The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit word, Yuj, meaning to unite. Unity is the main aim of yoga practice but not in the same way we typically think about unity. Instead of many beings uniting to become a whole, yoga unites one’s self–creating harmony in mind, body, and spirit. Yoga is about achieving a life of self-discipline based on the principle of simple living and high thinking.

The Sivananda approach to yoga aims to preserve an individual’s physical self, health, and wellbeing by adhering to five basic principles — proper exercise, proper breathing, proper relaxation, proper diet, and proper thinking. This approach was built on ancient methods. It uses foundational poses to improve levels of strength, flexibility, cleansing, and confidence.

Sivananda Yoga was shaped by the teachings of Swami Sivananda (1887-1963). Sivananda’s life was a radiant reflection of selfless service, exemplified most during his years as a doctor, and later as a world-famous guru, spiritual enlightener, and jivanmukta. Wherever he went he conducted lectures and taught others the power of yoga to cultivate strength and promote health. He encouraged many to turn to yoga asanas, pranayamas, and meditation to reap the benefits he found so abundant.

“A yogi sees the body as a temple or vehicle for the soul and has specific requirements which must be fulfilled for it to function smoothly and supply optimum mileage. Yogis say that we were not born merely to be subject to pain and suffering, disease and death; we believe there is a far greater purpose to life. But, the investigation of life’s purpose requires a keen intellect and a strong will; these are the products of a healthy body and mind. This is the system of yoga, a simple and natural program involving five main principles.”

The Five Principles of Yoga

Proper Exercise: Yoga’s physical exercises are called asanas or poses.

Proper Breathing: Yogic breathing exercises are called pranayama. Pranayama means to control the prana or energies. Control of the prana leads to control of the mind.

Proper Relaxation: Rest and relaxation are nature’s way of recharging. This is especially important as we tend to overwork the body and mind on a daily basis. Resting in savasana before and after a session gets the body and mind prepared for optimum performance. A combination of physical, mental, and spiritual relaxation are used to allow us to hit the recharge button.

Proper Diet: Yogic motto recommends – ‘eat to live, not live to eat’. Proper exercise should accompany proper diet to attain a high standard of health and wellbeing. This means consuming a diet rich in pure, simple, natural foods, with less sugar, less caffeine, less salt and lots of fruits and vegetables.

Proper Thinking and Meditation: It is important to clear out harmful and poisonous thoughts that could cause unhappiness, stress, or anxiety. Fortunately, we ALL have the mental ability to concentrate. So, we ALL can achieve lasting happiness and inner peace. We must simply learn to calm the mind, practice positive thinking, and turn our thoughts inwards to a state of meditation.