What is Yoga?

Deepen your understanding of this ancient practice with these answered Yoga FAQs.

What does 'Yoga' mean?

The word yoga itself means "union"  - the union of the individual consciousness or soul with the universal consciousness or spirit. Many people think of yoga only as physical exercises, however, this is only one aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul.  The traditional acceptance of this union is between one's individual consciousness and the universal consciousness. Yoga refers to a certain state of consciousness as well as the methods that help one reach that state of spiritual union.


What is Yoga?

There are various paths of Yoga, each one a specialized branch of one comprehensive system.  This includes Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana (Gyana) Yoga and Raja Yoga.  Yoga is both ancient and modern. At the heart of all styles and approaches to Yoga is the recognition that we are more than just a body and a collection of thoughts in the mind. The practices of Yoga help us to transcend the physical and mental limitations and come to the easeful state of simply being true Self.  Most Yoga classes practiced today are a form of Hatha Yoga.

In Yoga, the body, breath, and mind are seen as a union of these multi-dimensional aspects of each and every human being. The system and various techniques of Yoga cultivate the experience of that union, leading to greater integration of being, internal peace and clarity of the mind.  Through the regular practice of various techniques, including postures and movement, breath awareness and breathing exercises, relaxation and concentration, self-inquiry and meditation, Yoga is designed to cultivate physical, emotional and mental health, happiness, and a greater sense of self-awareness and higher consciousness.

 Generally, Yoga is recognized as an ancient system of philosophies, principles, and practices formally systematized and written in the third century before Christ in The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. This defines an eight-limbed path that forms the structured framework of Yoga practice.


What are the Eight Limbs of Yoga?

The Eight Limbs of Yoga –this text appears here in an abbreviated form from the book "Yoga, Mind, Body & Spirit, A Return To Wholeness" by Donna Farhi, published by Henry Holt and Company, with permission from the author Donna Farhi  

The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, written sometime in the third century before Christ, defines an eight-limbed path that forms the structured framework for your Yoga practice.  The eight limbs consist of the following:

1. YAMAS – Wise Characteristics and 2. NIYAMAS – Codes for Living Soulfully

Together, Yamas and Niyamas provide ten ethical precepts that allow us to be at peace with ourselves, our family and our community.


  • Ahimsa – Compassion for all Living Things

  • Satya – Commitment to the Truth

  • Asteya – Not Stealing

  • Brahmacharya – Merging with the One

  • Aparigraha – Not Grasping


  • Sauca – Purity

  • Santosha – Contentment

  • Tapas – Burning Enthusiasm

  • Svadhyaya - Self Study

  • Isvarapranidhana – Celebration of the Spiritual

3. ASANAS – Dynamic internal dances in the form of physical postures.  These help to keep the body strong, flexible and relaxed. Their practice strengthens the nervous system and refines our process of inner perception.

4. PRANAYAMA – Roughly defined as breathing practices, and more specifically defined as practices that help us to develop constancy in the movement of prana, or life force.

5. PRATYAHARA – The drawing of one’s attention towards silence rather than towards things.

6. DHARANA – Focusing attention and cultivating inner perceptual awareness.

7. DHYANA – Sustaining awareness under all conditions.

8. SAMADHI – The return of the mind into original silence.


What are Postures or Asanas?

The most widely recognised form of Yoga today is an integration of several Yoga practices, primarily body movement, traditionally known as postures or asanas.  Similar to the function of oil in an engine, the asanas enhance the flexibility of the joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and stimulate circulation. Yoga exercises have a rejuvenating effect on the whole organism and are incomparable to any other system. When performed slowly and with awareness, the asanas give a sense of physical well-being as well as being a mental exercise in concentration and meditation.

Asanas stimulate the acupuncture zones of the body. When these points are activated, the flow of prana (life energy) increases. Performing the asanas massages the internal organs and boosts organ function.  Together with the yoga exercises of deep breathing, relaxation, and concentration, asanas can help us develop control over the mind. The mind is directed inwards, withdrawn from the objects of the senses and gradually brought under control.    


 Why is Proper Breathing (Pranayama) so important?

The breathing techniques of pranayama help to revitalise both body and mind. By consciously regulating our breath, we’re able to store more prana (life energy) and draw on these energy reserves in our daily life.  Most people use only a small portion of their lung capacity when breathing. They breathe into the upper chest with hunched shoulders, leading to a lack of oxygen and tension in the upper back and the neck. Deep and conscious breathing is an effective way to conquer stress. A person with lots of prana radiates strength and vitality.


What is the benefit of Proper Relaxation (Savasana)?

Proper relaxation often practiced as Savasana in a typical Yoga class is an excellent cooling system and the most natural way to re-energize the body.  Relaxation in Yoga is so important because it reduces physical and mental stress and restores energy to allow the body to perform at its natural, peak condition.


Is Meditation part of Yoga classes?

Meditation is the yogic practice of being connected to the deepest part within. A wide range of meditation techniques is designed to help you observe and explore the world of thoughts and feelings and go beyond to an experience of deep peace and contentment.  Meditation is usually an integral part of Yoga and is offered in various forms depending on the type of Yoga class.


What happens in a typical Yoga class?

Yoga classes vary. It depends on the particular style or study of the teacher.  You will usually practice on yoga mats and may use various props such as blankets, blocks, straps or bolsters provided by the teacher when required.  A yoga class typically includes:

When arriving at the studio and the Yoga room please respect the space by entering in silence.

  • An introduction to include relaxation or breathing practices

  • A gentle warm-up

  • Yoga postures and movements

  • A cool down of some restorative postures

  • Relaxation or meditation to conclude

After class, we kindly ask you to quietly clean the studio Mats and store away neatly any Yoga props that you may have used for class.