What is Yoga? Part 1

Birth of a child and Yoga are both spontaneous states of wonder

Birth of a child

The answer to the oft asked question"What is Yoga?".

The answer one often hears is: Yoga means union. This is merely a translation from the original Sanskrit.

The Definition of Yoga

If I ask you what the meaning of sweet is, would you say the meaning of sweet is mitha, süß, doux? Probably not, because that is not the meaning of sweet. It is merely the word sweet translated in to Hindi, German and French respectively.

So how would you explain what sweet means?

If I wanted to know the meaning of sweet I would simply eat some sugar.

Now I definitely know what sweet is!

Such is Yoga. One may attain Yoga through spontaneous mystical experiences or through practice. When you have had a glimpse of Yoga you will know what it means. But until then, we can fall back to ancient scriptures.

The definition of Yoga has been quoted frequently from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali as "Yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah. Tada drastuh svarupe vasthanam." If I am may freely translate from the Sanskrit, preserving the meaning of the words: Yoga is  integration and mastery over all levels of the mind. Then the seer, the Self rests in its true nature.

The root of the word Yoga is yoke. A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that joins two animals, for instance, oxen or horses, and attached to the plough, cart or carriage that they then pull.

So if Yoga means yoke what does it unite? Yoga unites the individual Self to the Universal Self. To put it differently it unites your essential true nature with that of the Supreme Absolute One.

Yoga is a spontaneous state of wonder

This wondrous state is hard to describe. It is as hard to describe as it is to describe the awesome sight of the ocean to one who has never seen it before. But we are close to it when we are in nature or when we have an idea, this A-ha experience. We have a glimpse of this state when we are awestruck at the power of thunder. Or when we wonder at the miraculous birth of a baby or blossoming of a flower.

Attempts at describing this state always makes poets out of us!

Yoga is a system of techniques that lead to self mastery

Not just in modern times, but in ancient times as well, there have been teachers who did not belong to any particular tradition. Of course there may be charlatans among these. But many are genuine masters. We may want to call them mystics. These masters are instruments of the divine. They are often established in self realization and understand the highest truth effortlessly, but may not have the techniques to help others to attain a glimpse of the truth.

Ancient traditions of yoga developed techniques to guide sincere seekers to the highest and help establish these seekers in that divine state. This is the difference between a mystic and a yogi.

The system includes asanas (physical poses), breathing practices, relaxation and meditation. The entire process is called Yoga.

Yoga is Meditation

Many beginners to Yoga, start with the physical aspects of Yoga and then ask, "So when do we start meditation?" To these students it may come as a surprise but it is true, Yoga is Meditation. They are one and the same. The process of Yoga Meditation takes you gradually from the body to the breath, from the breath to the mind and ultimately beyond the mind to the eternal One within all of us.

Yoga or Yoga Meditation is universal and can be practiced by all irrespective of race, religion or sex. It goes beyond all language and cultural barriers.

Yoga is a spiritual practice

The system of Yoga was developed by the Masters of yore to help sincere seekers on the spiritual path towards mastery and enlightenment. Thus Yoga is in its most complete glorious manifestation nothing less than a spiritual practice that leads to complete inner freedom and a state of utter joy.

Our YouTube Channel RadhikaG has many videos and clips arranged topic-wise in the playlist.