What is Yoga?

Learn what the word 'yoga' actually means and get a basic introduction to yoga in the traditional sense.

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Vinyasa Yoga School
Updated over a week ago1 minute read

What does yoga mean?

The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit word "yuj" meaning “yoke” or “union,” where we join our individual self (jivatma) with the universal self (paramatma). In philosophical terms this union results in a pure state of consciousness in which the feeling of "I" simply does not exist. For generations, yogis have turned to the ancient sage Patanjali's Yoga Sutras to understand the fundamentals of yoga.

According to Patanjali, the aim of yoga is to calm the mind into a state of equilibrium and peace, thus achieving self-realization. Patanjali described the path to this self-realization through "eight limbs"or Asthanga (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These steps are yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi - each a sequential step on the path to enlightenment.

Continue Yoga 101 with Introduction to Patanjali's Eightfold Path

8 Limbs of Yoga

The name “8 Limbs” comes from the Sanskrit term Ashtanga and refers to the eight limbs of yoga: 

  • Yama (attitudes toward our environment),
  • Niyama (attitudes toward ourselves),
  • Asana (physical postures),
  • Pranayama (restraint or expansion of the breath),
  • Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses),
  • Dharana (concentration),
  • Dhyana (meditation)
  • Samadhi (complete integration)

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