Origin and meaning of the word ‘Yoga

Ancient Yogi depiction

Yoga is the Ancient Indian Science of Self-Realization (mokshadharma saastra). The tradition considers Hiranyagarbha as the originator of Yoga. Yoga is one of the six orthodox Indian Philosophical Schools (aastika darsanas). It is founded by Sage Patanjali. The aim of yoga is to redeem man from the suffering and cycle of birth and death. It is a practical philosophy. The ancient sages, seers and philosophers adopted yoga as a way of life.

Origin of the word ‘Yoga’:

The word ‘yoga’ is derived from two samskrit roots. They are (1) yujir (2) yuj.

The Veda used the word ‘yoga’ with the meaning of ‘yoking’, ‘joining’, ‘coming together’ and ‘connection’.

योगे योगे तवस्तरमित्याह वाजे वाजे हवामहे | RV-१-२.२९.

The Upanisads, Epics, Puranas and Yoga Sutra used the word ‘yoga’ with a meaning of ‘controlling the body, senses, mind and intellect’.

Meaning of the word ‘Yoga’:

There are different meanings of the word ‘yoga’. For example: unity, conjunction, combination, mixture, contact, fitness, prosperity, an auspicious moment etc., Of all, the meanings given by two samskrit dictionaries are important. They are (1) Amarakosa and (2) Medinikosa.

According to Amarakosa, yoga means-protection, method, meditation, harmony and technique.

योगः सन्नहनोपायध्यानसङ्गतियुक्तिषु | ३-४-२३.

According Medinikosa, the term ‘yoga’ also means-achieving the unachieved, technique to keep body young and steady, schemes and plots, medicine, miserliness etc.

योगो’पुर्वार्थसम्प्राप्तौ सङ्गतिध्यानयुक्तिषु |
वपुःस्थैर्यप्रयोगे च विष्कम्भादिषु भेषजे |
विश्रब्धघातके द्रव्योपायसन्नहनेष्वपि कार्पनेsपि च | –
मेदिनी कोश.

Thus the term ‘yoga’ has got its origin during Vedic period and used with both meanings of ‘End’ and ‘Means’ as well.

5 popular definitions of ‘Yoga’.

Yoga is the ancient science of Self-culture. Vedic people practiced yoga to lead a happy and peaceful life. Yoga trains the body, controls the senses, calms the mind and expands the Consciousness. The modern world uses yoga as a method for relaxation and stress management. In the yoga texts there are many definitions of yoga. But only a few are recognized as important and popular.

Definitions of Yoga:

1. Patanjala Yoga Sutra: Sage Patanjali defines yoga as “a method to stop thought waves”.

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः — I.२.

According to Patanjali, any technique that keeps the mind (chitta) away from disturbance (वृत्ति) can be called yoga. In other words, the state where the mind (chitta) ceases to exist (samadhi) is called yoga.

2. Katha Upanishad: Katha Upanishad defines yoga as a spiritual effort to keep the senses steady and detached from worldly affairs.

ताम् योगमिति मन्यन्ते स्थिरामिन्द्रियधारनाम् / II-.११.

Attachment to the world is the cause of suffering and bondage. Attachment is possible only through the senses. Therefore, according to the Upanishad, , Yoga is a technical process to divert the senses towards inner Reality i.e., Brahman.

3. Bhagavat Gita: Bhagavat Gita gives another technical meaning of yoga. Purity of mind is called yoga. Only a balanced (samatvam) mind can unite with the Divine. Thus Bhagavat Gita offers two definitions of yoga.

तस्माद् योगाय युज्यस्व योगः कर्मसु कौशलम् || II.५०.
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्योः समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते || II.४८.

4. Yajnavalkya Samhita: Yajnavalkya defines yoga as “union of individual self and Supreme Self.

संयोगो योग इत्युक्तो जीवात्मपरमात्मनोः | YYV-I.४४.

5. Linga Purana: According to Linga Purana, yoga is a method to stop the changes of the mind.

योगो निरोधवृत्तेस्तु चित्तस्य द्विजसत्तमाः | L P-I.८.७अ .
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