The word Yoga comes from the sanskrit word Yuj, meaning union, to yoke or to join. Yoga is therefore a journey from discord to harmony, from separation to wholeness.
Originally devised by the Yogi's of ancient India as a practice to prepare the body for long stints in meditation, some say Yoga is as old as civilisation itself. Yoga is mentioned in the Veda's in the 10th century BC, the Upanishads around 4th century BC, the Bhagavad Gita written around the 3rd century BC. The Yoga Sutra was composed around 200 BC by a sage named Patanjali and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika around 15th Century CE by Swami Svatmarama. It is assumed that the tradition was passed down by word of mouth from long before as some ancient art and architecture shows us. Traditionally the Lord Shiva gave mankind Yoga, he is often pictured in meditative and yogic postures.
This ancient tradition, often shrouded in the mystery of the high Himalayas, only came to the attention of modern society through a teacher named Krishnamacharya who began teaching yoga in the 1930s and went on to teach a number of students who became famous teachers in their own right and were pivotal in the transmission of yoga to the west. For example: Indra Devi, Sri Pattabhi Jois, founder of Ashtanga Vinyasa, BKS Iyengar and Krishnamacharya's own son Desikachar. From these great teachers Yoga has sprouted into multifarious styles and traditions and it is estimated that well over 4million people are practicing yoga in the UK and America alone.
Ashtanga Yoga as espoused by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutra's describes in detail the eight limbs of yoga:
Yama's: Ahimsa: Non-violence, Satya: Truthfulness, Asteya: non-stealing, Bramachari: sexual continence and Aparigraha: non-possessiveness Niyama's: Soucha: cleanliness, Santosha: contentment, Tapas: austerity, Svadhyaya: independent study and Ishvarapranidhana: surrender. Asana: are the postures or bodily control. Pranayama: are breathing techniques or breath control Pratyahara: is the withdrawl of the senses Dharana: is concentration Dyhana: is sustained meditation Samadhi: is the dissolution of the individual ego into the universal.
"Who sees all being in his own self, and his own self in all beings, loses all fear.”