The True Meaning of Yoga

Stickney Brook Yoga 272

When we come across the word “Yoga”, we usually think of it as a form of physical exercise which originated in India and involves stretching, twisting, and turning our bodies while varying our breathing patterns. It is not incorrect to think of Yoga in this manner but this understanding of Yoga is only partial.

I too had this same understanding until Yoga became more internationally known after the United Nations declared 21st June as International Day of Yoga. Since then, dissemination of the true meaning and knowledge of Yoga has been ardently carried out all across India to motivate people to embrace Yoga as a way of life.

One cannot disagree if I say that Yoga has become a very popular form of exercise all over the world. However, most people around the world and even in India are aware only of the physical aspect of Yoga, which is actually the most superficial aspect of the profound science of Yoga.

The real essence of Yoga lies in its infinite potential for the human mind and soul when embraced as a way of life.

I have been participating in the International Day of Yoga since 2015. And 21st June is now celebrated all across the world by organizing large-scale yoga camps. And since 2015, I have started to explore and I am trying to understand the true meaning of the science of Yoga.

Yoga is an ancient body of knowledge which is more than 5,000 years old. Yoga, as it is understood today, was first mentioned in Kato Upanishads and Patanjali is considered the father of Yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are considered to be the foundational text of classical Yoga philosophy.

The word Yoga is used to describe different types of practices and they are as follows: Gyan Yoga or philosophy; Karma Yoga or the path of blissful action; Bhakti Yoga or the path of devotion. In fact, there are many different forms of Yoga.

The word “Yoga” is derived from Sanskrit and literally means “Union”. It is a way to unite and experience the ultimate reality. And the ultimate reality is nothing but that the whole existence is one energy.  Put another way, it can be explained as the union of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness. Or in very simple words, Yoga is a science or method which leads to the union of the soul, mind, body and the universe.

Yoga is the path that leads one towards discovering the sense of oneness with one’s true self as well as with the Divine Creator and all his creations. It is certainly a holistic approach to health and well-being. But it is nonetheless a path towards mindfulness. It has the incredible potential to radically transform and help one transcend.

Yoga can bring tremendous change in one’s thought process and behavioral patterns. Yogis claim that Yoga is a way to change the fundamentals of our mundane existence. It can, in fact, change the person we are. It is actually very transformative in nature. It not only transforms our physical health but also our psychological health. In fact, according to Yogis, it is a science to break the limitations of our personality and help us come out of our shells. According to them, postures or asanas are just a minuscule aspect of Yoga. And thus they emphasize that it is very important to view Yoga as a process of an inner journey rather than as an external phenomenon embedded in the physicality.

To be honest, I am just a beginner. However, I am trying to embrace the true essence of Yoga rather than viewing it as a form of physical exercise. There is no doubt that in our present circumstances, working towards the attainment of physical well-being is utterly important. However, embracing Yoga as a way to achieve mindfulness will go a long way in shaping our mental health as well.

Modern-day lives are full of stress and pressures. We struggle each and every day to fulfill our responsibilities and duties, but we fail to experience the happiness that we should experience when we perform our duties. And most of us are prone to psychological distress and a waning hope that we can lead a genuinely happy and wholesome life.

I believe that, in our current times, we need to embrace a system or method which can not only provide us with physical well-being but also a peaceful mind. We need an elixir that can soothe our ever-tense grey matter. And Yoga is considered such a method which can elevate both our physical and mental states. It is, in fact, the elixir which can cure many of our problems.

One Yogi correctly said that meditation is an integral part of Yoga; otherwise, Yoga would be nothing more than a form of physical exercise. However, we usually distinguish the two processes as separate. We tend to think that meditation is for the mind while Yoga is for the body. However, the science of Yoga has never made a distinction between the two as different processes.

We all know about the benefits of Yoga on our physical health. Most of us are also aware of the impact of the breathing techniques called ‘Pranayama’ on our body and mind. However, very few of us are aware of the impact of Yoga on our conscious and consciousness. However, I believe such awareness can only be achieved when we become ready to explore the depths of Yoga with an open mind. Because according to Yogis, the impact of Yoga on our conscious and consciousness can only be experienced. It has an element of mysticism in it. Such an experience cannot be converted into some data.

I truly believe that we need to give Yoga a chance and stop depending on external tools to placate our anxious minds and our restless souls. It’s time we embrace a holistic approach to our overall well-being.

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Stickney Brook Yoga 272 Stickney Brook Yoga 272 Matthew Ragan CC BY-SA 2.0