“As a well-cut diamond has many facets, each facet reflecting a different colour of light, so does the word yoga, each facet reflecting a different shade of meaning, and revealing different aspects of the entire range of human endeavor to win inner peace and happiness.” - B.K.S. Iyengar
The exact origin of yoga is difficult to date. References to yoga, and its definitions and interpretations, have consistently appeared in scriptures. Some of these definitions include:
The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root meaning 'Yuj' meaning to bind, join, attach, and yoke.
Yoga is sometimes divided into four paths: Bhakti Mārg, Jñāna Mārg, Karma Mārg and Yoga Mārg (also referred to as Rāja-Yoga Mārg). These paths are not based on hard and fast rules. They are paths to self-realisation that are based on the inherent tendencies of the aspirant. An aspirant who has a tendency to serve others chooses the path of action (Karma Mārg); An aspirant whose heart is full of emotion can attain self realisation through the path of devotion (Bhakti Mārg); the aspirant who has high intellectual capacity treads the path of knowledge (Jñāna Mārg) the meditative and reflective aspirant chooses the path of Yoga (or Rāja Yoga). Patanjali states in the Yoga Sutra (II.1) that Bhakti Mārg, Jñāna Mārg and Karma Mārg are included in Yoga Mārg. Tapas indicates the path of Karma, Svādhyāya indicates the path of Jñāna and Iśvara pranidhāna indicates the path of Bhakti. Expressed another way, each human being is made up of three parts: the arms and legs for action, the head for thinking, and the heart for devotion and surrender. The path of yoga is thus the fountainhead for these paths and finally all three paths merge in to the fourth – yoga.
The credit of collating, systemising, and codifying the entire philosophy of yoga goes to Sage Patanjali, regarded as the codifier of the subject of yoga. Historically, Patanjali may have lived between 500 and 200 B.C. He chose to write on three subjects: grammar, medicine and yoga. The Yoga Sūtra, his culminating work, is his distillation of human knowledge. His 196 aphorisms or sutra’s cover all aspects of life, beginning with a prescribed code of conduct, and ending with man’s vision of his true Self.
The eight limbs/ aspects of Yoga as enumerated by Patanjali are:
“As lions, elephants and tigers are tamed very slowly and cautiously, so should prāna be brought under control very slowly in gradation measured according to one’s capacity and physical limitations. Otherwise it will kill the practitioner.” warns the Hatha Yoga Pradīpika.
"Yoga is a practical subject. It is a direct and experiential subject rather than a discursive one."
“Analytical intelligence is easy to come by, but not practical intelligence.”
"Words cannot convey the value of yoga. It has to be experienced."
In order to ensure that these most basic concepts are not coloured by our interpretation, the text in this section is largely derived from publications written by Shri BKS Iyengar, or put out by RIMYI/ other Iyengar Yoga Associations around the world. All copyrights on content are held by the original sources
References for the content in this section:
Light on Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar, 1966, Introduction
Light on Astanga Yoga, B.K.S Iyengar, 2008, page 15-19
Light on Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, B. K. S. Iyengar, 1993, page 1
The Path of Yoga, page 50, Yogadhara, 2000, published by the Light on Yoga Research Trust
“What is Yoga?”, B.K.S. Iyengar, Yoga Rahasya, Vol 18, No. 3, 2011
Tree of Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar, Hsrper Collins Publishers in India, 2009, Chapter Patenjali’s Yoga Sutras; page 113
Basic Guidelines for Teachers of Yoga – B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar; published by YOG; 2003; page 80