Definitions of Yoga

WITH YOU, I BREATHE: A forty day yoga column

#7 Definitions of Yoga

When I first started practicing yoga, I thought of yoga as a form of exercises that included poses that seemed silly to say: downward dog, tree pose, cat/cow. Which is common enough. Most people define yoga as a physical practice that involves a series of poses.

The more I practiced yoga, I began to define it by the literal English translation “to unite” or “to come together.” I liked this definition because, as I practiced more, I realized that yoga helped unite my body with my mind, and later, I admitted with hesitation that the practice united my mind, body, and soul.

More recently, I have another definition of yoga that comes from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the most significant texts of yoga. In Sanskrit, the sutra looks more or less like such: Yogasgcittavrttinirodhah. I tell you, more or less, because there are accent marks that accompany that word. In any case, the English translation of the second sutras is: “Yoga is the ability to direct the mind exclusively toward an object and sustain that direction without any distraction.” My current definition of yoga then has to do with the mind and how to focus the mind.

In the first chapter of The Heart of Yoga, T. K. V. Desikachar explores various definitions of yoga. He doesn’t seem to say one is right and others are wrong. In the first chapter, his main point seems to be that there are plenty of definitions of yoga and that yoga is accessible to everyone.

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