Yoga has been defined in many texts, in various contexts. Below are descriptions and definitions of Yoga as defined in the classic texts. I encourage you to choose a definition that resonates with you and practice to realize it.
Patanjali Yoga Stras 1.2, 1.3, 2.1
Yoga is the nirodha(mastery, regulation, discipline, cessation, stoppage, suspension, freedom, channeling, integration, coordination, stilling, quieting) of mental modifications(gross and subtle thought patterns and fluctuations of the mind, like distraction, focus, overwhelm, dullness, momentary focus, sleeping, dreaming, awakeness, etc.).
Then the practitioner (as seer) abides in Self, resting in its own true nature. This is Yoga.
With the intense, sincere, dedicated practice to study Self and study the text comes the realization of Yoga. When such a realization dawns upon a seeker, they must practice detachment and complete surrender to the divine. This completes the practice of Yoga.
Charaka Samhita(Sharira-Sthana 1.137)
Yoga is that which inspires and grants liberation from the incessant cycles of birth and death/happiness and suffering/attachment and loss(moksha).
Gheranda Samhita 1.4, 1.5
There is no bondage stronger then maya, nothing that brings as much strength(physical, mental, pranic and karmic) as Yoga, no greater friend than knowledge and no bigger enemy than ego.
Just as with the study of alphabets comes the knowledge of great texts, with the study/practice of Yoga comes the knowledge of truth/substance of truth.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika 1.2
After offering prayers, gratitude, and respect to the Guru Srinatha, Svatmarama begins to share about Hatha Yoga( of asana, pranayama, kriyas, mudras, and bandhas), which has only goal and that is to attain and realize Raja Yoga(the state of highest realization, known as Samadhi).
(Here, it becomes clear that the purpose of any kind of practice – from cleansing, to postures, breathing, meditation, etc., is to attain the state of Samadhi, and that is the real Yoga. Yoga is not the name of the practice or techniques.)
Bhagavad Gita 2.48, 2.50
Perform your duty/righteous actions remaining centered/equipoised without any attachment to the success/failure. Such equanimity is Yoga.
Skill in action in Yoga. Such a skill is defined as performing the task at hand with complete devotion and surrender. The practitioner of such a task is forever free/transcends the bondage of good and bad karma in this lifetime itself.
Yoga Vasistha 3.6.32
Sage Vasistha defines Yoga as “the practice for the mind to become perfectly steady, calm, still, clear and peaceful.”
Katha Upanishad 6.10, 6.11
When the practitioner goes beyond the experience, attachment, and impressions of the five senses (eyes, nose, skin, ears, tongue) and the fluctuations of the mind and remains still with the limited individual intellect merged in the unmanifest universal consciousness, that highest state is Yoga. This is the ultimate goal, there is nothing higher.
- Article from the book “Yoga, Ancient Heritage, Tomorrow’s Vision’ by Dr. Indu Arora.