Yoga is an ancient practice that creates a sense of union in body, mind, and spirit, bringing us balance. Originating in India thousands of years ago, yoga is a complete science of life. In Sanskrit, yoga means “union,” derived from the root Yuj (to join, to concentrate one’s attention on), meaning to bind, join, attach, and yoke.

The Philosophy of Yoga

Yoga is one of the six orthodox systems of Indian philosophy. Mahashi Patanjali compiled and systematically coordinated it in his classical work, the Yoga Sutras, which consists of 185 terse aphorisms. Thus, Mahashi Patanjali is regarded as the propounder of Yoga philosophy. The system of yoga teaches the means by which the individual soul can unite with the Divine, securing liberation. According to yoga, true happiness, liberation, and enlightenment come from union with divine consciousness. One who follows the path of yoga is a Yogi.

There are four main forms of Yoga, according to one school of thought, namely Mantra Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Laya Yoga, and Raja Yoga; Kundalini Yoga is really Laya Yoga.

There is another classification: Jnana Yoga, Raja Yoga, Laya Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and Mantra Yoga. This classification is based on the idea that there are five aspects of spiritual life: Dharma, Kriya, Bhava, Jnana, and Yoga; Mantra Yoga is said to be of two kinds depending on whether it is pursued along the path of Kriya or Bhava.

There are seven Sadhanas of Yoga: Sat-Karma, Asana, Mudra, Pratyahara, Pranayama, Dhyana, and Samadhi.

Sat-Karma refers to the cleansing of the body. Asana involves seat postures for Yoga purposes. Mudra is the use of symbolic hand gestures. Pratyahara involves the abstraction of the senses from their objects. Pranayama is breath-control. Dhyana refers to meditation, and Samadhi represents ecstasy, which can be of two kinds—imperfect (Savikalpa) where dualism is not wholly overcome, and perfect (Nirvikalpa) which is complete monistic experience.

The realization of the Truth of the Mahavakya "AHAM BRAHMASMI" ("I am Brahman") represents a knowledge in the sense of realization which does not produce Liberation (Moksha) but is Liberation itself. The Samadhi of Laya Yoga is said to be Savikalpa Samadhi, and that of complete Raja Yoga is said to be Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

The first four processes are physical, while the last three are mental and supramental.