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What Is The True Meaning Of Yoga? By Yoga Vidya Teacher

As of you now you may find some people around the world who may have not heard the name of Bharat, but you may rarely find someone who may have not heard about YOGA. But how many people know the real meaning of yoga. With the efforts of so many yogis and yoga gurus, yoga is now reached to a level where every person in the world knows the benefits of yoga. But what is YOGA in its real essence?

Most of the people think of yoga as a physical exercise, a way to lose weight, or reduce body fat, or get a lean physique, or look good, or getting healthy & fit, etc. Some people compare it with other physical exercises such as weight lifting, swimming, etc. but it is the worst way of knowing this great science. Some people who are a little more informed about this science will say that yoga is about breathing exercises called as pranayama, or some other might say it is about meditating. If you also have the same idea about yoga in your mind then you have no idea what is true yoga.


Some experts believe that the word yoga came from the root word yuj, which means union. So there are some schools of yoga that understand the meaning of yoga as union, but union of what? Union of soul with the god, union of body, mind & prana, union of this small universe called Panda (Human Body & Mind) with the bigger universe called Brahmanda, union of shiv & shakti, union of chetana (consciousness) & prana (energy), union of oneself with the universe, union of jivatma with the parmatma, etc.

Then there are some other schools that understand the meaning of yoga as separation or differentiation, separation of yourself with moh maya (illusions of life), separation of truth & lie, separation of chetana (consciousness) & jada (inanimate), differentiation of jivatma & parmatma. Then there are some other Indian schools that define yoga as stopping the fluctuations of the mind.

Then there are some other schools that gives very practical definition of yoga which is extremely relevant in today’s time and that is taking charge of indriya, man, buddhi, prana, ahankara, etc which means taking control of our actions, mind, energies & body and thereby taking charge of our life.


Yoga does have a lot of health & wellness benefits like by practising yogasanas & pranayama a person gets physically & mentally very fit. One may lose his or her weight, may lose body fat, get lean, get six packs & defined physique, etc. One may also get a lot of benefit in various chronic diseases such as blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, etc. One may also resolve some lifestyle related problems such as insomnia, gas, acidity, joint pains, etc. One may also get benefit in mind related problems like stress, anxiety, depression, etc. It is very natural for an individual to increase his or her sense perception, sharpen his or her intellect and make his or her actions precise by regular practice of yoga discipline. But understand this that all of this are simply the side dishes offered by this subtle science of YOGA. In actuality the purpose of yoga is something else.

Yoga is something that was realized by our ancient tapasvis, sadhakas, yogis, rishis & munis. It is a collection of various discipline which takes our consciousness to a certain level where the most primitive and dominant inquiry of the human intellect can be understood in its entirety and that inquiry is about the source of PANDA (human body & mind) & BRAHMANDA (universe). From the beginning of the evolvement of human mind, we are constantly in this query of where we came from and where will we go. Human being of different times, different places and of different civilizations have been searching the answer to this question at different places. Bharat (India) being spread over a very large terrain and civilization existing from a very long time, it is natural that we have so much information or experiences then the rest of the world.

So this inquiry is very easily settled when a person goes so subtle that even the smallest change within him or her and outside him or her is noticed by the person. When a person reaches to that state of mind or consciousness it is very easy for him or her to use his body, mind & energies with precision. Then life becomes very easy going for the person. And so all the side effects that one notices like getting health, reduced stress, more focus, more awareness, more sensitivity, more confidence, etc when he or she starts the discipline of yoga. Now the discipline of yoga is different for different types of school, which means to reach that state of consciousness different schools uses different approaches and these approaches famously knows as karma yoga, gyan yoga, kriya yoga, hatha yoga, tantra yoga, karmakand, mantra yoga, swara yoga, raja yoga, etc. But in this article we will discover three most famous approaches that are practiced worldwide. We will understand the true method of these approaches, the science behind it and how it will work for our own good. They are ASANA, PRANAYAMA & DHYANA.


“Like unto an unbaked earthen pot thrown in water, body is oon decayed. Bake it hard in the fire of training to strengthen & purify it.” 

Gheranda Samhita

For different state of mind & emotions we have different body structure & language. When we are sad our body language is different, when we are happy our body language is different. You may have noticed this in people known to you; you can just tell by their body language if they are quiet upset about something, you are also able to say if the person is extremely happy & confident by their body language. You may not know in great detail how you are able to tell this but there is a vast science behind this.

The connection of body structure and state of mind or emotions go very deep, it works on very subtle level. With the change in our state of mind our body language also changes and vice versa is also true, with the change in our body language our state of mind also changes. That is the reason why people are asked to do power poses before going for an important meeting or job interview, it is because as you change your posture you change your state of mind too.

