What is Yoga?

The state of yoga is an experiment on yourself,
by yourself, to attain the Self.

Many people think that yoga is an activity that gets the body tied in knots, causing stress and frustration, or that it is only for fit and supple individuals. Some westerners regard Yoga as an evil and ungodly practice because it’s history lies beyond the confines of Christianity. Both these ideas are distorted and so result in many losing out on the infinite benefits of this ancient science.

Yoga is not only a physical practice. It works on many levels and doesn’t include only postures (asanas). There is also yoga of the breath (pranayama), yoga of sense withdrawal (prathyahara), yoga of contemplation(dharana), yoga of the mind (dhyana), and the yoga of bliss (samadhi). All of these disciplines fall under the banner of Yoga, andall work together to purify and perfect body, mind and soul.

Yoga is not a weight-loss method in the way that many might think. It does not stress the muscles like aerobic exercise and should not cause one to perspire at all. Nevertheless, it does help to develop strength of body, mind and soul and, in the process, brings the body of each individual to a perfect state of holistic equilibrium. Having attained such a state, it is easier to communicate with the Infinite Intelligence, as the physical and subtle body channels become clear and, consequently, are able to process information optimally.

Yoga literally means ‘union’ - a union that can be understood on different levels:
philosophically, as a union of the relative, limited self with the absolute Self;
religiously, as a union of the individual soul with the Infinite Spirit (God);
psychologically, as the integration of the personality wherein a person no longer lives at cross-purposes with himself;
emotionally, as the stilling of the waves of likes and dislikes.

It is the last level that serves as the classical definition of yoga by the ancient sage, Patanjali, whose profound Yoga Sutras have been looked upon for millennia as yoga’s definitive scripture. He wrote that ‘Yoga is the neutralization of the waves of feeling.’ Paramahansa Yogananda taught that the waves of the mind which produce delusion and bondage are primarily the likes and dislikes, the biased feelings of the heart (whirlpools of emotion), that interfere with life’s smoothly flowing stream, causing one to become preoccupied with the ego. By calming and controlling the flow of thoughts through the mind, other mind functions like memory, idea-association and analysis, can be harnessed and used more efficiently. By becoming unattached to one’s emotions and thoughts, enlightenment can be attained.

Yoga is then, the neutralization of ego-directed feelings, because once these become stilled, the yogi realizes that he is, and that he has always been, one with the Infinite - that his awareness of this reality was limited only by his infatuation with limitation. Every truth-seeker regardless of his religion, eventually reaches the same state of divine calmness that is yoga.