What is Yoga

What is Yoga to you? Is it a form of exercise? Om chanting? Meditation? Trending weight loss tool? Or a practice meant only for the skinny, bearded, saffron dhoti-clad yogi?  It is difficult to say that Yoga is only this or only that; Yoga is all of this. Today, people are attracted to Yoga for various reasons. Traditionally, Yoga was understood & practiced as a spiritual discipline as it helped & guided the seeker with the right tools & knowledge to lead a holistic lifestyle.

The main goal of living with complete awareness of oneself & the surrounding is to attain union with the Supreme or the Higher Self. This is also the meaning of the word Yoga, which comes from the Sanskrit word - ‘yuj’ , which means ‘union’. The science of Yoga helped people experience the essence of this union & explained why this union was important. This path of self-realisation was aided by various Yoga disciplines that followed a very systematic and methodical approach that covered physical, mental & spiritual disciplines. 

Today, the physical practice, which covers a very small percentage of this age-old tradition, overshadows the main purpose of Yoga, that is the rising & expansion of one’s consciousness. Nevertheless, through dedication & practice, the sadhak or the practitioner is bound to experience outer as well as inner transformation. When one masters control over body, breath & mind, which are intimately linked, one can progress to a more profoundly liberating practice of meditation.

There is no one inventor of this deep-rooted Yogic tradition. One can find its mention in ancient scriptures such as the Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita (fifth century BCE). It is also believed that Lord Shiva is the inventor of Yoga, popularly known as AdiYogi or the first Yogi. Later, in around 2nd century BC, the practices were codified by Sage Patanjali in the The Yoga Sutra. For many years since, great sages and teachers have passed down the knowledge in the guru-shishya parampara.