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What Is Yoga?

Updated: Jul 6, 2021

Yoga is a cultural tradition, originating from northern India, that has been practiced for thousands of years. Yoga is not a religion, although it includes elements of spirituality and there is much overlap between the teachings of yoga and elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism.

Yoga is more of a way of living than a religious practice. The word "yoga" means "to yoke, or to unite", which can be understood in a multiple ways, such as uniting mind, body, breath, and spirit, or uniting ourselves with the world around us and tuning into the interconnectedness of all things.

The practice of yoga in the West is fairly new, having being brought over by Eastern yogis, sometimes losing some of the true nature of the practice in translation. Most Westerners see yoga as a fitness activity, mostly concerned with contorting the body into strange poses.

In fact, the traditional practice of ashtanga yoga includes 8 "Limbs", only one of which includes the physical postures of yoga that we are familiar with in the West. There are many other types of yoga, aside from ashtanga, but they generally share the same ideas and principles.

The 8 Limbs include:

  • Yama (attitudes toward our external environment)

  • Niyama (attitudes toward our internal environment)

  • Asana (the practice of physical postures)

  • Pranayama (breathwork)

  • Pratyahara (drawing the senses inward)

  • Dharana (focus or concentration)

  • Dhyana (meditation)

  • & Samadhi (complete integration/bliss)

I'll be exploring these ideas over the next few weeks on the blog and in my Mindful Monday Live mini-sessions at 12pm ET every week on Instagram & Facebook, so feel free to tune in for some mindfulness & yogic philosophy!

What does yoga mean to you? How has your yoga practice impacted how you live your life? Let me know in the comments, I would love to hear from you!



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