Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “yug” and means to “join” or to “yoke”. But what is it that we are joining or yoking together? According to the Yoga Sutra’s of Patanjali, (the first written documentation of the philosophy of yoga), the goal of Yoga is simply to join the individual spirit (prakriti) with the supreme spirit or the divinity in each of us (purusha).
Yoga is not only a physical work out but also a mental work out. The practice of yoga helps to “join” the mind with the body. In fact the physical exertion of the body is used as a tool to focus the mind. Let’s take a simple Padmasana (Lotus pose) for example. On first attempting Padmasana the posture feels more like a form of Chinese torture – your hips will burn from pain, your knees will feel like they are about to pop out of their sockets and ever few seconds your back will collapse into its habitual (and oh, so comfortable) rounded shape. Slowly, with the help of your teacher, you learn that by rotating the thighs outwards, you can reduce the strain on your knees. You learn to bring awareness to the hip-flexors and to relax them outwards so that they descended to the ground. You will discover that by pulling the muscles of the back downwards instead of lifting the shoulders upwards, you can access the strength you need to hold the back straight and thus will allowing yourself to breath deeper and feel more relaxed.