Srila Prabhupada once said, ‘It is a remarkable thing that the perfection of yoga was taught in the middle of a battlefield.’ And indeed we must agree. Yoga generally happens in a quiet place, far from the madding crowd. The mood and energy in a battlefield is quite the opposite.
So what does this say about the yoga Krishna discusses in the Gita? Arjuna, the warrior, wants to quit. For the greater good he wants to step away from the great battle just about to start. Krishna wants him to stay and fight - also for the greater good. It goes back and forth. Where is the sense of yoga there?
The key is in the first response that Krishna gives Arjuna. In the middle of life, often in a battlefield-like moment, we often forget who we are. So after Arjuna gives his good reasons why he should step away from the fight, Krishna first of all reminds him of the nature and position of the soul. That he is not the body, but the soul, that which animates his body.
From that foundational perspective the whole Gita ensues. What do we do with the body? How best to live and work? What about the mind? What really is renunciation - giving everything away or knowing to whom everything belongs? Who am I anyway?
The sanskrit word yoga means ‘to link’. In the Gita, yoga is also defined as ‘the art of all work’ - linking our external behavior to our consciousness and intention, and also linking our soul self to the supreme self . There are three types of yoga discussed - karma yoga (working without attachment to the results), jnana yoga (the study of philosophy directed at understanding our spiritual essence) and ultimately, the most powerful, bhakti yoga (activities performed as loving devotional service).
In the end we learn that yoga is not just a posture, a downward dog or a pranayama. Yoga is the process to understand what is at the heart of life, at the heart of the actions of living, and the personal experiences and relationships found there. It’s a remarkable thing and we can learn it in the middle of our everyday life, just as Arjuna did.