For our first Sanskrit Saturday, we have the word that starts it all…
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yuj, which means “to yoke”. In my yoga classes, I have more often heard the word “union” and “to unite” as the generally accepted translation for yoga.
Union (unite) is a beautiful word with a beautiful meaning. Our country is made up of united states, my husband and I were united in matrimony, and friends and loved ones rejoice in being reunited after a separation. In these three examples, to unite is to feel connected with another entity, to feel that together, you are better than you are apart. Feeling united with those around us is a powerful emotion that makes us feel stronger, more confident, and able to work together towards a common goal.
We are able to enjoy this feeling during yoga class. Sure, we can always stay home and practice in our living rooms, and sometimes we do. But there’s something about coming together with other people who devote themselves for an hour the asanas and pranayama (poses and breath – I’ll cover those terms soon!) that creates an undeniable joyous energy in the room. In the same way, students at a university can sit at home or in their dorms to study and write papers, but so often they gather in the student union to do these things. There are times in our lives and certain activities when we crave this sense of community (there’s the word again!).
Sometimes in yoga practice we work to unite things and ideas that might not seem to belong together in an obvious way. We work to unite our breath with the movement of our bodies – inhaling our arms up, and exhaling them down. We unite ourselves with the current moment, letting go of what happened in the past or what will happen in the future. We unite our minds with our bodies, listening to the pains and stretches that we feel during our practice. We clear our minds so that we may better listen to what our bodies are saying. We find a sense of union with ourselves.
So, maybe the next time we hear the word “yoga”, we won’t think about twisting ourselves into pretzels. Maybe we can begin to think more about the many types of union that we can strive for in our hearts, minds, and bodies while we’re On the Mat.