What is yoga

Categories Traditional yoga, Yoga Posted on

“What is yoga?” we often wonder. Is it the impressive poses that we see? Is it the ultimate relaxation that we reach by controlling our mind and our breath? To answer these questions, we need to go back to the roots of this art and take a look at the writings of great teachers.

As we all know, Yoga includes poses, breaths, meditation, but these are just a way of expressing something deeper, a path that leads to fulfillment. According to Yoga philosophy, “work alone is your privilege, never the fruits thereof. Never let the fruits of action be your motive; and never cease to work. Αbandon selfish desires. Be not affected by success or failure. This equipoise is called yoga”. In other words, Yoga includes not only the destination, but the journey as well.

The word “Yoga” is derived from the Sanskrit root “yuj” meaning to bind, το join and “yoke” meaning to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply. It also means union or communion. “It thus means the yoking of all the powers of body, mind and soul to a higher power; it means the disciplining of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, the will, which that Yoga pre-supposes; it means a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly”, writes Mahadev Desai (activist, writer and personal secretary of Mahatma Gandhi) in his introduction to the book “Gita According to Gandhi”.

Want more? “When all the senses are stilled, when the mind is at rest, when the intellect wavers not–then, say the wise, is reached the highest state. This calm of the senses and the mind has been defined as yoga”. This is the way the Kathopanishad describes Yoga.

“Yoga is the method by which the restless mind is calmed and the energy is 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 the human uplift”.

Conclusion… “as a well cut diamond has many facets, each reflecting a different colour of light, so does the word yoga, each facet reflecting a different shade of meaning and revealing different aspects of the entire range of human endeavour to win inner peace and happiness”.

«A lamp does not flicker in a place where no winds blow», 6th chapter of the Bhagavad Gita.


* Kathopanishad, a scripture that may be regarded as a most appropriate introduction to spiritual life.

** Bhagavad Gītā, a 700-verse Hindu scripture.