Yoga never meant physical exercises
Posted June 20, 2015on:
Yoga in Sanskrit never meant physical exercises. Only illiterates use Patanjali’s name with Asanas.
Sage Patanjali lived the life of an ascetic a few centuries before Christ and preached the philosophy of self-discipline aimed at keeping the temptations for worldly possessions under check. Today the name of Patanjali can ensure plenty of cash and land if one is smart enough to sell Patanjali as the author of the Yogic Asanas (with which the Sage had nothing to do).
How and when did the Indian “genius” associate the name of Patanjali with physical exercises is a mystery. Those exploiting the name of Patanjali do not hesitate even in claiming that the “Paatanjala Yoga Sootram” (the treatise authored by Patanjali) contains the details of the Yogic Asanas. A majority of the Indians feel happy (and more willing to pay) if something mundane can be given a divine aura and shown as if having been preached by the Rishis and Munis long ago.
The fact is, Patanjali had nothing to do with the Yogic Asanas and this is not, even remotely, the subject matter of the Paatanjala Yoga Sootram. The word “yoga” in Sanskrit does not even mean physical exercise. Its more common meaning is adding up or joining. It also means earning, as in the LIC motto “Yogakshemam Vahamyaham”. Yoga and Kshema have been defined as “alabdhasya labhah yogah, yogasya samrakshanam kshemah – to earn what is not already in one’s possession is yoga and to preserve what has been earned is kshemah.
Yoga is also a branch of Darshan (philosophy) and Sage Patanjali was the exponent of this branch. Darshan, or the Hindu philosophy, has six schools or branches: Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Sankhya, Yoga, Poorva Mimansa and Uttara Mimansa (which is also known as Vedanta). All these schools or branches have only one final object, the emancipation of the soul from future birth and existence and its absorption into the supreme soul of the universe known, otherwise, as moksha.
Paatanjala Yoga Sootram contains sootras (short rules or aphorisms as was the practice in ancient times). The first sootra is: “Atha Yogaanushasanam” (now the explication of Yoga). The word anushasanam at that time meant explication or elucidation. In the second sootra, the Sage briefly defines Yoga as “Yogashchittavrittinirodhah”, which translated broadly, means: the Yoga is a check on the wanderings of the mind. This can be achieved, the Sage says later on, by practice (abhyaas) and freedom from worldly desires (vairagya).
The reference to the word “asana” comes in the twenty-ninth sootra of Sadhanapaada where the Sage delineates the eight steps which help achieve the final goal. These are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahar, Dharana, Dhyan, and Samadhi. The Asana here simply means sitting in a comfortable position (Sthirasukhamaasanam).
The use of the name of Sage Patanjali for setting up commercial institutes or Vidyapeeths or organising camps is, thus, an injustice to the exponent of the Yoga school of Darshan and also a distortion of the history