What is Yoga?
The common meaning of the word Yoga is to join. This word is derived from the Sanskrit element . One would normally believe hanging with head down is Yoga but this is not correct. A bat remains hung with head down every day through out his life but we do not say a bat is a Yogi. It is equally incorrect to say that one who walks on live charcoal or on water surface is a Yogi. Shree Ramkrishna Dev used to cut a joke about a Yogi who had met him and described that he had conducted Sadhana for twelve years, as a result he had come to Daxineshwar by walking on the surface of the water of Ganges. On hearing this Shree Ramkrishna Dev beat his forehead and said, Oh! Just by paying one paise we can cross Ganges and come back. If we pay two paise (pennies) to a boatman he will take us for half an hour on a joy ride. The work which can be done in one or two paise (pennies) is achieved by you by wasting twelve years!
Thus Yoga does not mean remaining hungry or eating too much or remaining wide awake for nights together or to sleep long hours or to remain totally silent continuously or go on speaking without respite. Such imbalance cannot be termed Yoga. Geeta indicates word balanced for Yoga. Yuktahara viharascha, Yoga means œmaintaining balance in eating, walking etc. That is why it is said that Yoga means balance in life style. Samatvam yoga uchyate.
In addition to this Shree Krishna has given very beautiful and exact definition of Yoga: “Yogah karmasu kaushalam“. That means Yoga is one where work is done with dexterity. What is this dexterity in Karma? It means whatever you do, the job should be exact, it should not be soft-padded or like a loosely filled bag: whatever you do, do it well, properly organized.
That is why Shree Ramkrishna Dev used to say that a lady who could cook very nicely can also meditate very nicely The reason is that cooking performed inattentively will not be tasty. Today you forget to put in salt, tomorrow you put salt twice. It is observed that those who are inattentive persons allow milk to overflow through over heating perhaps twice a week; what could be the reason? Oh, I was not attentive ! When mind is alert and stays where the body is, the condition is termed Yoga. But unluckily, while our body is in Chicago, our mind goes to Manchester. If you want to put a thread through the eye of a sewing needle, the thread will not be put through if the end of the thread is bent, left or right. The end will have to be made one pointed. Karma whether it is individual or family job or society job or a public work, one has to be fully alert in performance of job on hand, then only the word Yoga will have carried its proper meaning: That is dexterity.
The above is the generally common understanding. Maharishi Patanjali defines Yoga as control of the leanings of the mind “Yogaschitta vrittinirodhah“. This is the highest aspect of Yoga as mind is fickle. Oh Ram; Mind roams about in all directions. How it can be fixed in one place? So far as this mind remains fickle, restless, disturbed, Jiva will not be at ease.
The meaning of the word Yoga carries happiness in it. Condition of Viyoga is unhappiness. Yoga means peace, plenty, prosperity, development, progress and establishment in permanent soul-consciousness. All those that are to contrary, means restlessness, down-fall and self-deception towards soul. Gurudev Swami Shri Sivananda used to say that the goal of human life is realization of the absolute. God first, world next and self last or preferably, never. The name given to this path to realization of God is Yoga.
Principal Yogas are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Dhyana Yoga. Besides there are Nad Yoga, Laya Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Swara Yoga and others. If one desires to satisfactorily carry out any job, it is essential to have a healthy body Hatha yoga can bestow health. Raja Yoga leads to highest state in the absolute.