Sanskrit definition of yoga

Yoga means ‘union’ or ‘connection’. In Sanskrit, the word ‘yoga’ is used to signify any form of connection. Yoga is both a state of connection and a body of techniques that allow us to connect to anything.

Conscious connection to something allows us to feel and experience that thing, person, or experience. The experience of connection is a state of yoga, a joyful and blissful, fulfilling experience.

Awareness is the secret of yoga.

Multiple definitions of yoga

There is no single definition of yoga. In order to experience truth through yoga, we must study its classical definitions and reflect on our own understanding of it.

If we wish to connect to the intuitive, creative part of us, and realize the eternal Self at our core, we need to consider what yoga really is. Each definition of yoga reveals part of the ocean of knowledge and experience that forms the yogic path.

Many paths to yoga

There are many traditional yogic paths that facilitate connection to the highest truth and awaken our own consciousness, including tantra, mantra, laya, kundalini, bhakti, jnana, karma yoga, and so on. Each path specializes in its own techniques and methods to awaken greater awareness and connection to self and life.

Yoga practices include posture (asana), breathing (pranayama), control of subtle forces (mudra and bandha), cleansing the body-mind (shat karma), visualizations, chanting of mantras, and many forms of meditation.

Day-to-day meaning of yoga

At its most practical level yoga is a process of becoming more aware of who we are. Yoga techniques facilitate balance and health, and unfold our dormant potential. Yoga allows us to be more aware of ourselves and feel connected.  As such, yoga is a process of self-discovery. This leads us to self-mastery and self-realization.

Yoga as a science

Yoga is a science, that is, it is a body of techniques that lead us to consciously connect with ourselves and with life, the experience of yoga. As yoga is a science, there is no dogma or belief system attached to it. Yoga simply tells us to do a certain practice and then to feel the effect of that practice, e.g. if we breath slowly in a relaxed manner we will slow our heart rate; if we focus the mind we will develop mental peace and deep insight.

Highest philosophical definition of yoga

In Sanskrit, the word ‘yoga’ is used to signify any form of connection. In a philosophical sense, however, yoga means the conscious connection of the limited little egoic self with the unlimited, eternal, higher Self.

Patanjali’s definition of yoga

The great sage Patanjali, in the system of Raja Yoga, gave one of the best definitions of yoga. He said, ‘Yoga is the blocking of mental modifications so that the seer re-identifies with the (higher) Self. Patanjali’s system has come to be the epitome of Classical Yoga Philosophy and is one of the 6 or 7 major philosophies of India.

Hatha yoga definition

In its most basic usage, hatha means yoga. The word hatha describes any kind of yoga in which poses are done.  (Yoga has eight limbs, asana practice is only one which is concerned with yoga poses.) If you do Iyengar Yoga, this is hatha yoga. If you do Ashtanga, as different as it may seem, it is also hatha yoga. Any of the many contemporary types of physical yoga practices can be accurately described as hatha yoga.


The success of Yoga does not lie in the ability to perform postures, but in how it positively changes the way we live our life and our relationships.
— T.K.V. Desikachar