Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise; it has a meditative and spiritual core. One of the six major orthodox schools of Hinduism is also called Yoga, which has its own epistemology, ontology and metaphysics, and is closely related to Hindu Samkhya philosophy.
योग yoga is derived from the sanskrit root yuj (युज्) “to attach, join, harness, yoke”. The word yoga is cognate with English “yoke”. In the context of yoga sutras, the word Yoga means Union.
The spiritual sense of the word yoga first arises in Epic Sanskrit, in the second half of the 1st millennium BCE, and is associated with the philosophical system presented in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, with the chief aim of “uniting” the human spirit with the Divine spirit. The term kriyāyoga has a technical meaning in the Yoga Sutras (2.1), designating the “practical” aspects of the philosophy, i.e. the “union with the supreme” due to performance of duties in everyday life.
Yama (The five “abstentions”): Ahimsa (Non-violence, non-harming other living beings), Satya (truthfulness, non-falsehood), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy, fidelity to one’s partner), and Aparigraha (non-avarice, non-possessiveness).
Niyama (The five “observances”): Śauca (purity, clearness of mind, speech and body), Santosha (contentment, acceptance of others and of one’s circumstances), Tapas (persistent meditation, perseverance, austerity), Svādhyāya (study of self, self-reflection, study of Vedas), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (contemplation of God/Supreme Being/True Self).
Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
Samadhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.
In later Hindu scholasticism (12th century onwards), yoga became the name of one of the six orthodox philosophical schools (darsanas), which refers to traditions that accept the testimony of Vedas.
Practicing yoga helps provide a foundation and tools to building good habits, such as discipline, self-inquiry, and nonattachment. This exercise is also a pathway to empower you to make conscious choices to live a healthy and fulfilling life. Today, many agree that the word yuj — which yoga derives from — refers to greater internal states, such as clarity, peace, and happiness.