Yoga has almost as many interpretations as there are yoga teachers on this planet 🙂 For some yoga is about asanas, positions, and how to perform each asana to perfection. Others focus on the philosophy of yoga and how one should live life to reach enlightenment.
The fundaments of the Indian system of philosophy is based on shad Darshan, the six philosophies of life. These are samkhya, nyaya, vaisesika, mimamsa, yoga and vedanta. The first three address the material and/or physical world while the second three concentrate on observing the inner reality to understand the outer reality. This knowledge is presented in the four main Vedas (bodies of knowledge), Rigveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda and Samaveda and the four secondary Vedas, Upa-vedas. Ayurveda is of the Upa-vedas.
The word yoga is often translated as ‘union’ or ‘coming together’. Although there is accuracy to this interpretation to some extent, I think it is a simplified way of understanding the meaning of yoga. This ‘union’ can refer to the physical nature of yoga when we want to be able to bend our body in a certain way but also the spiritual aspect of yoga when we try to live according to the five Yamas in our everyday life.
According to Patanjali, the pioneer who organized the yogic descipline in the Yogasutras, there are three paths to yoga:
- Karma yoga – path of action
- Bhakti yoga – path of devotion
- Jnana yoga – path of knowledge
To attain enlightenment, Patanjali mentions eight methods in the Yogasutras:
- Yama (five restraints – Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha)
- Niyama (five observances – Saucha, Santosha, Tapas, Svadhyaya and Ishvara Pranidhana)
- Asana (postures)
- Pranayama (control of the vital force)
- Pratyahara (withdrawl of senses)
- Dharana (focusing attention on the object of mantra)
- Dhyana (meditation)
- Samadhi (spiritual bliss)
By now you should have an innerstanding of how vast yoga really is. The way of yoga can be different for every person, it is an individual journey to the same destination. It is the becoming one with the true nature of who we are. It is remembrance. It is becoming YOU in all your glory and it is dissolving into nothingness. All this and more is YOGA!