Philosophy: Defining Yoga – What is Yoga and Why Do We Practice It?

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Lesson Overview

In this lesson, we explore many expert definitions of yoga, and why people practice.


Be aware of the profound depth and potential scope of yoga as a philosophy and practice, and consider multiple perspectives on the purpose of practice.


Note that there are many meanings of the word yoga and consider why that may be so. Define yoga according to its Sanskrit origins and explain the context from which yoga philosophy originates. Describe some of the many ways in which experts have defined and described yoga. Distinguish the definition of yoga from why we practice it, offering perspectives on the purpose of practice, both short-term and what might be considered the grander or ultimate purpose.

Questions Answered Here

  1. How has yoga scholar Mircea Eliade explained the reason for so many meanings of yoga.
  2. Explain the Sanskrit origins of the word, yoga.
  3. How can yoga be defined in terms of its origins?
  4. Describe how yoga has been defined by such experts as T.K.V. Desikachar, Nischala Joy Devi, Dr. David Frawley, B.K.S. Iyengar, Geeta Iyengar, C.G. Jung, Joseph LePage, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Erich Schiffman, Mukunda Stiles and Rod Stryker.
  5. While the purpose of yoga is closely related to the definition, describe ways that experts have distinguished these concepts.

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