When people hear the word yoga, they usually imagine a person sitting in a lotus position, standing on his head or taking some unthinkable twisted pose. This is what can be seen in telecasts about “yoga” and in numerous classes on “yoga”. People do yoga to improve their health, lose weight, become more energetic, and look better.
Others believe that doing yoga means doing breathing exercises (pranayama) or sitting in silence with eyes closed, immersed in some kind of inner activity. But in fact, none of this reveals the true meaning of the word “yoga.”
Respiratory and physical exercises (yoga poses, or asanas) are part of hatha yoga, a physical system whose purpose is to help a person achieve real yoga. Unfortunately, in the western world, popular hatha yoga is often confused with yoga as such. This happens because many people call themselves “yoga teachers” only on the basis that they teach physical exercises. Therefore, often a real yoga teacher has to explain that yoga is not just a set of physical exercises. “Yoga” means “union with God.” A real yoga teacher teaches what is, in fact, a relationship with God and how to establish it.
The English word “yoke” (connect) comes from the Sanskrit word “yoga”. yoga means the union of the individual spiritual soul with the Supreme Soul. Thus, yoga is not a physical effort, as most people imagine. yoga is the spiritual effort of a living being in striving to achieve unity with the Supreme Living Being, as well as this very state of unity. In this sense, yoga is the true meaning of religion, because the goal of all religions is unity with God, or yoga. Religious processes are designed to help a person achieve a state of yoga.