What is Yoga

• ‘Yoga’ means union. It is a practice that aims to unite body, mind and spirit.
• There are eight limbs to yoga. Many of the limbs focus on mental and spiritual aspects of life. One of these limbs is called “asana.” It focuses on physical health of the body.
• The asana practice (a typical class) takes the body through a series of postures (poses) which challenge the strength and flexibility of not only the body, but also the mind and one’s spirit!
• Classes range greatly in style, from gentle to very vigorous. It depends on the style of the class and the teacher.
• Ultimately, the body is moved in ways to build heat, stamina, strength, flexibility, alignment and mobility.
• Yoga embraces a non-competitive spirit and focuses on acceptance and being fully present.

The word yoga comes from Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. Its contemporary interpretation is ‘union’. Simply stated, yoga unites the mind, body, and spirit. One way of finding this union is through meditation. However, it is necessary to prepare the body for meditation by stretching and building strength. This is the physical practice of yoga, also known as asana. Asana practice is only one limb of the “eight limbs of yoga.” The other limbs of yoga are concerned primarily with morality and spiritual well-being, rather than physical activity.

Many people think of yoga as just stretching. However, yoga is more about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility. This is done through movement between specific poses (also referred to as postures) each of which has specific physical benefits. The poses can be done quickly in succession, creating heat in the body through movement (vinyasa yoga, or ‘flow’). Or the sequence can move more slowly to increase stamina and perfect the alignment of the pose. The poses are constant, but the approach to them varies depending on the teacher’s training and approach.

The beauty of yoga is that your practice is always evolving and changing, so it never gets boring. Although the poses themselves do not change, your relationship to them will. Anyone can practice yoga, even if you don’t feel like you are very flexible or very strong. These things will improve the longer you practice. One of the most difficult, but ultimately, most liberating things about yoga is letting go of the ego and accepting that no one is better than anyone else. Everyone is just doing their best on any given day.

Yoga embraces a non-competitive spirit and focuses on acceptance and being fully present.