what yoga is he responds “yoga chitta vritti nirodah” (yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind). He also says that the aim of yoga is to unite the human spirit with the Divine.

In Indian philosophy, Yoga is recognised as one of the six orthodox systems. Everything is permeated by the Supreme Universal Spirit of which the human spirit is a part of. The system is called yoga because it teaches us the means by which the individual\s spirit can be reunited or be in communion with the Supreme Universal Spirit and thereby securing liberation from Illusion…..

 

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