The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Yuj' which means to join or unite. The union referred to is that of the individual self-uniting with Cosmic Consciousness or the Universal Spirit. Yoga is believed to have evolved during the period of the 'Sat Yuga', also called the Golden age. It was not until the discovery of the Indus- valley civilization, the largest civilization: that the knowledge about the origin of Yoga surfaced. One of the earliest expositions on Yoga was written by the Indian sage Patanjali. His work, known today as "Patanjali's Yoga Sutras" is widely available on the net.
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
"Patanjali defines yoga as" Yoga Chitta Vritti Nirodha "- Yoga is the cessation of mental fluctuations." Hence, yoga can be defined as a state of complete stillness of mind. To achieve this goal, Patanjali prescribes the eight limbs or stagesevery practitioner must master. Today, Ashtanga yoga (which means 'eight-limbedyoga') is sometimes thought to be a particular style or series of postures. Butthese are really the eight stages described by Patanjali. They are:
Yama (moral restraints)
Niyama (spiritual practices)
Asana (seat posture with spine erect)
Pranayama (breath control)
Pratyahara (withdrawal of from the organs of sense and the organs of action)
Dharana (deep state of concentration)
Dhyana (directing attention to the subject of meditation)
Samadhi (complete absorption in super consciousness or divine mind)
A Moral and Ethical Lifestyle
Today yoga has become a popular form of callisthenics contributing to the health and fitness of millions. However, earlier yoga was viewed as a complete lifestyle. The first two limbs of Patanajali's Asthanga yoga, moral and ethical restraints and observances have always been considered the foundation for success in yoga.
"Sage Patanjali lists five Yamas and five Niyamas, but the actual ancient Indian text, comprised of ten Yamas and ten Niyamas."
Yoga's Forgotten roots has been beautifully captured in the book 'Yoga's Forgotten Foundation - Hinduism's Code of Conduct. "
Yoga works on the level of one’s body, mind, emotion and energy. This has given rise to four broad classifications of Yoga:
Karma Yoga, where we utilize the body
Jnana Yoga, where we utilize the mind
Bhakti Yoga, where we utilize the emotion
Kriya Yoga, where we utilize the energy
Each system of Yoga we practice would fall within the gamut of one or more of these categories. Every individual is a unique combination of these four factors. Only a Guru(a teacher) can advocate the appropriate combination of the four fundamental paths, as is necessary for each seeker