Yoga is quite often seen as a way to stay physically fit. However, there’s much more to Yoga than postures or breathing exercises. To understand the basics of Yoga, it is important to understand the philosophy of Yoga. The founders of Yoga and its original text in Vedas & Upanishads were not merely concerned with the physical fitness aspects of Yoga. The practice of Yoga has been a holistic practice, which meant physical, mental, and spiritual perfection. It means to control not just the body, but also the vital energies, senses, and the mind.
Yoga when literally translated means – “to join”, “to unite”. It is derived from the word Yuja, which means union or to join. It is often mistaken as the union of the mind and the body. Yoga however means union, but not of the mind and the body, but of the union of the self with the reality of self. When put simply, it means self-realization.
A person is said to have achieved yoga, union with Self, when the perfectly disciplined mind achieved freedom from all desires and becomes focused only on the Self alone”Bhagavad Gita
The founder of Yoga as we know in the present context for all practical purposes is the great sage Patanjali. Patanjali describes Yoga (in Yoga Sutras) as the cessation of all mental activation i.e. taking the mind to a non-active state. In the scripture it is referred to as as Chitta, Vritti, nirodaha i.e. stopping (nirodaha) the movements (vritti) of the mind (Chitta).
Basics of Yoga – What is the Goal?
Yoga is cessation (nirodha) of the activities (vrittis) of mind (chitta) according to patanjali’s definition in the 2nd sutra in Yoga Sutras. Vrittis refer to any sequence of thoughts, ideas, mental imaging or cognitive act performed by the mind, intellect, or ego. The mind & body are one and a part of nature (prakriti), and the soul is separate. Read More on the Goal of Yoga
The Four Paths To The Goal of Self-Realization
The scriptures offer four paths to the goal of self-realization.
1. Raja Yoga
To accomplish the goal of Yoga, the means prescribed by patanjali is to still the states of mind, thoughts (vrittis) through meditation (keeping the mind fixed on any particular object of choice without distraction). You may be wondering of how all of this is working.
It works in 3 stages.
Mind to attain an inactive stage: Through sheer power of concentration, the mind can attain an inactive state where all thoughts are non-active. In this inactive state, the mind is not cognizant of anything. It does not mean unconsciousness.
Consciousness to have no choice: When there are no more thoughts or no awareness, the consciousness has no choice but to become aware of itself. It’s like a beam of light reflecting back from a mirror. The light has no choice but to become aware of itself.
Self-realization: Awareness can now only be aware of itself. This is the point of self-realization or the ultimate state of awareness, which is the final goal of Yoga.
2. Jnana Yoga
Jnana Yoga (Also read as Gyana Yoga) is the path of knowledge. In this practice, you surrender the ego through acquiring knowledge, which removes ignorance and illusion, and leads to understanding the reality of the Self.
3. Bhakti Yoga
The path of devotion to the Divine is Bhakti Yoga. This is the path of surrendering your ego to whatever is your perception on divinity. Through complete surrender, you start to realize the reality of self.
4. Karma Yoga
Karma Yoga is the path of selfless duty. When you follow this path, you do your duty to the best of your abilities, without attachment to results or rewards. This helps you let go of your ego and leads to self-realization.