The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means to bind, join, attach, and unite. The purpose of practicing Yoga is to unite the mind, body, and spirit.
How can this union be achieved? Through meditation… but with our busy minds and increasingly unhealthy bodies sometimes it is necessary to prepare the body for the state of meditation by stretching and building strength. This is the physical practice of yoga, also know as asana.
Most yoga practices are based around the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, where he classifies the eight ‘limbs’ of Yoga. These limbs are said to be the stages to reach an enlightened or bliss state. They include life philosophies, physical postures, and breathing techniques, but more emphasis is put on mental and spiritual practices. These practices are much harder to teach as they are a personal journey and different for everyone, because of this in most ‘yoga classes’ the focus will mostly be on breath work and movements.
Yoga teachers will often refer to ‘your practice’, which is just a way of describing your individual experience with yoga as it develops over time. This evolution and change you experience throughout your practice is what keeps people coming back for years. Although the poses themselves do not change, your relationship with them will. The great thing about it is that it can be adapted to suit any needs of any individual, and their experience will be completely unique, this is why removing any competitive aspect is important as you are working on your own journey. 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 and everyone is just doing their best on any given day.
In addition to practicing the postures, yoga classes may also include instruction on breathing, call and response chanting, meditation, or inspirational readings by the teacher. The variety and amount of this will depend on the individual teacher and the yoga style in which he or she is trained. Typically, a yoga class at a gym will be more focused on the purely physical benefits of yoga, while one at a yoga center may delve more into the spiritual side. Some people find that the physical practice of yoga becomes a gateway into a spiritual exploration, while others just enjoy a wonderful low-impact workout that makes them feel great. Whatever your tendency, you will be able to find a yoga class that suits your style. Remember not to judge anyone else for their preferences, just find what works