Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word, "yukta," meaning connection. Love, justice, gratitude, forgiveness, etc. are connections. Hate, bigotry, lack of gratitude and forgiveness, etc. are disconnections. We have "wellness" (and not just fitness) when we increase our connections and decrease disconnections.
What we in the West call yoga is a tiny part of real yoga, properly called "kriya yoga" (yoga activity). The metaphorical (kriya) yoga chair has four legs: Bhakti (devotion), Raja (meditation/concentration), Karma (justice) and Jnana (wisdom). As one does (kriya) yoga, one is supposed to fill one's mind with these four elements. Toward this purpose, yoga philosophers from Patanjali (2nd century BCE) to Swatmarama (14th century CE) encourage yoga practitioners to focus as much on the inner/mental/spiritual dimension as the outer/physical dimension. Many of the postures (asanas) and flows (vinyasas) have spiritual meanings, which when combined with the three physical foundations of yoga --flexibility, balance and strength--produce Shanthi (peace), which is the objective of comprehensive yoga.
Questions to ponder:
- Is yoga essentially Hindu? (In other words, can Christians, Muslims and Jews practice it without compromising their faith)?
- How did colonial invasions of India (as early as that of Alexander the Great) and as late that of the British impact yoga? Is yoga itself colonized?
- How is yoga related to dance?
- How can yoga make one a better human being?