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What is Yoga?

As an answer to this question one would normally expect to find an encyclopaedic definition of Yoga. We are used to approaching topics of interest intellectually, using our heads. This may be appropriate on some occasions as our mind is a greatly useful and important tool, however, its use concerning the understanding of yoga is a completely different matter. Not that yoga is illogical...


Yoga accepts no limitatons

Yoga simply doesn’t fit into our general way of thinking, or better still, our way of thinking is not compatible with yoga. Our limitations make us feel as if we are part of the universe when actually the reverse is true, with the universe being merely a part of the human consciousness. Our minds find this inconceivable but for the self-realised human being this is no antiquated theory, no empty philosophical concept but a highly vivid and profound experience - and by the way – this awareness provides enough room for plenty of intellectual understanding.


Yoga, generally speaking

Yoga is one of India’s six significant, basic philosophical systems with The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali being of fundamental importance.

Patanjali managed to write the Yoga Sutras in such a way that combined the various branches of yoga. The term yoga is often used in a broader sense – as a synonym for every path to enlightenment. This is the same definition we use and is essential for the comprehension of the following.


The Ultimate Goal of Yoga

The main objective of yoga is spiritual self-realisation. Other methods also pursue this goal.
For example: Zen, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Christian mysticism etc. Using the term “yoga” as a synonym for all of these teachings highlights the fact that all paths unite in the end. Especially the aforementioned non-dualistic traditions make important contributions towards that.


Classical Yoga Paths

According to the scriptures, the ancient Masters created four types of classical yoga, all of which are fundamentally different from one another in structure and orientation, to meet the preferences of those practising. They are as follows:

Jnana Yoga

the path of knowledge and insight

Bhakti Yoga

the path of devotion

Raja Yoga

- the path of mastery of the mind

Karma Yoga

the path of selfless action

All other paths are more or less derivations and variations of these four basic types:

Mantra Yoga

the path of reciting holy syllables

Hatha Yoga *

a system of purification practices and physical exercises as a preparation for meditation. Precursor for a more advanced types of Yoga; namely Raja Yoga

Kundalini Yoga

the path of energy


Contemporary Yoga forms, (from the mid- 20th century):

Kriya Yoga

a combination of Raja Yoga and a special version of Kundalni Yoga

Integral Yoga

a synthesis of various yoga paths


*) including a myriad of Hatha Yoga variations in the West.

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