Yoga has become a staple word when talking about fitness and well-being. But what does it really mean and how do people view it? Aside from the word itself, other terms also come up which have deep connections to the practice. Knowing the meaning of these words will help you understand the concept of yoga better and will make it easier for you to imbibe the teachings that you will be learning.
Yoga came from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means to yoke or to bind. It can also be interpreted as a means of creating connection or union. As a discipline, it aims to forge a connection between body and mind through conscious practice. Mindfulness and awareness are promoted in yoga classes since these two states of being allow you to fully feel and experience the present moment.
Yoga started in ancient India through the writings of Patanjali which was collated in Yoga Sutra. The writings, which has been in existence for more than 2000 years, contains 195 philosophies, most of which are still being practiced by yogis and yoginis today. According to Patanjali, yoga is the temporary suspension of consciousness through mental modification. Through this, the being re-identifies and connects with the higher Self.
The Sutra also outlined the eight limbs of yoga namely yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (posture), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (liberation and enlightenment). In its most original form, yoga practitioners explore the eight limbs with the goal of achieving samadhi. Today, yoga is mostly focused on asana which is the performance of the poses as well as the breathing techniques described in pranayama.
Yoga cannot be defined in just one single way. Even in its meaning, it can be interpreted through different perspectives. To fully reap the benefits and enjoy the experience, you can view yoga according to how it suits your preference. It can be through the physical aspects of the practice, or you can also look at it through its deeper, philosophical component.
Yoga follows different paths of achieving self-realization and awakening of the consciousness. Aside from the eight limbs of yoga, students are also taught of mudra and bandha which deals with subtle forces and how to maintain energy. In order to fully concentrate in the moment, yoga teachers also teach students the concept of shat karma or the cleansing of the body and the mind. Chants, meditation and visualizations are also staples in yoga classes.
In its very core, yoga teaches you how to be mindful of your mind and body in the present moment. Through mindfulness exercises, you become more aware of yourself and create mind-body connection. In time, you become more focused on your body’s mechanisms, physically, mentally and emotionally, leading you to a path of self-discovery and self-realization.
Hatha yoga, which is considered as one of the basic types of yoga utilizes the asana, pranayama, shat karmas and mudra and bandha. The practice is designed to create proper alignment of the different parts of the body. The postures also aim to unblock body channels, particularly the spine, in order for energy to circulate better. Hatha means “sun” and “moon”, thereby referring to the unification of both male and female aspects of one’s self.
In this type of yoga, the word is defined as the balancing of forces- upward and downward. It aims to create the right balance between opposite life forces. One can achieve prana when a person is able to master the union of such forces. By proper balancing, you will be exerting effort while also surrendering as you perform each pose. It is a great type of yoga that will transform you. As you begin to manipulate life forces, you also become a master of yourself. Aside from the physical qualities of hatha yoga, you will also start focusing on your breath, bringing you in the present moment while dismissing mindless thoughts.
Kundalini yoga, on the other hand, sees yoga as a method of freeing dormant potential energies which can be found in the base of your spine or the kundalini. In this type of yoga, you are uniting the physical and mental energies with your third eye chakra or your base chakra. Through the unification of these dual energies, you begin to awaken your consciousness in the spiritual sense. Compared to other types of modern yoga, kundalini approaches the practice through a deeper spiritual and philosophical aspect.
In yoga, you will observe that each class will start and end with a chanting of “Om.” Om is defined as a vibration which is said to be how the universe sounds. It is also referred to as a mantra in creating a meditative space.
The concept of Om can be traced back to ancient practice, with the concept that everything in the universe pulsates and vibrates. According to ancient yogis, Om is the rhythmic vibration or sound that the universe creates as it moves. They also believe that the sound comes out from everything that exists. By chanting it, it is believed that the person becomes more aware of everything within him and around him. You began to realize the movement of the universe, from the rustling of the leaves, the waves in the shore, and the beating of your own heart. Chanting Om creates an awareness of the energies surrounding and comprising you, thereby creating a connection between yourself and the Universe right at that very moment.
Even if your initial goal in enrolling to a yoga class is to reap its health and fitness benefits, understanding the meaning and importance of the words can open you to a deeper realization of your practice. While it is true that yoga can improve your health and your physique, knowing more about its origins and its components can make your experience more enriching and rewarding. Being aware of the different elements, styles and teachings in yoga will also open you up to different possibilities and guide you in choosing which one is best for you.