I show my eternal gratitude to Lord Ganesh as by his grace I am able to grasp this knowledge, to Goddess Sharada as by her grace I am able to express this knowledge in words, to all those Sadgurus who have helped me learn this concepts and to the audience who have inspired me to write on this topic.

Let us first pray to the almighty for our protection, nourishment and enlightenment.

ॐ सह नाववतु। सह नौ भुनक्तु। सह वीर्यं करवावहै। तेजस्वि नावधीतमस्तु मा विद्विषावहै।

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

Om, May we all be protected; May we all be nourished; May we work together with great energy and vigor; May our intellect be sharpened; Let there be no Animosity amongst us

Om, peace (in me), peace (in nature), peace (in divine forces)

With its astonishing physical and mental benefits and with its new variants emerging rapidly, Yoga has become very popular all over the world. While lot of people are talking about yoga by their own interpretation, I see today the real purpose or the actual meaning of yoga is somewhere lost or not communicated in a proper way. This article is an attempt to bring forward what is the meaning of yoga and what is the real purpose of yoga.

First thing first. There is no such word as Yoga defined in our authoritative scriptures. The real word is Yog. I don’t know how Yog became Yoga but I believe this may have happened when this discipline went to the west and our brothers and sisters in western countries started calling it Yoga.

When we hear this word Yog or Yoga, we picture it only as postures. Yog as we see it today is done for relieving us from stress and anxiety. It helps to gain a healthy and flexible body. It also helps us gain control over our body and mind and improves concentration. While these are all the benefits we actually need today for our growth it also results in harmony between humans and nature. I believe these are but the side effects of Yog. Positive side effects ofcourse. Yog is not and was never meant for this. It has a very big and important role to play in human life – to achieve Moksha or Liberation.

Before discussing on Yog let us first understand some basic fundamentals of life, which will help you easily understand Yog. Now what do you mean by fundamentals of life? In simple terms it means knowing our self or our true nature.

Now what does knowing our self or knowing our true nature means? It means that knowing who we really are. Confused??

Let us ask a question to our self and try to find out the answer.

Who are you and what is the aim of your life?

When someone ask us this question the immediate typical response we give out is our name. Sometimes we also tell our profession like I am a Doctor, I am an Engineer, etc. This is perfectly normal in our day to day interactions with the people around us. But if you ask yourself this question and expect a correct answer, you will realize that it is a very difficult question to answer.  This is because all the things we possess now like our name, profession, car, house, etc. are just associated with us. We can still live if we change our name or profession. We can still live if we sell our car and house. These things can be called as ours but they are not us. Same thing is with our own body and our mind. The body keeps on changing from our birth to our death. The mind is always restless and the thoughts flow continuously one after another. In both the cases you are there to watch this change of body and your restless mind. There is something in you, a knower or a witness, who keeps track of all the changes happening with time. What does not change with time is this knower in you who just happens to watch all the things about your body and mind and the world around you. Beyond this knower is a pure source in our body, like a light or energy, which gives existence to this knower. This pure source is Consciousness. We refer to it as Atman or Soul too. This Personal Consciousness is but a small part of Universal Consciousness. No words can actually describe what it is because it is shapeless and colorless. We have given it a name as Atma or Soul or Consciousness so that we can talk about it, but in reality it is nameless.

This Personal Consciousness, the essence of the Universal Consciousness is who you really are. To realize yourself as Consciousness and get united with the Universal Consciousness is the aim of your life. This is where Yog comes into picture.

The word Yog comes from Sanskrit yuj which means union. Yog literally means “to join” or “to merge” or “to attach” or “to connect”. But joining of what with what? Merging of what in what? To attach or connect what to what? It is the joining of this Personal Consciousness with the Universal Consciousness. It is the merging of Personal Consciousness with Universal Consciousness or it is the connection of the Personal Consciousness with Universal Consciousness.

The Personal Consciousness in our body is just like an air in the jar. The air in the jar is same as the air outside the jar. Once the mouth of the jar is opened, the air inside is liberated and merged with the air outside the jar. At that time you won’t be able to tell which air was inside the jar and which was outside. Yog helps us to achieve such liberation by liberating our Personal Consciousness to unite with the Universal Consciousness. It is termed as Liberation or Self-Realization or God-Realization or Moksha.

There are different types of Yog disciplines practiced to achieve Liberation. Some of them are mentioned below. This is not a complete list, but this will give you a general idea about various Yog disciplines.

