the introduction to his classic book on yoga "Light on
Yoga" B.K.S. Iyengar offers the following thoughtful
and cogent comment on the definition of "Yoga".
What is Yoga?
The word Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning
to bind, join, attach and yoke, to direct and concentrate
one's attention on, to use and apply. It also means union
or communion. It is the true union of our will with the will
of God. 'It thus means,' says Mahadev Desai in his introduction
to the Gita according to Gandhi, 'the yoking of all the powers
of body, mind and soul to God; it means the disciplining of
the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will, which that
Yoga presupposes; it means a poise of the soul which enables
one to look at life in all its aspects evenly.'
is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. It
was collated, co-ordinated and systematised by Patanjali in
his classical work, the Yoga Sutras, which consists of 185
terse aphorisms. In Indian thought, everything is permeated
by the Supreme Universal Spirit (Paramatma or God) of which
the individual human spirit (jivatma) is a part. The system
of yoga is so called because it teaches the means by which
the jivatma can be united to, or be in communion with the
Paramatma, and so secure liberation (moksa).
who follows the path of Yoga is a yogi or yogin.
the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, which is the most
important authority on Yoga philosophy, Sri Krishna explains
to Arjuna the meaning of Yoga as a deliverance from contact
with pain and sorrow. It is said:
'When his mind, intellect and self (ahamkara) are under control,
freed from restless desire, so that they rest in the spirit
within, a man becomes a Yukta -- one in communion with God.
A lamp does not flicker in a place where no winds blow; so
it is with a yogi, who controls his mind, intellect and self,
being absorbed in the spirit within him. When the restlessness
of the mind, intellect and self is stilled through the practice
of Yoga, the yogi by the grace of the Spirit within himself
finds fulfilment. Then he knows the joy eternal which is beyond
the pale of the senses which his reason cannot grasp. He abides
in this reality and moves not therefrom. He has found the
treasure above all others. There is nothing higher than this.
He who has achieved it, shall not be moved by the greatest
sorrow. This is the real meaning of Yoga -- a deliverance
from contact with pain and sorrow.'
As a well cut diamond has many facets, each reflecting a different
colour of light, so does the word yoga, each facet reflecting
a diferent shade of meaning and revealing different aspects
of the entire range of human endeavour to win inner peace
Bhagavad Gita also gives other explanations of the term yoga
and lays stress upon Karma Yoga (Yoga by action). It is said:
'Work alone is your privilege, never the fruits thereof. Never
let the fruits of action be your motive; and never cease to
work. Work in the name of the Lord, abandoning selfish desires.
Be not affected by success or failure. This equipoise is called
has also been described as wisdom in work or skilful living
amongst activities, harmony and moderation. 'Yoga is not for
him who gorges too much, nor for him who starves himself.
It is not for him who sleeps too much, nor for him who stays
awake. By moderation in eating and in resting, by regulation
in working and by concordance in sleeping and waking, Yoga
destroys all pain and sorrow.'
Kathopanishad describes Yoga thus: 'When the senses are stilled,
when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not-then,
say the wise, is reached the highest stage. This steady control
of the senses and mind has been defined as Yoga. He who attains
it is free from delusion.'
the second aphorism of the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras,
Patanjali describes Yoga as 'chitta vrtti nirodhah'. This
may be translated as the restraint (nirodhah) of mental (chitta)
modifications (vrtti) or as suppression (nirodhah) of the
fluctuations (vrtti) of consciousness (chitta). The word chitta
denotes the mind in its total or collective sense as being
composed of three categories: (a) mind (manas, that is, the
individual mind having the power and faculty of attention,
selection and rejection; it is the oscillating indecisive
faculty of the mind); (b) intelligence or reason (buddhi,
that is, the decisive state which determines the distinction
between things) and (c) ego (ahamkara, literally the I-maker,
the state which ascertains that 'I know').
word vrtti is derived from the Sanskrit root vrt meaning to
turn, to revolve, to roll on. It thus means course of action,
behaviour, mode of being, condition or mental state. Yoga
is the method by which the restless mind is calmed and the
energy directed into constructive channels. As a mighty river
which when properly harnessed by dams and canals, creates
a vast reservoir of water, prevents famine and provides abundant
power for industry; so also the mind, when controlled, provides
a reservoir of peace and generates abundant energy for human
problem of controlling the mind is not capable of easy solution,
as borne out by the following dialogue in the sixth chapter
of the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna asks Sri Krishna:
'Krishna, you have told me of Yoga as a communion with Brahman
(the Universal Spirit), which is ever one. But how can this
be permanent, since the mind is so restless and inconsistent?
The mind is impetuous and stubborn, strong and wilful, as
difficult to harness as the wind.' Sri Krishna replies: 'Undoubtedly,
the mind is restless and hard to control. But it can be trained
by constant practice (abhyasa) and by freedom from desire
(vairagya). A man who cannot control his mind will find it
difficult to attain this divine communion; but the self-controlled
man can attain it if he tries hard and directs his energy
by the right means.'
is a developing discipline that dates back to India some 5,000
years ago. Yoga, by definition, is a unitive discipline, or
training, that focuses on the current of spirituality.
improves cardiovascular health, tones muscles, increases flexibility
and invokes calmness. Yoga is a meditative discipline that
reduces anxiety while sharpening the mind.
are 40 types of yoga used today. Hatha yoga, one of the oldest
and most popular styles of yoga, dates back to ancient times
and is the discipline of force. It emphasizes techniques of
breathing incorporating various poses. Hatha yoga is ideal
for individuals who experience stress or fatigue and need
styles of Hatha yoga include Amanda (mediation yoga), Ashtanga
(motion yoga), Birkham's Yoga College of India (heat yoga),
Integral (prelude to meditation yoga), Kundalini (breath of
fire yoga), Kripalu (made to measure yoga) and Iyengar (precision
though there are so many yoga styles, choosing the one that
best fits your needs is not as difficult as it may seem. Determining
which style is right for you is merely a matter of evaluating
your goals and current fitness level.
you have never tried yoga, make sure you take it slowly. Yoga
is about progression. Before you know it, you will see real
results and reach the goals you've set.