What is Yoga?

what is yoga

Yoga is the physical, mental and spiritual practices or disciplines which aim at transforming body and mind. The term yoga is derived from the literal meaning of “yoking together”, but came to be applied to the “yoking” of mind and body. In Vedic Sanskrit yoga literally means to add, to join or to unite.

Most people are familiar with yoga meaning union. It is a state of “being” that takes place in the now (present). Its expression is a quality of pure awareness that dissolves our identification with the separate self and reunites us with that which we truly are.

The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation) though the exact definition of what form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated.

According to Jacobsen, “Yoga has five principal meanings:

  1. Yoga as a disciplined method for attaining a goal;
    2. Yoga as techniques of controlling the body and the mind;
    3. Yoga as a name of one of the schools or systems of philosophy (darśana);
    4. Yoga in connection with other words, such as “hatha-, mantra-, and laya-,” referring to traditions specializing in particular techniques of yoga;
    5. Yoga as the goal of yoga practice.”

According to David Gordon White, from the 5th century CE onward, the meanings of the term “yoga” became more or less fixed, but having various meanings:

  1. Yoga as an analysis of perception and cognition;
    2. Yoga as the rising and expansion of consciousness;
    3. Yoga as a path to omniscience;
    4. Yoga as a technique for entering into other bodies, generating multiple bodies, and the attainment of other supernatural accomplishments;

The practice of yoga is an arena of self-inquiry and exploration the fruition of which leads to a yogic lifestyle whereby yoga becomes an everyday experience and way of living….Being.  Yoga is not a religion nor does it arise from a system of beliefs rather it is more like a science. It’s a science to explore both the physical and non-physical and discover the potential and possibilities of both.  Yoga practice is not about becoming more flexible, stronger, fitter, or any other external benefit. If we focus too much on achieving such effects an external ambition arises which creates tension in the mind that has disturbing, distractive and destructive consequences, and we miss the whole point.

Yoga gives us what we are, as a whole, unifying all aspects of our being. Within this union, each of the different parts is empowered, validated and uplifted by its relationships. This process occurs on many levels. Union of movement and breathing, union of muscle and muscle; union of bone and bone; union of the anatomical and physiological bodies; union of the peripheral and central nervous systems; union of mind and body; union of thought and action; union of desire and intent. In time as we deepen into the practice of yoga the reoccurring experience of union begins to re-educate our mind, exposing the illusion of separateness and guiding us to the understanding, appreciation and experience of the all-pervading unity of this existence.

Yoga is about making friends with life and with oneself. It is not about making life harder by surrounding yourself with a new and fictional code of rights and wrongs, should and should not. Any lifestyle, any occupation and any situation can be nourished and supported through yoga.

Read about History of yoga