What is Yoga?

Yogasthah kuru karmani
‘Established in yoga, perform action.’

“Today, yoga is a household word and practiced by millions of people, yet few people know what yoga really is. The Sanskrit word yoga means ‘union’ and refers to the union of the individual self (jiva) with the higher Self (Atman) and, ultimately, with the supreme Self — Paramatman, or Brahman. More than simply a path, yoga denotes the goal of spiritual practice: union of the individual with the totality of cosmic existence, union of human life with the totality of Natural Law, or, in religious language, the Divine.”

“To most Americans, yoga means physical postures (asana), which tone the body and promote health and well-being. But this is just a small part of yoga as revealed in the ancient Vedic text, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.”

“While Patanjali clearly speaks of eight limbs of yoga, all interconnected just as the limbs of the body form one whole, commentators in India and the West have interpreted Patanjali’s yoga system as a series of eight steps, culminating in samadhi—the state of yoga, the Atman, the Self. Aspirants were therefore advised to begin at the bottom rung of this imaginary ladder and work their way up, slowly and tediously, until some day the goal of samadhi is attained. Among the eight ‘steps’ of this viewpoint, asana, or physical postures, has eclipsed the others and come to be known as ‘yoga’.”

“As awareness becomes established in the Self, inner bliss and fullness begin to permeate the mind and senses, leading to the spontaneous experience of pratyahara, in which the mind and senses always remain anchored in the bliss of the Self and are no longer bound by outer experience and enjoyment.”
— Barbara Stienmann

These were excepts from an article on Transcendental Meditation.

I spoke of the 8 limbs and the “paths” in The Yogas or Paths.

Yogah karmasu kaushalam
‘Yoga is skill in action.’

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