This article was published in Yoga Vaani, in September 2000.
Link to pdf of full article.
The article titled "Excerpts from Light on Astanga Yoga" by B.K.S. Iyengar discusses the historical and evolving definitions of yoga. It begins by stating that yoga is as ancient as civilization itself, created by Brahma, the world's creator, and elaborates on the Vedic understanding of yoga's origins. The term "yoga" is derived from the Sanskrit root "yuj," meaning to join or unite, symbolizing the concentration of one's energy in the pursuit of ultimate truth or union with the divine.
Patanjali's definition of yoga is explored in detail. Patanjali emphasized the practice of discipline (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya), which lead to the restraint of mental fluctuations and modifications (citta vritti nirodha). This practical philosophy of yoga aims to cleanse the mind and consciousness, replace negative tendencies with positive ones, and ultimately eradicate all tendencies.
The article further discusses how modern practitioners often pursue yoga as a way to alleviate physical and mental suffering. It explains that yoga offers a means to overcome the impressions (samskaras) that lead to sorrow and pain. The practice of yoga, according to Patanjali, involves cultivating new, positive samskaras while gradually restraining and eradicating existing tendencies.
In summary, the article presents a historical overview of the evolving definitions of yoga, highlighting its focus on uniting the individual with the divine, achieving equanimity and skillful action, and ultimately cleansing the mind and eradicating negative tendencies.