what is yoga?
Yoga can be translated as union. Given the multi-layered nature of Sanskrit, Yoga can also be translated as a method, of putting together or joining.
Although in modern times 'Yoga' is understood as a practice of postures, breath control, meditation and so on, in a majority of texts where Yoga is found, the word 'Yoga' represents the goal that is achieved through these practices.
Depending on the type of tradition, the goal of Yoga can be described in different ways. In non-dual traditions, such as Advaita Vedanta and Tantra, Yoga is often described as a state of union with one's true nature or true Self. In other traditions, this sense of union could be related to the conjunction with the Divine, the supreme Self or Śiva power. Some commentators of the Yoga Sutras (Samkya philosophy, dualistic) share the view that the term Yoga for Patanjali corresponds to Samadhi and it is seen as the disjunction between Puruṣa and Prakṛti.
When you immerse yourself into Yoga, there is a world that moves beyond the physical practice of asana, which often is the most popular in the West. It is a world of meditation, philosophy, rituals and traditions. A kaleidoscope of practices influenced by different schools of thought.
Yoga as we know is now in fact very different from how it was practiced thousands of years ago. Some pre-modern practices are followed in the modern world, whereas others have been transformed over time, moulded by time and globalisation. New studies show that many postures (asana) that we now practice in a Hatha Yoga class, have been developed only in the last century.
The most popular type of Yoga we practice in the West is Hatha Yoga. The Sanskrit word हठ haṭha literally means "force" and thus alludes to a system of physical techniques.
One of the most important figures for modern Hatha Yoga is Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, who's often referred as the father of Modern Yoga. Krishnamacharya has radically influenced 'Hatha Yoga' and the way we practice asana, contributing to the rise of asana in the west and the growth of modern postural Yoga.