The term “yoga” brings to mind people bending and twisting, stretching their bodies into pretzel-like shapes of almost super-human flexibility. Yoga is about much more than learning to perform such impressive feats of physical prowess. At the heart of yoga is the cultivation of consciousness of the moment, the mind, the body, and the spirit. While it can help you get into good physical condition, it can also help to calm the mind and create a sense of peace and well-being.
The word “yoga” is taken from the Sanskrit word meaning “to yoke” or “to bind.” Behind the practice of yoga is the goal of attaining union between the mind, body, spirit, and universe. These practices were first put into writing and collected into the Yoga Sutras approximately 2,000 years ago. While yoga is devised of 8 limbs pertaining to postures, breathing, concentration, meditation, observance, restraint, absorption, and withdrawal of the senses, most Westerners are familiar with Hatha yoga, or the yoga of the postures. These poses are meant to strengthen the body for the practice of meditation, but many people today use them simply to get in shape. Yoga is not a religion, but it is about more than the physical practice. As an individual travels down their yoga path, they may deepen their practice in an attempt to gain the ultimate reward of enlightenment. You don’t have to start out with that goal in mind, though, to reap numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits from regularly practicing the yoga postures. All you need is an open mind and a willingness to try.