1. the cell resulting from the union of an ovum (egg) and a spermatozoon (sperm).
2. The organism that develops from such a cell
Origin: from Greek zugotos – yoked, from zugoun – to yoke (from dictionary.com)
The evolution of a yogi really begins with the cell that eventually results in a human life: the zygote. Since the word zygote originates from a Greek word meaning “to yoke,” it is clear that one’s very conception was an act of yoga (union). Before the breath could be yoked to the movement, before the mind could be yoked to the present moment, the egg was yoked to the sperm and, from a unique sequence of only four different DNA nucleotides, a complex being began to form. From this same simple code with only four “letters,” all living cells hold within themselves instructions for their entire being.
After the initial union, this original cell began to make numerous identical copies of itself, all of which had the potential to perform any of the myriad of different functions encoded for on the long sequences of DNA found in each cell. However, in order to form a functional, cooperative living being, these cells had to lose the capacity to become any of the tissue types and each group of cells became specialized for a specific type of tissue and a specific function. By giving up their potential to do everything, these cells became part of a whole that is arguably greater than any of these cells could have been on their own.
As the development of the embryo progressed, two layers formed in the embryonic disk (which becomes the organism). Cells from the outer layer multiplied and eventually migrated between the outer and inner layer, forming a middle layer. This middle layer later develops into muscles, bones and the circulatory system, which are necessary for the physical experience of yoga.
The heart began to develop as a horseshoe-shaped collection of angiogenetic cells above the head and, as the head bent forward due to its rapid growth and weight, it deposited the heart onto the front of the chest. The head remained in this position, jalandhara bandha, until birth. So, originally, we all developed with our hearts above our heads and then with our eyes fixed on our hearts, but birth and the external world somehow distracted us from our union with the heart center.
At birth, the blood vessel that was originally bypassing the lungs before the baby was born miraculously and virtually instantly shuts, sending the blood through the lungs as the newborn takes its first breath. This is both the beginning of life and the beginning of death because every soul who has taken a breath on this Earth will also die here. Even still, what choice is there than to look up from the heartward gaze, taking that first breath of a world in which we will again look for the heart and yet not find it because it is already within us. So begins the molecular and energetic dance that we call life.