In the West, the word Yoga has established itself as a fitness regime whose goal is a better and more beautiful body. That’s actually the antithesis of what the word really means.
Yoga in Sanskrit means “yoke”, and yoga is the means by which the individual mind, the Atman, yokes itself to Brahman, the Universal Mind, and knows its true identity as one with that substance. The asanas (postures) are no more than a means to an end: Hatha Yoga works on the mind through the body.
Yoga considers the body to be, quite literally, the physical manifestation of the unconscious mind, the most gross form of mind. Every cell is suffused with consciousness through the nervous system, so the easiest, most logical place to start with the transformation of mind is with the body. The body is our first identity, so that’s where we start.