What is yoga?

Yoga is a very ancient discipline. It recognises as one of the most important and valuable heritages of India. Today, the whole world is looking to Yoga for the answers to various problems a modern man is facing. At no time in the past has Yoga attracts so much attention from people in so many places in the world. In spite of this fact, no field is so grossly misunderstood as Yoga, even in India. The result of this misunderstanding of Yoga, we would find many misconceptions about Yoga.

All the misconceptions indicate that most people are unable to see Yoga as the whole concept, but are only aware of a fragment of its potential. The term “YOGA” is used n the literature both as an end as well as means. As an end yoga signifies ‘integration of personality’ at the highest level. One of the meanings of Yoga derived from the root “Yuj” is SAMADHI. It is a comprehensive term really means ‘integration’ and includes in it all other meanings. Samatva or harmony is another word which suggests the same meaning. This is the meaning of Yoga as an end.

In order to help the development of such integration, various techniques are employed. These techniques or practices are mentioned in the yogic literature and are also referred to collectively as Yoga’. Thus we find various individual practices coupled with the term Yoga like Netiyoga, Laulikiyoga, Dhyanayoga and so on. When various practices are systematized and formed into a discipline employing such practices, these systems are known as ‘schools’ of Yoga like Bhakti yoga, Jnana yoga, Karma yoga, Hatha yoga, Layayoga and so on.

Thus, it will be seen that the word ‘Yoga’ is traditionally used to convey the meaning of an ‘end’ as well as a ‘means’. Lack of discrimination between these two meanings is one of the causes o confusion about Yoga.

The discipline of Yoga passes through several stages and in the course of time different schools emerged which had evolved a variety of techniques and practices. Every school of Yoga emphasized specific practices, but their aim always remained the same: the highest level of integration through the control of the modification of the mind. Some use indirect means through the body to tackle mental processes.

All the Yogic practices may be classified as

  1. Asanas
  2. Pranayamas
  3. Bandhas and Mudras
  4. Kriyas
  5. Meditation
  6. Attitude training practices

Each one of these classifications consists of a group of several practices.