What is Yoga
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word
"Yuj" meaning to yoke, join or
unite. This implies joining or integrating all aspects of
the individual - body with mind and mind with soul - to achieve
a happy, balanced and useful life, and spiritually, uniting
the individual with the supreme.
In India, Yoga is considered one of the six branches of classical
philosophy and is referred to throughout the Vedas - ancient
Indian scriptures and amongst the oldest texts in existence.The
Upanishads are also broadly philosophical treatises which
postdate the Vedas and deal with the nature of the "soul"
However, the origins of yoga are believed to be much older
than that, stemming from the oral traditions of Yogis, where
knowledge of Yoga was handed down from Guru (spiritual teacher)
to Sisya (spiritual student) all the way back to the originators
of Yoga, "the Rishis," who first began investigation
into the nature of reality and man's inner world.
Legend has it that knowledge of Yoga was first passed by
Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati and from there into the lives
The Aim of Yoga
According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the ultimate aim
of Yoga is to reach "Kaivalya" (emancipation or
ultimate freedom). This is the experience of one's innermost
being or "soul" (the Purusa). Then one becomes free
of chains of cause and effect (Karma) which tie us to continual
reincarnation. In Kaivalya one is said to exist in peace and
tranquillity, having attained absolute knowledge of the difference
between the spiritual which is timeless, unchanging and free
of sorrows, and the material which is not.
This is considered desirable as life is analysed as ultimately
full of sorrows and pain- even pleasure and joy leave pain
and loss when they have gone as nothing in the material world
Yoga is therefore a spiritual quest. However, along the path
of yoga, the aspirant also gains health, happiness, tranquillity
and knowledge which are indicators of progress and an encouragement
to continue their practice. Buddhism and other Eastern spiritual
traditions use many techniques derived from Yoga.
The Paths of Yoga
There are said to be 4 main paths (Margas), according to
the Bhagavad Gita, by which to reach the ultimate goal of
Yoga - "Kaivalya." There is the path of Knowledge
(Jnana Marga) in which one learns to discriminate between
what is real and what is illusory, the path of selfless work
(Karma marga), the path of devotion (Bhakti Marga) and the
path of control of the mind (Yoga Marga) where all the activities
of the mind and consciousness are studied and brought under
control. From these have come the various paths of yoga which
can be followed.
- Raja yoga involves mastery of the mind and senses in
Samadhi; essentially the advanced aspects of Patanjali's
- Hatha yoga is the yoga of the will which involves cultivating
ones energy to arouse Kundalini primarily by means of asana
- Mantra yoga involves reciting sacred syllables to reach
- Laya yoga involves absorption in god to experience ultimate
- Bhakti yoga requires absolute devotion to god to achieve
the ultimate goal.
- Karma yoga achieves this through selfless work without
thought of personal reward.
- Jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge cultivating the discrimination
between spiritual reality and the illusion of the material
- It must be realised that there are no clear cut boundaries
between these various paths and all draw on the practices
and philosophy of the others; effectively all paths have
the same goal and "tread the same terrain." They
are different views of the same topic.