Many people today are familiar with the term YOGA. In major cities and even small towns throughout the world, yoga studios and yoga pants abound, and the word yoga can be seen and heard on a daily basis. But do all those discussing yoga have the same thing in mind when using that word?
When hearing the word Yoga, the first things that comes to many peoples’ minds are physical exercises, stretching, and yoga poses. However, Yoga is much more that just exercise. The real meaning of yoga is “union”—union of mind, intellect, emotions, and body, and union of the individual with the universal. It is a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline originating in ancient India.
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi describes this state in his commentary on the Bhagavad-Gita as:
“The height of realization … is to realize the supreme oneness of life in terms of one’s own Self. No diversity of life is able to detract from this state of supreme Unity. One who has reached It is the supporter of all and everything, for he is life eternal. He bridges the gulf between the relative and the Absolute….Yoga [Union] in this state has reached its perfection; there is no level of Union higher than this that he has gained. He stands established on the ultimate level of consciousness.”
Yoga poses, also called asanas, definitely play a role in aligning mind and body. The focus of the practitioner on their body, the stretching, and the long periods of calm focus all serve to reduce stress and enhance health. But if you limit your practice to only yoga exercises, you are missing out on the incredible depth of knowledge and experience available in the study of Yoga.
The Yoga Sutras of Maharishi Patanjali, an aspect of the ancient Vedic literature, explain that (yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ) “Yoga is the complete settling of the activity of the mind.” When the awareness transcends and experiences the source of thought, the unified field, the state of yoga—unity—or samadhi; the mind, intellect, emotions, and body are fully integrated. Transcendental Meditation singlehandedly takes care of integrating, or uniting, all these levels. Many yoga practitioners who add Transcendental Meditation to their daily routine find it provides a deeply satisfying dimension of silence, awareness, and appreciation to their life as a whole; it also enriches their yoga practice. This is because the experience of samadhi (“evenness of intellect” in Sanskrit)—transcendental consciousness—is the basis and ultimate goal of a truly blissful yoga practice.
Maharishi often quoted from the Bhagavad-Gita: Yogastah kuru karmani—“Established in Yoga [Being—pure consciousness], perform action.” The more your activity is infused with that silent level of Being, the more smoothly and effortlessly every aspect of your life will flow in the evolutionary direction, leading to greater success and fulfillment.
On a broader level, engaging in the practice of Yoga creates an effect of coherence and unity in your environment. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra (2.35) says Tat sannidhau vairatyagah: “In the vicinity of coherence—yoga—hostile tendencies are eliminated.” Studies have shown that large group practice of the technologies of yoga—TM and its advanced programs, including the TM-Sidhi* program—have a measurable effect on coherence and orderliness in society as a whole.
Thus Yoga is a means to create world peace, by enlivening unity and coherence between all levels: mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and societal.
*The Transcendental Meditation Sidhi Program also makes use of the knowledge contained in the Yoga Sutras of Maharishi Patanjali, including the sidhi for Yogic Flying. The sidhi sutras train the mind to function from the most silent, settled, unified level of our own pure consciousness.