Understanding Yoga with the Help of Classical Definitions

Today Yoga has become synonymous with Asana practice. Asana has become the most prominent aspect of Yoga, where it is seen as an alternate to exercises for a workout. However the scope of Yoga portrayed in Bhagavadgita and other classical text is far more comprehensive. Today in this article we will try to understand the profundity of Yoga.

To get a glimpse of what Yoga is before we delve into the definitions of Yoga in classical texts, we get a powerful explanation of Yoga by Swami Vivekananda. He explains “Yoga is a means of compressing one’s evolution into a single life or a few months or even a few hours of one’s bodily existence”. We all are moving towards freedom form bondages. These are the bondages of mind, body, intellect, emotions etc. But it may take thousands of years for this natural growth. Yoga which is a conscious and systematic process of living can compress the process of man’s growth greatly by accelerating his development. That is the power of Yoga.

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Definitions of Yoga


In Yogsutra Patanjali defines Yoga as – Yogah Citta Vritti Nirodah; ‘Yoga is the process of gaining control over the mind’. By so gaining control over mind we reach our original state or Self. This technique of ‘mind control’ involves two aspects – a power to concentrate on any object and a capacity to remain quiet any time. Yoga mainly emphasizes, the second aspect to remain calm and silent.


In Yoga-Vasishtha, one of the best texts on Yoga, the essence of Yoga is beautifully portrayed as – Manah Prashamanopayah Yoga Ityabhidhiyate; ‘Yoga is called a skillful trick to calm down the mind’. It is an Upayah, a skillful subtle process and not a brutal, mechanical, gross effort to stop the thoughts in the mind.


In Bhagavadgita, Yoga is a special skill which makes the mind reach subtler state. Here Yoga is defined as – Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam; Yoga is dexterity in action. This dexterity is in maintaining relaxation and awareness in action. Relaxed action is the process.

Thus, Yoga is a skillful science of gaining mastery over the mind.


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