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What Is Yoga?

The word yoga derives from the Sanskrit word yuj meaning to bind, join or yoke — to enter into union with.

Traditionally, yoga is an eight-fold path, through which a student progresses through the stages of moral discipline, self-restraint, asana (postures), control of the breath, control of the senses, concentration, and meditation — toward a final state of ecstasy born of complete self-realization and release from all illusion.

Hatha yoga (pronounced hat-ha, meaning forceful effort), the third stage, is the one most familiar to Westerners. Simply stated, Hatha yoga practice systematically works the body, to calm the mind, to free the spirit — principles wholly consistent with Western psychotherapy and relaxation response techniques for "releasing" stored tensions and increasing mind-body health.

Although yoga practice is fundamental to great Indian religions and its structures similar to many Western religions, it is generally agreed that yoga itself is not a religion, but a practice, an ethic, and a discipline that can enhance other physical, ethical, and spiritual practices and disciplines.

The best way to understand yoga and experience its benefits is to begin its practice.

"Success in Yoga is not obtained by the mere theoretical reading of sacred texts ... nor by talking about it. Constant practice alone is the secret of success ... there is no doubt of this."

   — Hatha Yoga Pradipika i : 64–66

"You know that you've found it by the way it makes you feel..."

   — Johnny Lang

Styles of Hatha Yoga

Styles of Hatha-Yoga by Georg Feuerstein

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