The word yoga comes from Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. It is a derivation of the word yuj, which means yoking, as in a team of oxen. In contemporary practice, this is often interpreted as meaning union. Yoga is said to be for the purpose of uniting the mind, body, and spirit.
How can this union be achieved? Meditation is one way, but sometimes it is necessary to prepare the body for meditation by stretching and building strength. This is the physical practice of yoga, also know as asana.
Many people think that yoga is just stretching. But while stretching is certainly involved, yoga is really about creating balance in the body through developing both strength and flexibility. This is done through the performance of poses or postures, each of which has specific physical benefits.
Yoga teachers will often refer to “your practice,” which means your individual experience with yoga as it develops over time. The amazing thing about 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.
In addition to practicing the poses, yoga classes may also include instruction on breathing, call and response chanting, meditation, or an inspirational reading 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.