What Does The Word Yoga Mean? Meaning And Definition Of Yoga

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Have you ever wondered about the meaning of yoga? or what does the word yoga mean ? If this interests you, this is going to be a very interesting article for you.

We have deep dived into history and mythology of yoga make things clear about meaning of yoga and the word ‘Yoga’ along with its definition. Stay Tuned. 

What Does The Word Yoga Mean

What is the meaning of Yoga Word?

Let’s get together and head-on with an interesting exercise. Let us go around asking 10 yogis one question- “what does the word yoga mean”. When we ask this question to 10 yogis, we will probably get 10 different answers. 

This is because yoga comes in different styles and forms and is taken up by various people for a variety of reasons. Therefore, it is pretty clear that yoga is a broad concept and is presented in a myriad of ways to serve the people attached to it keeping in mind their needs.

Definition Of Yoga

The literal definition of the word ‘yoga’ as defined by Oxford Dictionary is ‘a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures is widely practiced for health and relaxation’.

For a better and truer understanding of yoga, let us begin with understanding the etymology of the word itself.

Also, read our post on How Yoga Works? and What Is Yoga Nidra?

Origin Of The Term ‘Yoga’

The word yoga is derived from a Sanskrit word, “Yug” which literally means

“To Yoke Or Unite”

The union that the root word ‘Yug’ refers to is merely just not your fingers touching your toes or it does not speak about the union of your nose with your knee.

This might sound strange, as this piece of information is commonly repeated in the yoga community, but the union here does not only refer to the union of the mind and body.

Origin Of The Term 'Yoga'

Union Of Consciousnesses

The union that the root Sanskrit word speaks of and refers to is the union of our individual consciousness to the Divine consciousness.

Our individual consciousness is nothing but our experience of reality while Divine consciousness is all about the essence of truth and our perception when we shut down our five senses and choose to connect with divine self within us.

And when this re connection of our individual consciousness and divine consciousness is achieved, it is that union which the word ‘yug’ or ‘yoga’ is all about. Yoga is therefore much more than what we perceive.

Yoga has a much deeper understanding which is important for us to know if we truly want to understand what yoga really is.

Also, read our post on What does Namaste mean in Yoga?

Yoga Philosophy Originated From Vedas

Yoga is a philosophy and is one of the six branches of the Vedas which is considered to be not only India’s but one of the world’s oldest scriptures. Practicing the philosophy of yoga is believed to serve the unfolding of infinite potential of both the human mind and the eternal self that lies within us.

Through yoga, we achieve ultimate union of the self with our divine consciousness which help us experience eternal bliss while liberating us from the worldly sufferings. In yogic term, this eternal bliss is termed to be “Moksha”.

Also Read our post on History and Origin of Yoga and Is Yoga A Haram For Muslims?

The Five Basic Paths Of Yoga

To attain the goal of a spiritual union, there are five main paths of yoga practice which lead us to the final reunification of our individual consciousness with our divine consciousness.

1. Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is the primary path of Yoga which involves the physical practice of the yoga asanas, poses and postures. Along with yoga practice, it also involves other kinds of energy controlling techniques like our breathing pattern and various other cleansing rituals in order to purify and strengthen our physical body.

Hatha Yoga therefore helps us by allowing control over both our internal and external state of being. The primary intent of Hatha Yoga was to prepare the body to be still in meditation.

2. Karma Yoga

After Hatha Yoga comes the second path of yoga practice which is the Karma Yoga. In this path, selfless service is offered to others without attaching any result or return from the service.

Practicing Karma Yoga is all about performing actions with the consciousness of Spirit. What is most required here and is difficult to attain is the inner renunciation and the release of the ego.

3. Mantra Yoga

The third path to yoga practice is Mantra Yoga. This center around the consciousness within through repeating Sanskrit bija mantras which represents a particular aspect of the Spirit. These mantras work as affirmations of the unity of the individual self with the Divine or Universal Self.

4. Bhakti Yoga 

The fourth path to practicing yoga is the Bhakti Yoga which involves the practice of devotional love.

In this path a Yogi surrenders himself completely in order to strive to perceive the inherent oneness of all beings with the oneness of the Universe. Bhakti Yoga is thereby the path of pure immersion in love thereby maintaining unending worship.

5. Jnana Yoga 

After the above mentioned four paths, comes the final path, which is the fifth path of yoga practice and that is called to be Jnana Yoga. This path is said to be the most difficult as it is a path of wisdom and intents to emphasize on discriminating intelligence in order to achieve spiritual liberation. 

This is called to be the most difficult path because it involves the mind which operates within the sensory, temporal realm which is limited. The four paths help us to broaden this realm and that is when we can get into the fifth path and learn to control it with our mind.

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The Royal Path Of Yoga

The five paths of yoga practice are the basic paths which ultimately lead us to the ‘Royal Path’. Royal Path is the combination of all of the above into one final and complete path which comes full circle. In the Bhagvad Gita this is described as the Raja Yoga which was later systematized by Sri Patanjali.

The Royal Path Of Yoga

The ancient texts of Yoga called the Yoga Sutras are credited to Patanjali where he clearly outlines and explains the ‘eight limbs of Yoga’. These eight limbs involve both inner and outer practices which lead our way to a scientific method of meditation enabling us to perceive our unity with our conscious and eternally blissful Spirit.

Why Is Yoga Important? 

Yoga is something that we do in order to connect and engage with the Universal Spirit of God and to achieve that it takes both our mind and body attention which changes when we practice yoga.

Yoga is the act of connecting with our inner self and therefore what we do on the yoga mat is what it matters. Yoga is the process which helps us understand our body and activates our mind. Therefore practicing yoga characterizes how we move. Therefore, engaging with our mind is necessary which helps us attain the focus.

By practicing yoga, we also work with our emotions so that we build ourselves in such a way that we do not only just respond to the stimuli around us.

Also read our popular post in Yoga Therapy


In a nutshell, if we intend to understand the true meaning of yoga then we shall conclude that it is a discipline to improve and develop the inherent power that lies within us and that too it should be done in a balanced manner.

Practicing yoga is more like a mean that offers us to attain self-realization and allows us to come together with our inner self. It is a mean of uniting the individual spirit with the Universal Spirit of God which is believed to lie inherently with our being.

As Sri Patnajali said, ‘The True Meaning Of Yoga Is The Suppression And The Modification Of The Mind’.

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