Certainly, first and foremost it is a tradition that was born within the ascetic culture of ancient India, where it still survives in a great variety of forms, but at the same time it has become an approach and a way of life that has influenced and it has adapted to other cultures, both religious and secular, around the world. From its millennial origins to the present day, yoga has been integrating a great variety of physical, mental and spiritual techniques, combined in different ways, but always in order to control the body, breath and mind, freeing it from suffering and leading it knowledge of one’s own Being. This great capacity for transformation and adaptation allows us to affirm that yoga, far from being a religion or a monolithic tradition, is a dynamic culture that assumes different forms depending on the contexts where it takes root and the people who do it. they practice.
The Sanskrit word yoga derives from the verbal root yuj, which means “to bind, unite” and is related to the English yoke and the Spanish yugo. From this original sense of “unite, set up, equip, place” derives its most common sense which is “application, use, use, practice, method, means, procedure, resource, technique, discipline”, and so on.
The meaning of “union”, which is so popular today in yoga schools, is later and very secondary and is due to the influence of philosophical schools other than Patanjali’s yoga. However, it should be noted that in Sanskrit literature the word yoga does not have the meaning of “fusion”, but it does have the meaning of “contact, conjunction or union” of two things that touch without dissolving into each other. This is important because for Patañjali, contrary to what many teachers say, the word yoga did not mean union, but a specific method that consisted of stopping mental processes.
The word yoga, in a more restricted sense, refers to the philosophical system (darśana) formulated by Patañjali in the Yogasūtra, which is also called rāja-yoga (actual yoga) or aṣṭaṅga-yoga (eight-step yoga) and which will be described in more detail in Chapter 4 of this part. The distinctive characteristic of this yoga is that it focuses on the purification and control of the mind through an ethical, corporal, energetic and mental discipline.
There is a third meaning of the term yoga, the one that is more common today, it refers to the type of yoga that is currently practiced in yoga centers, gyms and schools around the world, and in which there is a clear predominance of the practice of postures (āsana). We could call it ‘postural yoga’, ‘modern transnational yoga’ (Singleton, 2010) or simply ‘contemporary yoga’.