What is Yoga?
Yoga is a process of reversing the ordinary outward flow of energy and consciousness. The word Yoga itself means, Union of the Individual Consciousness or Soul with the Universal Consciousness. Though many people think of yoga only as physical exercises — the Asanas or postures that have gained widespread popularity in recent decades — these are the most superficial aspect.
Our awareness and energies are directed outward, to the things of this world, which we perceive through the limited instruments of our five senses. Most of us are accustomed to looking outside of ourselves for fulfillment. We are living in a world that bounded us to believe that outer attainments satisfy our needs and desires. By practicing the step-by-step methods of Yoga taking nothing for granted on emotional grounds or through blind faith we come to know our oneness with the Infinite Intelligence, Power, and Joy which gives life to all and which is the essence of self-realization.
There are various paths of Yoga that lead toward this goal, each one a specialized branch of one comprehensive system:
Hatha Yoga — A system of physical postures, or Asanas, whose higher purpose is to purify the body, giving one awareness and control over its internal states and rendering it fit for meditation.
Kundalini Yoga – Powerful breathing technique to awaken one’s potential power and consciousness and to circulate it through the seven principal chakras between the base of the spine and the crown of the head. It awakens the kundalini shakti (latent faculties) associated with the seven chakras.
Karma Yoga — Selfless service to others without attachment to the results and the performance of all actions with the conscious as service to God.
Mantra Yoga — Concentrating the consciousness through Japa, the repetition of certain universal root sounds called “Bija’’ representing a particular aspect of the Soul.
Bhakti Yoga — Complete surrendering devotion through which one strives to see and love the divinity in every creature and in everything, thus maintaining never-ending worship.
Gyana Yoga — The path of wisdom, which highlights the purpose of refinement of intellect to achieve spiritual liberation.
Yoga, the timeless science behind all true religions, consists of systematic and definite steps to realization of the soul’s oneness with Omnipresent. The Bhagavat Gita, which is a sacred dialogue between Lord Sri Krishna and Arjuna, is India’s most beloved scripture of Yoga. The essence of the yoga path was set forth in systematic form by the ancient sage Patanjali. His renowned Yoga Sutras which combines the essence of all the other paths., “a series of brief aphorisms, complex science of God-Union — setting forth the method of uniting the soul with the interchangeable Spirit in such a beautiful, clear, and concise way that generations of scholars have acknowledged the Yoga Sutras as the foremost ancient work on Yoga.” The yoga system of Patanjali is known as the Ashtanga Yoga (Eightfold Path), which leads to the final goal of God-realization.
Patanjali’s Eightfold Path of Yoga:
Yama: (Moral Conduct) Serving humanity, truthfulness, righteousness, continent, and without desires.
Niyama: (Religious observances) Purity of body and mind, contentment in all circumstances, self-discipline, self-contemplation, and devotion to God and Guru.
Asana: Correct posture.
Pranayama: Control of prana, the subtle life currents in the body.
Pratyahara: Introspection, withdrawal of the senses from external objects.
Dharana: Focused concentration, holding the mind to one thought or object
Dhyana: Meditation, absorption in the vast insight of God.
Samadhi: Superconscious state of the oneness of the inner self with omnipresent.