When most people refer to “Yoga” they are actually referring to the physical practice and not Yoga in its entirety. I started practicing yoga for the same reasons most people start, and that was to reap the benefits of the physical practice (strength, balance, flexibility). Over the past couple of years my practice has deepend knowing that Yoga is composed of 8 limbs and the asanas, the physical practice, is only one of them.
The other 7 limbs of yoga act as a spiritual and personal development guide, similar to that of religious bibles, but without the gods. Instead the “god” in Yoga is often referred to as being within. The “god” within is realized when we get closer to who we actually are. I believe this is one of the many reasons Yoga has become so popular in the western world, as it offers a spiritual path for individuals seeking spiritual growth and realization but do not find a fit within the existing organized religions.
The term “Yoga” is Sanskrit for union. This can be translated as the union of mind, body and soul. I also often think of it as the union of our own being with the universe or “god.” Through Yoga and meditation I feel more connected with who I really am, which promotes a much stronger and compassionate connection with all living beings around me.