The Philosophy of Yoga

06 June, 2014.YogaPicMinnesotaPublicRadio

Article: 3.2

Authored by Ranjay Kumar.

The Philosophy of Yoga

The concept of Yoga is both a widely understood and much misunderstood. Yoga has also evolved. As practitioners of yoga, in its purest form will impress upon us, despite its many forms, the form of yoga that comes close to the actual concept of yoga is the one that is unaltered and unadulterated from its original form of combining mind, body and soul.

With that focus, in this article we try and understand the concept of yoga, in a very simple and clear form.


Concept of Yoga:

The term Yoga has its roots in ‘Yuj’, which means joining. Yoga is that which joins. What are the entities that are joined? In traditional terminology it is joining of the individual self with the universal self. It is an expansion of the narrow constricted egoistic personality to an all pervasive, eternal and bliss full state of reality. It is as simple and clear as that.


Definitions of Yoga:

  1. According to Patanjali Yoga Sutra, Yoga is a process of gaining control over the mind. By so controlling the mind we reach our original state.
  2. According to Yoga Vashishtha, the essence of yoga is beautifully portrayed thus, “Manahprashmanopayah yoga ityabhidhiyate”. Yoga is called a skillful trick to calm the mind. It is a skillful subtle process to calm the mind. Mechanical gross effort to stop the thought in the mind.

One can understand what practice and training can achieve through a simple example; an unskilled layman who tries to repair a malfunctioning television set is almost sure to spoil it, while an experienced and skillful person knows exactly on what to lay their hands and rectify the malfunctioning. He operates at the right place.

Knowledge is the key. Similarly, in the control of mind, a novice tries hard and is frustrated when he finds himself further ruined, without the right tools to achieve the desired result of control over his mind. Yoga gives him the necessary technique to achieve this, through thorough understanding and sustained practice to gain complete mastery. This skill one hone is the trick of allowing the mind to calm down and not to use brutal force to damage it.

  1. According to Bhagvad Gita, in action, yoga is a special skill which makes the mind reach its subtle state. “Bhagvad Gita” says, “Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam”. Yoga is dexterity in action. The dexterity is in maintaining relaxation and awareness in action. Yoga is a skillful science of gaining mastery over the mind.

Yoga is normally and traditionally conjectured and popularly known as a process or a technique to reach the ultimate state of perfection. However, yoga is found defined even as the state of higher powers and potentialities and even as ultimate state of silence. Further yoga is also described as the power of all creative endeavors and creation itself. Even yoga helps us to perform your karma or duty with perfection.

  1. Yoga is a State; man leaps into higher states of consciousness and learns to stay and act tuned to these states. Yoga often refers to these subtle layers of casual states of our mind. Yoga is the state in which all power indriyas are beheld steadily i.e., a state of mastery over senses and mind. Yoga is a state of great steadiness at emotional level; balance of concentration and detachment at mental level and homeostasis at body level. It integrates the personality by bringing body mind coordination in a well-balanced way.


The Four Streams of Yoga:

There are multiple forms of yoga catering to needs of a variety of sections of society, to bring about transformation of an individual. They are broadly classified into four streams.

  1. Karma Yoga (The path of work): Involves doing actions with an attitude of detachment to fruits of action. This enables a man to detach himself from strong and binding attachments and thereby bringing in him steadiness of mind, which is Yoga. “Samatvam yoga Uchayate”. Instruments of action and understanding Karmendriyas (Hands, Feet, Organs of speech, excreation and procreation.) and Jnanendriyas (Eyes, Ears, Organs of smell or Nose, Taste or Tongue and Touch or Skin.) are cleansed.
  2. Bhakti Yoga (Worship or the control of emotions): Bhakti yoga is the key in path of worship. In this modern world, man is tossed up and down due to emotional onslaught. The path of bhakti is a boon to gain control over emotional instabilities by properly harnessing the energy involved in it.
  3. Jnana Yoga (The path of Knowledge): The age of science has made man a rational being. Intellectual sharpness is imminent. Analysis forms the tool. The path of philosophy is a path for the keen intellectuals and is centered on analysis of ‘happiness’. Also many other fundamental questions regarding the mind, the outside and inside world and the reality are taken up. Basic questions are raised even involving the intellect itself to reach the very basics of intellect.
  4. Raja Yoga (The Path or Yoga for mind culture.): Training the mind is the key for success in almost all endeavors in our lives. Yoga of mind culture gives a practical and easy approach to reach higher states of consciousness. It is based on The Astanga Yoga of Patanjali’s. Yoga popularly known as ‘Astanga Yoga’ gives a comprehensive and systematic approach for developing the mind.


The eight limbs of Yoga: 

1. Yama (The disciplines or Don’ts)

2. Niyama (The injunctions or Do’s)

3. Asana (The posture of body)

4. Pranayama (The control of Prana or the life force)

5. Pratyahara (Restraint of senses from their objects of pleasure)

6. Dharna (Focussing of mind)

7. Dhyana (Concentration)

8. Samadhi (Super Consciousness).


Yoga: Unity in Diversity

Unity in diversity forming the core of Indian culture, offers a grand note of cohesiveness among various practices of yoga. With this catholicity in understanding, when a person follows the path of yoga, it allows a harmonious and total growth of personality.

Thus, yoga is a vital tool for the development of man, probably more relevant in the modern scientific era than ever before.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the state of health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing, and not merely an absence of disease or infirmity. It is clear from this definition that health and ill health are not two discrete entities as commonly understood but health should be conceived as a continuous function and indication of the state of wellbeing.


For deeper and wider understanding of Yoga, one can refer to books such as Patanjali Yoga Sutra (aphorism), Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, Yoga Basista, and Bhagavat Gita, which also includes unbiased and non-religious information about Yoga.



Editor’s note:

Author of this article is Ranjay Kumar, a qualified, practicing yoga teacher, currently teaching/guiding those seeking to learn and practice yoga for health, sports persons who are looking for a well-rounded training program, and conducts group classes for corporate clients.To ask him questions related to this article, please use the comments box below. 

He offers paid consultation as well. To seek his consultation or advice, please write to him at

You will find more articles written by Ranjay Kumar and other health and training related information at