In a previous thought bite, we discussed the first sutra of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, atha yoga anushashanam, and focused on the first word, atha—one translation of which into English is “now.” This thought bite focuses on the second word of that first sutra, yoga.
The word yoga is defined in the second sutra: yoga chitta vrtti nirodha—one translation of which is “yoga is mastering/ceasing the thought waves in the lake of the mind.” So, when one has risen from slave to master of the mind and is thus able to quell the mind’s waves so the mind becomes silent, that is yoga.
Let’s look at another definition: The great commentator on the Yoga Sutras, Vyāsa, said, “yoga samadhi,” which we can translate as “yoga is samadhi.” As you may know, when in samadhi, the mind is so concentrated, so one pointed, that there isn’t even any self-awareness. Rather, there is only awareness of the object of concentration to the extent that it is as if one becomes that object. It is as if one unifies with that object. This makes sense because a more general translation of the word yoga is to unify, to bring things together.
The ultimate unification is of the small-self and the True-Self. When the thought waves in the mind are silenced, then one is able to directly experience the True-Self, pure consciousness, and to know oneself to be that True-Self. Before that, when the mind is filled with vrttis, waves, one identifies with those thought waves, with material objects.
So, yoga is when the mind is completely still and one unifies with and knows oneself to be the True-Self.