A great Indian sage and yoga master, Sri Aurobindo says yoga is a methodical effort toward self-perfection through developing your latent potential on the physical, vital, mental, intellectual, and spiritual levels. And the most fundamental step you can take toward expanding the limits of your consciousness is to gain mastery over your mind.
Therefore, yoga is an extraordinary spiritual science of self-development and self-realization that shows us how to develop our full potential in our many-sided lives. It was first devised by the rishis and sages of ancient India and has been maintained by a stream of living teachers ever since, who have continually adapted this science to every generation.
Yoga’s integrative approach brings deep harmony and unshakable balance to body and mind in order to awaken our latent capacity for a higher consciousness that is the true purpose of human evolution. The many methods of yoga spans a vast range from physical postures to breathing practices and meditation, all based upon a philosophy of consciousness and natural way of life.
History of Yoga
The scientific evidence of yoga practice is traced back to Indus Valley Civilization (3000 BC) which is pre-vedic age before the Aryan civilization started to flourish in the Indus subcontinent. In archaeological excavations made in the Indus Valley at Mohenjo-Daro a figure is found that archeologists believe represents a yogi sitting in meditation posture. The figure is shown sitting in cross-legged traditional yoga pose with its hands resting on its knees. Archeologist Sir John Marshall, the discoverer of the seal named the figure Shiva Pashupati. According to Indian mythology Lord Adi Nath, the other name for Lord Shiva is believed to be the founder of yoga and Parvati his divine consort first disciple.
Seal from the Indus Valley Civilization, showing a figure in meditation posture believed to be Pashupati.
Meaning of Yoga
The word Yoga means ‘unity’ or ‘oneness’. The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word Yuj which means ‘to join’. This joining is described in spiritual terms as the union of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness.
In practical level yoga is to integrate body, mind and spirit to unfold our higher potential in life through the practice of asana, pranayama and meditation.
According to Swami Vivekananda Yoga is a means of compressing one’s evolution, into a single life, or a few months or even a few hours of one’s bodily existence.
Definition of Yoga
The classical definition of yoga is found in Bhagavad Gita, the classical text of yoga:
Samatvam Yoga Uchyate
‘Yoga is to keep the mind balance and equanimous in all vicissitudes of life’.