What Does Yoga Actually Mean?

Yoga is an all encompassing term which is derived from the Sanskrit word, yuj, which translates in its most simplistic form to yoke. However, the translation isn’t that straight forward and it can mean to bind, union, attach and communion or a culmination of all these words.

With such multifaceted semantics, yoga can also be interpreted as connection, contact, method, application, addition, combination and performance.

On first glance, yoga may appear as a series of stretches and postures but it’s a traditional method of practise, principles and philosophy that aims to bind or yoke the individual together with a higher being or existence.

Another way of looking at the definition of yuj is ‘to direct and concentrate one’s attention on, to use and apply’,Light on Yoga, page 19.

Yoga is both a state and a means to attaining it. Despite the differing styles and ways of practise, there is a common underpinning thread of belief that we, as people, are greater than just a body and mind.

Yoga is a place that awaits our arrival, often we don’t begin in this “place” and there’s a sense of homecoming that yoga affords us, perhaps only momentarily. You may recognise this place as a feeling, that undefinable feeling of ‘everything’s alright’.

It’s a way of rediscovering and reconnecting to who we really are, deep down, beyond all the layers that we and others have created for us as well as being a system of self enquiry, self discovery and self awareness and ‘a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life in all its aspects evenly’, Gita According to Ghandi (introduction).

The shifts and changes that can occur – seemingly miraculously – around you once yoga has turned on that light of self discovery and awareness, will be long lasting and significant, even if you aren’t aware of such significance until viewed retrospectively. Yoga might help you to discover that true, genuine happiness and bliss may actually lie within you.

Despite its copious benefits and the peripheral advantages of yoga (there have been reported anecdotes of yoga being beneficial for ailments such as cancer, mental illness, asthma and heart disease), it really is its own reward but there’s still an intrinsic view towards liberation (moksha), you may have heard a similar concept in Buddhism called nirvana.

According to David Gordon White, a professor in modern yoga research, from the 5th century CE onward, the meanings of the term “yoga” became more or less fixed, but having various meanings, they are:
1. Yoga as an analysis of perception and cognition;
2. Yoga as the rising and expansion of consciousness;
3. Yoga as a path to omniscience;
4. Yoga as a technique for entering into other bodies, generating multile bodies, and the attainment of other supernatural accomplishments.

Have you ever thought about what yoga means to you? Perhaps next time you’re exploring your downward dog or enjoying your yoga nidra, you may like to self enquire as to what yoga means to you and what that means for your practise and how it “yokes” into your life.

3 thoughts on “What Does Yoga Actually Mean?

  1. For me yoga is a system to facilitate transformation at any level of the practitioners choosing. It can be physical, mental, emotional or spiritual. The keys for me are that each person’s yoga practice is unique, gradual and may change focus over time. Yoga is brilliant in that it says “Here are all the tools you need, choose whichever ones you wish to use…you can use one or all of them”


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