Yoga (Sanskrit: योग, "union of atman (individual Self) with paramåtma (Universal Self)") derived from the root yuj, "to join, to unite, to attach" — spiritual practices performed primarily as a means to enlightenment (or bodhi). Traditionally, Karma Yoga (through action), Bhakti Yoga (through devotion), jñåna-yoga (through knowledge), and dhyåna-yoga (through meditation) are considered the four main yogas. In the West, yoga has become associated with the asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga, popular as fitness exercises. Yoga has many other meaning. For example, in astronomy and astrology it refers to a conjunction (union) of planets.

Definitions of Yoga

"Yoga is the control of the whirls of the mind (citta)."—Yoga-Sûtra (1.2)
"Yoga is skill in [the performance of] actions."—Bhagavad-Gîtâ (2.50)
"Yoga is ecstasy (samâdhi)."—Yoga-Bhâshya (1.1)
"Yoga is said to be the oneness of breath, mind, and senses, and the abandonment of all states of existence."—Maitrî-Upanishad (6.25)
"Yoga is the union of the individual psyche (jîva-âtman) with the transcendental Self (parama-âtman). —Yoga-Yâjnavalkya (1.44)
"Yoga is said to be the unification of the web of dualities (dvandva-jâla)."—Yoga-Bîja (84)
"Yoga is known as the disconnection (viyoga) of the connection (samyoga) with suffering."— Bhagavad-Gîtâ (6.23)
"Yoga is said to be control."—Brahmânda-Purâna (
"Yoga is the separation (viyoga) of the Self from the World-Ground (prakriti)."—Râja-Mârtanda (1.1)
"Yoga is said to be the unity of exhalation and inhalation and of blood and semen, as well as the union of sun and moon and of the individual psyche with the transcendental Self."— Yoga-Shikhâ-Upanishad (1.68-69)
"This they consider Yoga: the steady holding of the senses."—Katha-Upanishad(6.11)
"Yoga is called balance (samatva)."—Bhagavad-Gîtâ (2.48)

7 Principle Yoga

Yoga is a profound tradition, which has a history of 5,000 or more years. Beginners are easily overwhelmed by the vastness and richness of Yoga's practice, philosophy, and literature. But there are a few underlying principles that, once grasped, provide easier access to all the numerous aspects of Yoga. Here are ten such fundamental principles.

  1. Râja-Yoga is the “Royal Yoga” aiming at liberation through meditation, which is for practitioners who are capable of intense concentration—the eightfold path of Patanjali’s ashta-anga-yoga, also called “Classical Yoga”
  2. Hatha-Yoga is the “Forceful Yoga” aiming at liberation through physical transformation
  3. Jnâna-Yoga is the “Wisdom of Yoga” aiming at liberation through the steady application of higher wisdom that clearly discerns between the real and the unreal
  4. Karma-Yoga is the “Action Yoga” aiming at liberation through self-transcending service
  5. Bhakti-Yoga is the “Devotional Yoga” aiming at liberation through self-surrender in the face of the Divine
  6. Tantra-Yoga is the “Continuity Yoga” aiming at liberation through ritual, visualization, subtle energy work, and the perception of the identity (or continuity) of the ordinary world and the transcendental Reality
  7. Mantra-Yoga is the “Yoga of Potent Sound” aiming at liberation through the recitation (aloud or mental) of empowered sounds (such as om, hûm, ram, hare krishna, etc.)—often considered an aspect of Tantra-Yoga

Branches or Types of Yoga

The following is a descriptive list of forty yogic approaches or features of the path. Not all of these form full-fledged branches or types of Yoga, but they represent at least emphases in diverse contexts. All of them are instructive insofar as they demonstrate the vast scope of Hindu Yoga.

