Yoga (Sanscrit yug, "to join;" hence, junction, and figuratively, contemplation, religious or abstract) is the name of one of the two divisions of the Sankhya (q.v.) philosophy of the Hindius. The main object of the Yoga is to establish the doctrine of a supreme being, and to teach the means by which the human soul may become permanently united with it. The reputed author of the system is Patanjali, who explains the term Yogat as meaning "the hindering of the modifications of thinking." These are accomplished either by a repeated effort to keep .the mind in its unmodified state, or by dispassion, which is the consciousness of having overcome all desires for objects that are seen or heard. According to the founder of the system, the practical Yoga by which "concentration" is to be attained comprises mortification, the muttering of certain hymns, and a devoted reliance on the Supreme Being. Through it meditations are established, and afflictions got rid of. By afflictions are understood ignorance, egotism, affection, aversion, and tenacity of life; which terms are then the subject of an especial investigation into the nature of what is to be got rid of, of what is not desired to be got rid of, of what is constituted by the cause, and of what is the constitutive cause.
There are eight means or stages subservient to the attainment of concentration, viz. yama, forbearance; niyama, religious observance; asana, postures; pranayama, regulation of the breath; pratyabara, restraint of the senses; dharana, steadying of the mind; dhyana, contemplation; and samadhi, profound meditation. The practical part of the Yoga was admitted into the later Vedanta (q.v.). Its ethical part is especially dwelt upon in the Mahabharata (q.v.). But the great power it has at all periods exercised over the Hindu mind is less derived from its philosophical speculations, or its moral injunctions, than from the wonderful effects which the Yoga practices are supposed to produce, and from the countenance they give to the favorite tendency of orthodox Hinduism — the performance of austerities. Frequently these practices were and are merely a cloak for imposture and hypocrisy. Professional Yogins (q.v.), numbers of whom are met with throughout India are often nothing but lazy mendicants or jugglers, who, by impressing the vulgar with a belief in their supernatural powers, convert it into a source of easy livelihood. Such followers of Yoga pretend, for instance, to foretell future events; they deal in palmistry, and profess to cure diseases. There are instances, too, where, for a handsome consideration, they allow themselves to be buried for a certain time, so as to exhibit the power of the Yoga. Two such cases are related as authentic in the treatise of Navinachandrapala; and it would appear from them that a human being, after having undergone certain preparations, such as the Yoga prescribes, may be shut up in a box, without either food or drink, for the space of a month, or even forty days and nights, and yet remain alive. The author of the treatise endeavors, indeed, to show that the rules laid down by the Yoga regarding the mode of respiration, the postures, and the diet of a Yogin, may have been founded on a careful observation of hibernating animals; and in support of this view he enters into a detailed investigation of the effect of the Yoga practices on animal life. If, as it seems, his statements are correct, much of what otherwise would be incredible in the accounts given of the performances of the Yogins, could be received as true, because admitting of explanation.
The system of Patanjali was taught by him in a little work called Yogasutra, which consists of four padas, or chapters, each comprising a number of sutras, (q.v.). The oldest commentary on it is ascribed to a Vyasa (q.v.); and this was commented on by Vachaspati Misra. Foran elaborate enumeration of works on the Yoga, see A Contribution towards an Index
to the Bibliography of the Indian Philosophical Systems, by Fitzedward Hall (Calcutta, 1859). The first two chapters of the sutras have been translated, with annotations-founded on the commentary of Bhojaveda, by the late J.R. Ballantyne (Allahabad, 1853); and a paraphrase, but somewhat too free, of the same commentary is contained in volume 4 of William Ward's View of the History, Literature, and Religion of the Hindus, etc. (Lond. 1817-20, 4 volumes). For a brief account of the system, see also volume 1 of H.T. Colebrooke's Miscellaneous Essays (Lond. 1837, 2 volumes); and for the practice of the Yoga, A Treatise on the Yoga Philosophy, by N.C. Paul (Berlares, 1851).