So much misinterpretation of the word has happened that speaking about what is not yoga is more relevant. Standing on your head is not yoga, holding your breath is not yoga, twisting your body is not yoga. Yes, these are various yogic practices, but when we say “yoga” we are referring to a certain state —a certain way of being.
The word “yoga” means union. Union means you begin to experience the universality of who you are. For example, today, modern science proves to you beyond any doubt that the whole Existence is just one energy manifesting itself in various forms.
If this scientific fact becomes a living reality for you, that you begin to experience everything as one, then you are in yoga. Once you experience yourself as everything, or everything as yourself, after that nobody has to tell you how to be in this world. If you experience all the people here as yourself, does anybody have to teach you morals as to how to be? Does anybody have to tell you “don’t harm this person, don’t kill this person and don’t rob this person?” So when you are in yoga, you experience everything as a part of yourself, and that is liberation, that is mukti; that is ultimate freedom.
Yoga is not a religion. Yoga is a science. As there are physical sciences to create external wellbeing, yoga is the science for inner wellbeing. Yoga has nothing to do with any particular religion; it is a science for inner wellbeing. This yogic science is of utmost importance now, like never before, because today we have tremendous power in our hands. With modern science and technology, tomorrow if we want, we can flatten a mountain or city. When we have this much power in our hands, it is very, very important, that we have an inner sense, an awareness of life and that we experience life and everyone as part of ourselves. Otherwise, we can create a calamity for ourselves and the world around us—which right now we are doing to some extent. This has happened only because we have attended only to the external science. We have never looked at the inner science within us. Just as there is an external science to create external wellbeing, there is an inner science to create inner wellbeing. So, the whole science of what we refer to as yoga is an inner science.
Yoga can be transmitted on many different levels. One is towards one’s physical and mental wellbeing which includes health and other aspects. Or it could be transmitted as a tool for ultimate wellbeing; in the sense you can use this system as a stepping stone to go beyond. You can use this yoga just to get rid of your backache if you want or you can use this yoga to get better mental focus and little peace of mind and happiness in your life or you can use this yoga as a way of climbing up to the highest possibility within yourself. Using yoga just for health is not wrong, but it is a crime, because it can take you to places where you have never imagined. It is a way of approaching the Creator through the Creation. It can be a ladder to the divine.