It is said that yuj actually gives two possible root word meanings for the term, yoga. As such, yoga can be taken as a derivative of yujir yoga, which means "to yoke," or yuj samadhau, which means "to concentrate." In fact, it is this second root, meaning “to concentrate,” that is said by traditional scholars to be the correct etymology for yoga, as described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The first commentary of the Yoga Sutras translated yoga to mean "concentration."
In the West, yoga is most often associated with the physical practice of asanas, particularly stretching exercises to build flexibility and relax the body. Yoga asanas can also build strength, coordination, balance and stamina. However, asana practice is just one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga, according to the Sutras. These eight limbs are:
- Yama - Five abstentions (or outer observances)
- Niyama - Five inner observances
- Asana - Meaning “seat” or "pose" and referring to the physical posture needed for meditation
- Pranayama - Controlled or suspended breath
- Pratyahara - Withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana - Single-pointed concentration
- Dhyana - Meditation
- Samadhi - Liberation
There are many different paths of yoga, including Bhakti yoga, Karma yoga and Jnana yoga, but all are rooted in the yamas and niyamas, and have the same goal of samadhi.