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What is yoga - What is the actual meaning of yoga?

Hindu Dharma is ‘way of life’ – i.e. how to live a happy peaceful life as an individual and in harmony with the bigger society. But it is ve...

What is yoga

Hindu Dharma is ‘way of life’ – i.e. how to live a happy peaceful life as an individual and in harmony with the bigger society. But it is very hard to follow dharma (duty and good values), do good karma, respect Guru, listen to elders, make healthier food choices, maintain physical fitness, be kind, etc. That requires a lot of training for our body and mind. Fortunately, our ancient Rishis figured that out for us in the form of Yoga.

What is yoga:

Yoga means “union.” Yoga has many meanings. Yoga is derived from the root word “YUJ” which means connection or union. One definition is the union of mind, body, and spirit. At the practical level, it is being aware of who we are. Mastery of self. By practicing Yoga consistently, we can achieve a healthy body and mind and will be able to unleash the full potential of us. We can slowly become mastery of self to achieve anything and become a role model in the school and people around. We can easily overcome all the problems we see in daily life and follow the Dharma always.

Yoga is from Sanathan Dharma:

Yoga is from Sanathan Dharma. Our Rishi’s in ancient times not only came up with concepts of Sanathan Dharma but also practiced, followed and lived that way for centuries. Early texts of Upanishads said to have mentions of some of these practices. Later, around 200 BCE, Sage Patanjali compiled all these practices into what is known as ‘Yoga Sutras’. It is considered as the ancient science that stood the test of time and is still widely in practice around the world.

Yoga is asanas (postures):

Yoga is asanas (postures). A healthy, flexible and strong body is possible by practicing asanas. All the asanas we do regularly, including Surya Namaskars are part of Yoga practice. Many of these asanas are inspired by nature.

Yoga is meditation:

Yoga is meditation. Just like Surya Namaskar is an exercise for the body, meditation is an exercise to the mind. It helps bring calm, focus, and relaxation to mind. Meditation is also like any other skill; it needs consistent practice and patience. One simple way to meditate is by sitting in a relaxed position in a quiet place listening to the breath as we inhale and exhale and observing the thoughts.

Yoga is breath:

Yoga is breath. Practicing yoga helps to breathe more deeply with awareness in a controlled fashion. There are many techniques to gain different benefits but in general, controlled breathing can rejuvenate the nervous system, infuses the body with oxygen and reduces stress and anxiety.

Yoga is a way of life:

Yoga is a way of life. Yoga is not just on yoga mat. Yoga shall be practiced in everyday life. Yoga is about being kindness, honesty, gratitude, passion, and self-esteem everywhere we go whether it is in classrooms, while playing, in shop, etc.

Yoga is pathway to happiness:

Yoga is pathway to happiness. Yoga is a proven pathway to happiness – ways to interact with ourselves, ways to interact with others, physical postures, breathing techniques, mindfulness, meditation, healthy body & mind and ultimately offers a spiritual journey. This ancient way of living called yoga is a practice.

There are four MAJOR paths of Yoga:


      1. Karma Yoga – the yoga of action and selfless service

This resonates most with those who are community-based and of an outgoing nature. Karma yoga purifies the heart and burns away selfish tendencies (Mala) by encouraging a detachment from the fruits of actions. In this way, there is no expectation of personal gain or recognition. All actions are done with a focus on Oneness, therefore establishing a connection with the Atman or True Self. Swami Vivekananda is an example of a well-known karma yogi.


    2. Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of devotion

According to this path, a lack of faith in the divine or sacred essence has caused us to lose connection to our Divine Self. The solution, therefore, is love, surrender, and devotion to the Divine qualities in everything. Bhakti Yoga asks us to purify and transform our egotistic self-love by focusing the mind on sacred thoughts and transferring all our love and emotions into the Divine essence that permeates all. Examples of Bhakti Yoga are chanting, puja, and devotional rituals. This path resonates most with those of an emotional nature.


   3. Raja Yoga  the yoga of meditation

The restlessness of the mind (Vikshepa) has caused our attention to become carried away in stories and disconnected from our true essence, according to this path. The solution, then, is to calm the mind through meditation in order to reveal the Oneness that we are in our truest essence. Sage Patanjali outlines ashtanga (8 limbs) system in the Raja Yoga Sutras. This path is most suited for those with a nature that resonates with method-based practice. More details about Sage Patanjali in the following paragraphs.


  4 Jñāna Yoga  the yoga of knowledge/wisdom

This path asserts that our ego-based ignorance keeps us from knowing our true nature. Using the techniques of logic and reason, the yogi uses the mind to inquire into its own nature. This removes the veils of ignorance and forgetfulness through knowledge and reveals the Truth that is unchanging in our hearts.


It is very important to know that, although listed individually, like everything that exists, the paths are actually intertwined and co-exist together. Usually, there is one particular path that resonates most, according to a person’s nature, but there are elements of each path within all the others. As all the paths point the way in the direction of Oneness, the paths themselves blend together and it is impossible to tread only one path exclusively. As we travel the yogic path, it is fun to see which of these paths seem sweeter than others at different phases of the journey, all the while knowing that they lead to the same destination, which is essentially woven into the journey itself.


Following diagram describes the four paths of yoga and yoga-sutra compiled by Sage Patanjali:


As shown in the above diagram, Raja Yoga is also known as Ashtanga Yoga (Eight limbs of Yoga), because it is organized in eight parts:

  • Yama – Self-control.
  • Niyama- Discipline.
  • Asana – Physical exercises.
  • Pranayama – Breath exercises.
  • Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses from external objects.
  • Dharana – Concentration.
  • Dhyana – Meditation
  • Samadhi – Liberation or merging into the infinite


While, yoga is so much, people mistakenly think yoga is limited to just asanas and pranayama.

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