  1. Dhyana-Yog
  2. Jnāna-Yog
  3. Bhakti-Yog
  4. Karma-Yog
  5. Kriya-Yog
  6. Raja-yog

Dhyana-Yog : Dhyana means meditation. Union of Personal Consciousness with Universal Consciousness with the help of Dhyana is known as Dhyana Yog. The Dhyana Yog discipline is specifically described by Sri Krishna in chapter 6 of the Bhagavad Gita. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali outline Ashtanga Yog (eightfold, eight-limbed) or Raja Yog. Dhyana is the seventh limb of this path.

Jnāna-Yog : Jnāna means Knowledge or Wisdom. Knowledge of what?? It is the knowledge of Personal Consciousness. The union of Personal Consciousness with Universal Consciousness with the help of pure knowledge is Jnāna Yog. The Jnāna Yog discipline is specifically described by Sri Krishna in chapter 4 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Bhakti-Yog : Dhyana means Devotion to God or complete surrender to God. Union of Personal Consciousness with Universal Consciousness with the help of Bhakti is known as Bhakti-Yog. The Bhkati Yog discipline is specifically described by Sri Krishna in chapter 12 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Karma-Yog : Karma means Action. Union of Personal Consciousness with Universal Consciousness with the help of Karma (Purification and perfection of Action) is known as Karma-Yog. The Karma Yog system is specifically described by Sri Krishna in chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita.

Kriya-Yog : The word Kriya is composed of two syllables, kri and yâ. In Sanskrit, kri means action of the elements, and yâ means Soul or Personal Consciousness. The word Kriya indicates action of the Personal Consciousness viz. prâna karma. The first and most important action of the Personal Consciousness is breath. Kriya Yog is a method to attain the union of breath and Personal Consciousness in each inhalation and exhalation. This eventually leads to the union of Personal Consciousness and Universal Consciousness. Kriya-Yog is the ancient Yog system revived in modern times by Mahavatar Babaji through his disciple Lahiri Mahasaya, c. 1861. Through Paramahansa Yogananda and his book “Autobiography of a Yogi” it became hugely popular in the West in the 1920s.

Raja-Yog : Raja means chief, best of its kind or King. Raja-Yog thus refers to “chief, best of yog”.It refers to the Yoga school of philosophy in Hinduism. In historical context, it was the ultimate stage of Yog practice, one nearing Samadhi (a state wherein one establishes himself to the fullest extent in the Supreme consciousness). The modern retronym was introduced in the 19th-century by Swami Vivekananda to differentiate it as the form of Yog that includes the Yog of mind. The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali are 196 Indian aphorisms that constitute the foundational text of Ashtanga (eightfold, eight-limbed) Yog, also called Raja Yog. These eight limbs and their respective sub-limbs are –

  1. Yama – Ethical Restraints.
    1. Ahimsa : Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings.
    2. Satya : Truthfulness, non-falsehood.
    3. Asteya : Non-stealing.
    4. Brahmacarya : Celibacy, no sexual activity of any kind.
    5. Aparigraha : Non-avarice, non-possessiveness.
  2. Niyama – Ethical Observances.
    1. Sauca : Purity, Clearness of mind, speech and body.
    2. Santoṣa : Contentment, Acceptance of others, Acceptance of one’s circumstances as they are in order to get past or change them.
    3. Tapas : Persistence, Perseverance, Austerity.
    4. Svadhyaya : Study of Vedas, Study of self, Self-reflection, Introspection of self’s thoughts, speeches and actions.
    5. Ishvarapranidhana : Contemplation of the Ishvara (God/Supreme Being, Brahman, True Self, Unchanging Reality).
  3. Asana – A posture that one can hold for a period of time, staying relaxed, steady, comfortable and motionless.
  4. Pranayam – Conscious regulation and exercise of breath.
  5. Pratyahara – Mastery of sensory organs, withdrawal of the senses from external objects
  6. Dharana – Concentration, introspective focus, one-pointedness of mind
  7. Dhyana – Meditation
  8. Samadhi – The quiet state of complete forgetfulness of external world and the physical, complete blissful awareness of one’s mind and liberated being, superconscious state.

According to one’s nature and character, he/she should follow particular discipline. Eventually all the Yog disciplines will take you to the same destination. We hope this article has provided you with basic understanding about Yog and its real meaning.

Sources – wikipedia, induslibrary.com

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 सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः। सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः। सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु। मा कश्चित् दुःख भाग्भवेत्॥

ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः ॥

May all be prosperous and happy; May all be free from illness; May all see what is spiritually uplifting; May no one suffer

Om peace, peace, peace