Yoga

Introduction

योगेन योगो ज्ञातव्यो योगो योगात्प्रवर्धते। योऽप्रमत्तस्तु योगेन स योगी रमते चिरम्॥

Yoga has to be known by Yoga alone; Yoga grows by/from Yoga alone; the Yogi who is ever vigilant, he alone delights in Yoga.

(Saubhāgyalakṣmyupaniṣat, 2.1)

Introduction

Sri Aurobindo Society (SAS) is a member institution of the Indian Yoga Association (IYA), a premiere institution working for the advancement of Yoga and its applications. IYA aims to bring together all yoga traditions and work as a self-regulatory body to facilitate activities of its member institutions.

SAFIC, as the specialised unit of the Sri Aurobindo Society focusing on Indian Culture, is responsible for all projects and activities concerning this affiliation with Indian Yoga Association.

What is Yoga?

The word ‘Yoga’ originates from the Sanskrit root word ‘yuj’, which means to join, to unite, and also has the sense of ‘to control’, ‘to discipline’ or ‘to subjugate’. The English word ‘yoke’ is also derived from the same root. All these meanings have relevance when it comes to understanding the spirit and form of yoga.

Defining Yoga

For a large majority of people in the West yoga simply means a system of exercises and postures for attaining physical and/or mental control and well-being. While this is one part of the science and art of yoga, it is important to acknowledge that there is a highly profound and deep philosophy and science behind yoga which has for its aim the union of individual soul with the universal soul, the liberation of the embodied self into the transcendent. 

At its most practical level, yoga is a process of becoming more aware of ‘self’, of who we are in our true essence. Yoga practices facilitate balance and health, and help unfold our dormant potential. They help us to become more aware of ourselves, of the various movements within our various parts – body, mind, emotions — and thus facilitate a greater degree of integration and connection. By this process of gradual self-awareness and self-discovery we attain greater self-mastery and become ready for a deeper self-realization.

In a philosophical sense, yoga means the conscious connection of the limited little ego-self with the unlimited, eternal, higher Self. Sri Aurobindo provides a helpful definition to help understand the deeper meaning of Yoga:

In the right view both of life and of Yoga all life is either consciously or subconsciously a Yoga. For we mean by this term a methodised effort towards self-perfection by the expression of the secret potentialities latent in the being and—highest condition of victory in that effort—a union of the human individual with the universal and transcendent Existence we see partially expressed in man and in the Cosmos. But all life, when we look behind its appearances, is a vast Yoga of Nature who attempts in the conscious and the subconscious to realise her perfection in an ever-increasing expression of her yet unrealised potentialities and to unite herself with her own divine reality.” (CWSA, Vol. 23, pp. 6-7) 

A few more definitions given by yoga proponents will be helpful for the reader. Swami Sivananda Sarasvati defines yoga as “…integration and harmony between thought, feeling and deed, or integration between head, heart and hand.”

In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna tells Arjuna:  “O Arjuna; be steadfast in Yoga; perform your duty and abandon all attachments to success and failure, such evenness is called Yoga.”

According to Patanjali, “Yogah citta-vritti-nirodhah” (1:2). This may be translated as: “Yoga is the blocking (nirodha) of mental modifications (chittavritti) so that the seer (drashta) re-identifies with the (higher) Self.” In other words, Yoga is that which resolves the agitations of the mind.

The text Yoga-Yajnavalkya defines yoga as “the union of the individual psyche (jiva-atman) with the transcendental Self (para-atman).” (1:44)