The unitive discipline of nonbeing, meaning the higher yogic practice of immersion into the Self without objective support such as mantras; a concept found in the Purânas; cf. Bhâva-Yoga
The unitive discipline of the inner self; sometimes said to be the Yoga characteristic of the Upanishads
The unitive discipline of fire, causing the awakening of the serpent power (kundalinî-shakti) through the joint action of mind (manas) and life force (prâna)
The unitive discipline of the eight limbs, i.e., Râja-Yoga or Pâtanjala-Yoga
The unitive discipline of "noncontact," which is the nondualist Yoga propounded by Gaudapâda in his Mândûkya-Kârikâ; cf. Sparsha-Yoga
The unitive discipline of love/devotion, as expounded, for instance, in the Bhagavad-Gîtâ, the Bhâgavata-Purâna, and numerous other scriptures of Shaivism and Vaishnavism
The unitive discipline of the higher mind, first mentioned in the Bhagavad-Gîtâ
The unitive discipline of meditation
The unitive discipline of the "pot" (ghata), meaning the body; a synonym for Hatha-Yoga mentioned in the Gheranda-Samhitâ
The unitive discipline relative to one's teacher
The unitive discipline of the force (meaning the serpent power or kundalinî-shakti); or forceful unitive discipline
The unitive discipline of Hiranyagarbha ("Golden Germ"), who is considered the original founder of the Yoga tradition
The unitive discipline of mantra recitation
The unitive discipline of discriminating wisdom, which is the approach of the Upanishads
The unitive discipline of self-transcending action, as first explicitly taught in the Bhagavad-Gîtâ
The unitive discipline of the Kaula school, a Tantric Yoga
The unitive discipline of ritual; also the combined practice of asceticism (tapas), study (svâdhyâya), and worship of the Lord (îshvara-pranidhâna) mentioned in the Yoga-Sûtra of Patanjali
The unitive discipline of the serpent power (kundalinî-shakti), which is fundamental to the Tantric tradition, including Hatha-Yoga
The unitive discipline of the "hanger," meaning the uvula, which is deliberately stimulated in this yogic approach to increase the flow of "nectar" (amrita) whose external aspect is saliva
The unitive discipline of absorption or dissolution of the elements prior to their natural dissolution at death
The great unitive discipline, a concept found in the Yoga-Shikhâ-Upanishad where it refers to the combined practice of Mantra-Yoga, Laya-Yoga, Hatha-Yoga, and Râja-Yoga
The unitive discipline of numinous sounds that help protect the mind, which has been a part of the Yoga tradition ever since Vedic times
The unitive discipline of the inner sound, a practice closely associated with original Hatha-Yoga
The unitive discipline of the fifteen limbs (pancadasha-anga): (1) moral discipline (yama), (2) restraint (niyama), (3) renunciation (tyâga), (4) silence (mauna), (5) right place (desha), (6) right time (kâla), (7) posture (âsana), (8) root lock (mûla-bandha), (9) bodily equilibrium (deha-samya), (10) stability of vision (dhrik-sthiti), (11) control of the life force (prâna-samrodha), (12) sensory inhibition (pratyâhâra), (13) concentration (dhâranâ), (14) meditation upon the Self (âtma-dhyâna), and (15) ecstasy (samâdhi)
The unitive discipline of the Pâshupata sect, as expounded in some of the Purânas
The unitive discipline of Patanjali, better known as Râja-Yoga or Yoga-Darshana
The unitive discipline of wholeness or integration, which is the name of Sri Aurobindo's Yoga
The royal unitive discipline, also called Pâtanjala-Yoga, Ashtânga-Yoga, or Râja-Yoga
The unitive discipline of ecstasy
The unitive discipline of insight, which is the name of certain liberation teachings and schools referred to in the Mahâbhârata
The unitive discipline of renunciation, which is contrasted against Karma-Yoga in the Bhagavad-Gîtâ
The unitive discipline of sexual congress (maithunâ) in Tantra-Yoga
The unitive discipline of hatred, as mentioned in the Vishnu-Purâna, which illustrates the profound yogic principle that one becomes what one constantly contemplates (even if charged with negative emotions)
The unitive discipline of the seven limbs (sapta-anga), also known as Sapta-Sâdhana in the Gheranda-Samhitâ: (1) six purificatory practices (shat-karma), (2) posture (âsana), (3) seal (mudrâ), (4) sensory inhibition (pratyâhâra), (5) breath control (prânâyâma), (6) meditation (dhyâna), and (7) ecstasy (samâdhi)
The unitive discipline of the six limbs (shad-anga), as expounded in the Maitrâyanîya-Upanishad: (1) breath control (prânâyâma), (2) sensory inhibition (pratyâhâra), (3) meditation (dhyâna), (4) concentration (dhâranâ), (5) examination (tarka), and (6) ecstasy (samâdhi)
The unitive discipline of the adepts, a concept found in some of the Tantras
The unitive discipline of contact; a Vedantic Yoga mentioned in the Shiva-Purâna, which combines mantra recitation with breath control; cf. Asparsha-Yoga
The unitive discipline of the Tantras, a kundalinî-based Yoga
The unitive discipline of the "deliverer" (târaka); a medieval Yoga based on light phenomena
The unitive discipline of focusing the mind upon geometric representations (yantra) of the cosmos.




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