Same is the science of the asanas. Our ancient scientists (yogis, rishis & munis) observed this fact of body mind connection, they also observed different animals during their different states of mind, for example when a lion is observing his kingdom he sits in a particular pose and when we sit in a similar pose in accordance to our body, it instils leadership in us. When a crane is fishing he stands in a particular pose and when we go into a similar pose in accordance with our body we tend to develop one pointed focus on the task at hand.

So when our rishis, munis and yogis observed this science they developed a whole science of altering our states of consciousness by changing our body structure. This is the science of Yogasanas. So when a person performs a particular asana, that is not meant to lose body fat or get body into a particular shape but it is to tap into a particular realm of human consciousness, body losing fat or getting in shape will happen anyway. It is about unveiling that dormant flair in the individual.

So let’s say a person wants to excel in his work environment that involves computing & creating then a particular set of yogasanas must be taught to him or her, let’s say a person wants to excel in the field of politics when he needs to lead and manipulate situations & people then an entirely different set of yogasanas must be taught to him or her and similarly different sets of yogasanas for people working in different fields.


“(Even) Brahma and other gods practice the control of prana as it removes the fear of death and so it must be practiced (by all).”

Gheranda Samhita

Similarly for different type of state of mind or emotional state we have different breathing pattern.We breathe differently when we are angry, our breathing is different when we are happy & smiling, different when we are laughing, different when we are sad or depressed, different when we are crying.

So for every single state of mind or emotional state we have a very completely different set of breathing. This is very subtle to notice, ask yourself this when did you last focused on your breathing style, how many times in a day do you focus on breathing style. If for both the questions your answer is no or less than 10 then you are missing on very important happening of your life. It is like you are having a lamp with a genie but you never notices it and so you never use it. Breath is something without which most of us wouldn’t survive even for couple of minutes but still we never focus on it.

However our ancient rishis, yogis & munis did notice it and studied it very thoroughly. For every change in state of mind our breathing changes and by changing our breathing pattern we can change our state of mind as well. By employing certain types of breathing methods we can actually transcend many of our mental patterns that are ingrained in us over a long duration, pattern that have put an hold on us to achieve what we want in our life.

Just like asanas people working in different environment and with different goals must be taught different sets of pranayama and also must learn to breathe efficiently throughout the day. This is the actual science of pranayama. Again losing fat, getting fit, increased stamina, glowing face, prominent physical stature, etc will happen anyway.


“By mastering it (samyama) the higher consciousness illumines”

Yoga Sutra

In general dhyana is referred to as meditation in English. But even in our Indian culture different schools addresses dhyana in many aspects. Some schools call it dharana, some call it samadhi, some call it samyama, but in actuality all the three dharana, dhyana & samadhi are different and when all three happens together it is called samyama.

When a person starts focusing on a particular object, process, mental construct, thought, idea or any other thing it is generally referred to as dharana, in dharana the efficiency of body and mind is quiet low which means that body is putting more than necessary efforts and possibilities of mind getting distracted are more in comparison with higher states of mind. When mind remains in dharana for some more period of time then eventually these efforts of the body reduces, and mind gets more relaxed & focused.

When dhyana remains for long period of time then it goes into samadhi which means body, mind & energies are at the optimum state. This is when one can reache to prasadam (optimum state of mind) as mentioned in Bhagwad Gita.

When all the three happens together it is called as samyama academically, in actuality when a person becomes capable enough to enter into samadhi via dharana followed by dhyana, almost instantly whenever he or she wishes then he or she is said to be in samyama.

A person who has developed such samyama is almost superhuman, because achieving anything in life is not difficult for him or her, it is just matter of desire and intensity of desire for him or her. People like this become walking inspiration and being in their presence is very comforting & soothing. They become a natural magnet and can attract whatever type of opportunities & people around them. Prasadam or Kaivalya or Mukti (free from clutches of mind) is the ultimate goal of yoga and is the ultimate goal of human life.


“Through Yoga, Through Bhoga, With Company, Without Company, One who entertains his or her mind onto the BRHAMAN (infinite, omnipresent, omnipotent entity) will only be revealed (ultimate truth).”

Bhaja Govindam

In any well known studio you will find the teacher teaching all these three aspects but if pupils are just doing all of this mechanically then it won’t be that effective. It is very important to do each and every asana and pranayama consciously and subtly. As long as you are doing these practices sincerely and consciously you are on progressive path of spirituality.

The way everyone is doing yoga is completely different from what they used to teach in ashrams long back. But it is okay as with time everything changes, but it is ok only if one understands this science not just theoretically but experientially. When one does that then surely he or she is reaching toward the ultimate goal irrespective of where he or she does or with whom he or she does. You too reach to your ultimate goal, this is my works & my wish.

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