What Is Yoga? Unlocking the Essence of Yoga

What Is Yoga? Unlocking the Essence of Yoga

What Is Yoga? Unlocking the Essence of Yoga

Yoga is perceived through various lenses—some see it as physical fitness, others as a spiritual practice. But what exactly is yoga? This blog explores its essence, rooted in the Sanskrit word "yuj," meaning to bind or unite and the eight limbs of yoga, which include moral codes, physical postures, breath control, and meditation.

What Is Yoga?

Yoga - what is it exactly? Is it simply a physical exercise routine, a means to sculpt the body and enhance fitness? Or does it delve deeper into the realms of spirituality, offering solace and direction to the wandering soul? Perhaps, it is an intricate fusion of both, transcending the boundaries of mere physicality and delving into the profound depths of the human experience?

To address the above raised questions let us first begin with the basics of etymology. At the heart of this ancient practice lies the Sanskrit word "Yoga" (योग), stemming from the root "yuj" (युज्), meaning to bind, join, attach, or yoke. But what exactly does yoga seek to bind? In its essence, yoga is the union of the physical body and mind, intertwining with the soul, and ultimately, connecting the individual consciousness with the universal.

What Are The 8 Limbs Of Yoga?

Central to the yogic tradition is the metaphor of the Yoga Tree, delineating the path to enlightenment through its eight limbs. The term "eight limbs" is derived from the Sanskrit word "Ashtanga", where “ashta” is translated as eight, and “anga” is part/limb. Each of the eight limbs offers guiding principles for a purposeful and meaningful life and are often referred to as the “path to enlightenment.”

Yama and Niyama

Imagine the Yoga Tree standing tall, its roots delving deep into the earth, symbolising the first limb, Yama—comprising moral codes and ethical restraints. Rising from the roots, the sturdy trunk represents Niyama, fostering self-discipline and spiritual observances.

Asana and Pranayama

Branching outwards are the Asanas, the physical postures forming the third limb, reaching towards the sky with strength and grace. Intertwined with the branches are the leaves—Pranayama, the fourth limb, embodying the breath and vital energy that sustains life.

Pratyahara and Dharana

Encircling the trunk is the bark of Pratyahara, the fifth limb, signifying withdrawal of the senses, turning inward to explore the depths of consciousness. Flowing through the tree, like sap coursing through its veins, is Dharana—the sixth limb, concentration, and focus.

Dhyana and Samadhi

As the tree blossoms, so does Dhyana—the seventh limb—meditation, represented by the vibrant flowers adorning its branches. And at the culmination of this profound journey lies Samadhi, the eighth limb—the ripe fruits of enlightenment, embodying blissful union and transcendence.


In essence, yoga is not merely a physical exercise regimen or a spiritual pursuit; it is a holistic path—a journey of self-discovery, alignment, and unity. It is the art of harmonizing body, mind, and soul, ultimately revealing the interconnectedness of all existence. So, whether one steps onto the mat seeking strength, serenity, or spiritual awakening, the essence of yoga remains—an ever-evolving journey towards union and wholeness.


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Key References:

Light on Yoga by B. K. S. Iyengar, 1995

The Tree of Yoga: The Definitive Guide To Yoga In Everyday Life, 2013

This blog post was brought to you by Evgeniia Safronova.
Evgeniia is a yoga instructor whose journey spans continents and cultures, currently residing in Stuttgart, Germany. She is a global citizen, surfer, latino dancer & a cats' lover."The yogi knows that the paths of ruin or of salvation lie within himself" - B. K. S. Iyengar. Follow her journey and insights at @quetzal_yoga