The great idea of yoga is that everything is connected and cannot be divided into isolated units. The word yoga originates from the root yuj which means “union”. Yoga is a method to connect body and mind, mind and soul and the individual and the universal soul. Yoga is the reconnecting with your inner being and the merging with other people, nature and the universe. By expanding your consciousness it is possible to reach that which lies between your physical body and your existence, namely the soul. When the soul is liberated, it can establish contact with the universal soul of life. Viewing yoga in this way, you realize that yoga is much more than fascinating body positions, enlightening meditation and moderation. Yoga is the integration of love and ethics, offering a way in which you lead your life in this world.
Yoga is intended for the use of everybody, despite being originally created from a Hindu line of thought. In the old scriptures, yoga is described as sarvabhauma, which in Sanskrit means “for all”. Thus yoga is created for all mankind and is possibly the world’s oldest science and systematical method with the purpose of increasing health, preventing or curing diseases and establishing peace and happiness.
Ashtanga yoga means 8 limbs and comprises all the different aspects of yoga from the physical, mental and spiritual world. However, many people think of a very strenuous and physical yoga when they refer to ashtanga yoga, and exercise it as a kind of “power” yoga. In fact, all sorts of yoga such as Bikram (Hot yoga), Hatha and Anusara are styles under asthanga yoga. One very important aspect of yoga dealing with breathing is pranayama which makes up the 4th limb.
A philosophical system
Yoga is merely one out of six classical systems that make up the core of thousands of years old Indian Hindu philosophy. According to this, the individual can develop and gain insight into the highest universal truth through yoga. It is obtained by rationally understanding the reality that the self experiences, as well as accepting and understanding the laws of nature and the forces that shape the universe.
The fundamental idea that the philosophical systems share is that the cause of all human suffering is an ignorance of our highest potential. Thus yoga is an art of life that prescribes how man, through discipline and knowledge, can cultivate body, mind and soul and thereby gain a balanced, healthy and happy life. Even though yoga starts from within the individual, the purpose is to benefit others as well. A healthy and harmonious human radiates positive energy and peace to its surroundings.
Yoga is not founded on a religious belief, but rather intended to be a starting point for a universal energy or soul that permeates and runs everything. The philosophy of yoga has spread to the larger parts of Asia and appears in various forms, such as Japanese Zen Buddhism and Chinese Taoism, and throughout history it has to some extent influenced the Western world. The most notable ambassador of yoga’s humble and respectful philosophy today is undoubtedly Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, who in 1989 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
The pioneer of yoga
The pioneer of yoga is presumably Pantanjali, who wrote the classical work Yoga Sutra more than 2,000 years ago. Pantanjali did not invent yoga, but the Yoga Sutra is the oldest document that provides a theoretical, philosophical as well as a practical background for yoga activities.
Like many other practical disciplines, yoga cannot be intellectualized, but has to be exercised via experience. Best is to find a competent yoga teacher, who can teach yoga proficiently and show the positions and provide guidance in the principles of yoga. If such a teacher cannot be found, it is still interesting to broaden your knowledge on yoga and carefully try some of the basic techniques.