Question: What is the goal of yoga?
Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda: Many believe yoga is simply a form of physical exercise, but actually, yoga is a world view, a lens through which we see everything, and a complete lifestyle. The goal of all yoga practices is to lead one to a correct understanding of one's identity and purpose for existence—and apply that understanding in one’s life. Unlike religion, in which an individual may believe or not believe in something (regardless of its truth or untruth), the process of yoga is one that allows a person to experience direct perception of the absolute truth. In other words, it is a science, and as a science it is a quest to understand or know the truth as it is—regardless of whether the yoga practitioner wants to believe that truth or not. True understanding of the nature of things and their actual relationships is known as self-realization. Acting on the basis of that self-realization is known as wisdom. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras state:
“Incorrect knowledge formed about something, which is not based on its true nature, is called false understanding (misconception).”
Various yoga processes, including asanas, pranayama, meditation, etc., are meant to remove such misconceptions. According to Patanjali:
“The sources of correct understanding are direct perception, inference, and the words (written or spoken) of self-realized authorities.”