Yoga means union, for it helps you re-establish a harmonious balance among different aspects of your being-body, mind, consciousness, the world within you, and the world outside you. It can help you explore unlimited potentials within yourself and ultimately find meaning and purpose in life here and now.
After hundreds of years of constant practice, self-observation, contemplation, and self-analysis, the great masters in the East concluded that to be born as a human is in itself the greatest achievement and to die without knowing the purpose of life is the grea5tst loss. The system of philosophy and practice that can help you find meaning and purpose of life, and not let life go in vain, is called yoga.
Yoga consists of a set of techniques that can enable you to gain access to the limitless wealth that lies dormant in your body and mind. It also helps you understand who you are, what you are made of, why you are here, and where you will go after you die. The great sage Patanjali, who gave final shape to the philosophy and practice of yoga, tells us that you have a body, but you are not the body; you have a mind, but you are not the mind. Both body and mind are given to you so that you can complete the journey of life, reach your destination, and recognize your blissful self. Yoga offers tools and means for making the best use of body, mind, and senses, and achieving that which the soul could not have achieved without interacting with this beautiful creation.
Nowhere else than in yoga can you find such a simple, straightforward, and effective way of interacting with the world, becoming a healthy and happy person, and enjoying the objects of the world without getting lost in them. Yoga offers you the tools and means to have a successful and productive life without becoming a slave to your own success and productivity. Yoga is a way of self-mastery, for by practicing yoga, you become master of yourself-master of the world within and the world outside you.
Yoga in its own right is a systematic science. Its practices are supported by a profound philosophy known as Samkhya. Yogic techniques are scientific in the sense that you can clearly see a causal relationship between the practices and the results you achieve. Through their repeated experiments, yogis have mapped out all possible mistakes that you may commit during your practice; therefore they warn you beforehand about what you must not do in the practice of yoga.
The yogis have made this science even more complete by combining the principles of ayurveda and the time-tested techniques of rejuvenation know in the East as rasayana. And today, by using the principles of holistic health, diet and nutrition, and modern psychology, you can derive even greater benefits from the practice of yoga. But if you are not familiar with the philosophy on which yoga practices stand, then you may fail to see yoga's vast scope. Consequently, you may end up practicing just a few yogic techniques here and there and achieve very little benefit.
In the practice of yoga it is very important to know that yoga is not a religion, although yogic principles are an integral part of most religions. Most religions of the world normally teach what to do, but they do not teach how to do it. They also teach what not to do, but do not teach how to avoid doing it. Yoga, on the other hand, teaches not only what to do, but how to do it. But if for some reason you can't do it, it is not a sin; simply try again. Unlike most religious paths, in yoga there is no room for guilt and self-condemnation. Yoga teaches you to acknowledge the fact that you are a human being and as such you have certain strengths and weaknesses. Try your best to overcome your weaknesses.
Due to the intelligence and free will that you have received from Providence, you have the freedom to cultivate higher virtues and overcome negative traits. And yet, you may have certain weaknesses that prevent you from accomplishing everything you wish and plan. In that case, learn the art of performing your actions skillfully.
When you meet with success, so not left your inner equilibrium be overcome by excitement. When you meet with failure, do not let yourself sink into depression and sadness. Gaining and maintaining this equilibrium is called the art of joyful living and is the foundation for self-mastery. This art of joyful living is at the core of yoga.
From Touched by Fire by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ph.D. quoting his teacher Swami Rama after he was asked, "What exactly is yoga?"