What is Yoga

Yoga defines itself as a science–that is, as a practical, methodical, and systematic discipline or set of techniques that have the goal of helping human beings to become aware of their deepest nature. The goal of seeking to experience this deepest potential is not part of a religious process, but an experiential science of self-study. Religions seek to define what we should believe, while a practical science such as meditation is based on the concrete experience of those teachers and yogis who have previously used these techniques to experience the deepest Self. Yoga does not contradict or interfere with any religion, and may be practiced by everyone, whether they regard themselves as agnostics or members of a particular faith.
The most important teaching of yoga has to do with our nature as human beings. It states that our “true nature” goes far beyond the limits of the human mind and personality–that instead, our human potential is infinite and transcends our individual minds and our sense of self. The very word “yoga” makes reference to this. The root, “yuj” (meaning “unity” or “yoke”), indicates that the purpose of yoga is to unite ourselves with our highest nature. This re-integration is accomplished through the practices of the various yoga disciplines. Until this re-integration takes place, we identify ourselves with our limitations–the limitations of the body, mind, and senses. Thus we feel incomplete and limited, and are subject to feelings of sorrow, insecurity, fear, and separation, because we have separated ourselves from the experience of the whole.
In the modern world we have become quite successful in our external achievements–we have created powerful technologies and a variety of products, we are obsessed with accumulating power, wealth, property and objects–and yet we have not been able to create either individual or social peace, wisdom, or happiness. We have only to look around and see the destructiveness of our weapons, the emptiness of our pleasures and entertainments, the misuse of our material and personal resources, the disparities between rich and poor, and above all, the loneliness and violence of our modern world. We see that amid all our success in the external world, we have accomplished little of lasting value. These problems will not be solved through new technological developments. Instead, the resolution to these human problems will come only when we discover within ourselves that for which all of mankind is searching–inner peace, tranquility, and wisdom. This attainment is the goal of yoga, for yoga is the practical science intended to help human beings become aware of their ultimate nature.
No one person “invented” yoga–yoga is a living tradition, a set of practices that dates back for centuries. These practices were codified by a scholar and teacher named Patanjali in The Yoga Sutras, written about the second century B.C.
Patanjali is widely regarded as the founder of the formal Yoga philosophy. Patanjali’s yoga is known as Raja yoga, which is a system for control of the mind. Pantajali defines the word “yoga” in this second sutra, which is the definitional sutra for his entire work:
Yoga citta-vritti nirodha
( Yoga happens when we constantly observe the movement of thought.) In other words, be the witness, the observer of your self.
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A New Journey

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