When people think of yoga, the first thing that comes to mind is an image of someone doing a yoga pose on a sticky mat. But did you know that only one of the four main branches of yoga involves poses, and poses are just one fraction of that branch? This means that the yoga poses you are familiar with are a very small part of yoga.
If you study the origins of yoga, you will learn that yoga began as a way to reach enlightenment. Of the various methods, only one involved the deliberate and systematized use of the physical body. The others were centered on the path of selfless service (Karma yoga), love and devotion to God (Bhakti yoga), and the study of the intellect (Jnana yoga). In the fourth branch, Raja yoga, steps were taken to prepare the body (and the mind) for long hours of meditation for the purpose of attaining union with the divine.
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, one of the oldest recorded books of yoga, these steps consisted of eight parts, or limbs. The first two limbs are comprised of morals and ethics to guide the yogi toward making the proper choices that foster inner peace, purity of mind, and non-violent actions.
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