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Yoga Origins

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word 'yuj' which means 'to yoke' or 'union'. According to Panini, the term yoga can be derived from either of two roots: yujir yoga (to yoke) or yujir samadhau (to concentrate). In the context of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the latter definition is considered the correct etymology by traditional commentators. 

Patanjali was an ancient Indian sage believed to have lived between the 2nd century BCE and 4th century CE, and is thought to be the author of many Sanskrit works, including the Yoga Sutras.

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali outlines yoga theory and practice and it provides the foundation of classical yoga. The 196 aphorisms are divided into four books (padas). Samadhi Pada describes yoga and then the nature and means of obtaining Samadhi.

Sadhana Pada outlines two systems of yoga:

Kriya and Ashtanga Yoga (Eight-Limbed Path).

Vibhuti Pada describes the supra-normal powers acquired through yoga practice and warns that they can become an obstacle to the yogi who seeks liberation. Kaivalya Pada describes the process of liberation and the reality of the transcendental ego.

Sadhana is the Sanskrit word for 'practice' or 'discipline'. As such, the second book is the application of the method of yoga as it is known and widely practiced today.

Ashtanga Yoga consists of Eight Limbs:

  1. Yama - restraints or ethics of behaviour

  2. Niyama - observances

  3. Asana - physical postures

  4. Pranayama - control of the prana (breath)

  5. Pratyahara - withdrawal of the senses

  6. Dharana - concentration

  7. Dhyana - meditation

  8. Samadhi - absorption

In Sadhana Pada, the five yamas and 5 niyamas are also outlined.

Patanjali Statue
Restorative Yoga

Patanjali defines asana in verse 46 of Book 2 as:

sthira sukham asanam

meaning: posture one can hold with comfort and motionlessness.

Yoga in the West

Swami Vivikeananda was a key figure in the introduction of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western World.

On September 11 in 1893, Swami Vivekananda came to America to speak at the Parliament of World Religions at Chicago World's Fair. He was a monk from Calcutta and he made a brief presentation representing India and Hindusim. At his initial opening of "Sisters and brothers of America!", he was met with a 2-minute long standing ovation. According to Sailendra Nath Dhar, when silence was restored he began his address, greeting the youngest of the nations on behalf of "the most ancient order of monks in the world, the Vedic order of sannyasins, a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance".

In the 1920's, Paramahansa Yogananda also travelled to America. He began the Self-Realization Fellowship and teachings of Kriya Yoga. From the mid-19th century forward, there was an influx of Indian spiritual teachers to the west.

Here is a brief, and not exhaustive, recounting:

  • 1956 - originally from the West, Swami Radha (student of Swami Sivananda Saraswati) returned to Canada and founded the Sivananda School of Yoga in Montreal, going on to establish Yasodhara Ashram in BC in 1963.

  • 1959 - Maharishi Mahesh Yogi came to the United States, teaching Transcendental Meditation, establishing centers in London and San Francisco. The same year, he began the International Meditation Society to propagate his teachings.

  • 1960 - Amrit Desai, disciple of Kripalu, came to the US from India and began teaching yoga in Pennsylvania. In 1972 he established residential yoga center which changed its name to 'Kripalu Yoga Fellowship' in 1974.

  • 1964 - Ashtanga Yoga (yoga as exercise) came to the west through students that had studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute (founded by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in 1948). Jois was a student (like Iyengar) of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. The style is an energetic synchronization of breath with movement (it is the style that gave a spinoff to Power Yoga).

  • 1968 - Yogi Bhajan introduced 'Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan' to the United States and established the 'Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization' (3HO) as a teaching organization.

  • 1960's-70's - Neem Karoli Baba became the spiritual master of many westerners who travelled to India during this time, notably Ram Das (author of Be Here Now), Bhagavan Das, Krishna Das (musician who brought kirtan to mainstream America and the world) and Jai Uttal.

  • 1972 - Swami Satchidananda founded Yogaville in Seigler Springs, California (Integral Yoga).

  • 1976 - the first Iyengar Yoga Institute was founded in San Francisco by Mary Dunn, Judith Lasater and others; B.K.S. Iyengar began teaching individual students 'yoga as exercise' in 1952 in India and published 'Light on Yoga' in 1966.

  • 1970's - Paulie Zink, a martial arts champion, introduced the practice of long-held postures incorporating principles of traditional Chinese medicine (Yin Yoga). He was sought out in the 1980's by Paul Grilley who began studying with him.

  • 1997 - John Friend establishes Anusara School of Hatha Yoga, originally derived from Iyengar's style.

  • 2007 - Judith Lasater, an early disciple of B.K.S. Iyengar, went on to create restorative yoga (long-held poses), based on Iyengar's postures and use of props, such as blankets, to support the body.

Yoga Classes for Beginners

There are many resources on yoga that may be of interest to both newer and seasoned practitioners.

Here are a few for your perusal:

  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali by Sri Swami Satchidananda

  • Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Swami Muktibodhananda

  • The Heart of Yoga by T.K.V. Desikachar

  • Light on Yoga by B.K.S. Iyengar

  • The Deeper Dimension of Yoga by Georg Feuerstein

  • The Bhagavad Gita: Introduced and Translated by Eknath Easwaran

  • Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda

  • Living Your Yoga by Judith Hanson Lasater

  • Teaching Yoga by Mark Stephens

  • The Key Poses of Yoga by Ray Long

  • The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga by Bernie Clark

  • Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff

  • Yoga Mala by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois

  • Anatomy Trains by Tom Meyers

  • I Am That by Sir Nisgardatta Maharaj

  • Talks with Ramana Maharshi

  • Yoga for Transformation: Ancient Teachings and Practices for Healing the Body, Mind and Heart by Gary Kraftsow

  • Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving Through Stillness by Erich Schiffman

  • Yoga Mind, Body & Spirit: A Return to Wholeness by Donna Farhi

  • The Upanishads: Introduced and Translated by Eknath Easwaran

The goal of yoga is moksha, liberation.


Yoga has evolved and transformed through the many avenues it has taken since its initial beginnings.

Like an apple whose seeds have been cast all over, many trees (or branches of yoga) have grown; each one different from the others in intention, emphasis, focus, and purpose. 

With the ultimate goal of yoga as a centerpoint, Yogarise offers a multi-limbed practice that holds closely to the limbs of Ashtanga Raja Yoga. The essence of intention, of physical purification through asana, of breath regulation, concentration, meditation and absorption, are cultivated through classes, meditation sittings, workshops, trainings and intensives.

Recognizing the benefit of yoga on the nervous system and overall well-being, Yogarise embraces classes for children, mom and baby practices, yin yoga, and more.

Yogarise creates a foundation for the yogic journey, welcoming all who come,

while nurturing the tradition of yoga's original beginning.

We are excited to meet you!

Yogarise Parkland County
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