Meaning

Yoga is as old as humanity itself. India, the cradle of civilization, is considered the womb of innumerable sages through whom the scriptures like the Vedas and Upanishads have been revealed through a process of oral transmission. These scriptures explain Yoga and the process or the ways in great detail. Yoga, the word whose root is Yuj, means to unite or to integrate. This union refers to that of an individual, who through his conscious efforts can realize and unite with the universal spirit that dwells in him and in all things. Several seemingly different paths have been described, based on whether a person is action oriented, an intellectual thinker or an emotional devotee. These paths have been named as, Karma Yoga, (Path of Action), Jñana Yoga (Path of Knowledge) and Bhakti Yoga (Path of devotion/surrender).

Presently, Yoga mostly refers only to the Physical practice of Asana and Pranayama, called Hatha Yoga. These two, make only the two limbs of the eight limbed Ashtanga Yoga, as described by Patanjali, in the Yoga Sutras.

Aim of Yoga

These scriptures speak of a human being made of three bodies, namely the gross body (Sthula Sharira), the subtle body (Sukshama Sharira) and the causal body (Karana Sharira). They also speak of Five Sheaths, namely the Annamaya, (Food/minerals/gross body), Pranamaya (Life Force, Energy), Manomaya (Intention/wish/ideas/Mind/Subtle body), Vijñanamaya (discernment/intellect) and Anandamaya (bliss, soul, causal body).

These have been referred to as sheaths or veils that prevent a clear direct perception of reality. When one thinks he is his body, his breath, his thoughts, his intellect or wisdom, then his vision is said to be clouded by one or many of these sheaths.

The aim of Yoga is to help the aspirant to systematically realize the presence of these sheaths which cloud his perception and to help him transcend them, so that he has a clear or deeper perception of what is real.

Patanjali defines Yoga, in the 2 nd Sutra of the first chapter, as follows: “Yoga, is establishing the mind (chitta) in stillness’.