What is Yoga? 

The word yoga has it’s origin in the word “yoke” which means to unite. What does this mean in the context of yoga? As a human being experiencing ourselves and others, it is necessary for us to experience daily life as a separate being. The practice of yoga helps us to lift the web of illusion (Maya) that we see ourselves as separate beings, rather than individual manifestations of one source. The journey of yoga is one to move us towards understanding and knowing that the experience of ourselves as separate beings is not the whole truth and to remind us that we come out of the whole, and that we are the whole.  So we can think of yoga as the journey or the path to experiencing wholeness. 

The practice of Yoga

The practice of yoga is a journey. We can take this journey in many different forms, but the most practiced form in the Western World is Hatha Yoga, which incorporates meditation, asana (posture) practice and pranayama (breath and energy work). A typical yoga class in the Western World will incorporate these elements. However, what is wonderful about yoga is that there are many different paths to suit many different individuals as follows:

Hatha Yoga is a form of physical movement and breathing that was developed to help bring the physical body into balance. The practice of Hatha Yoga helps us to understand and feel that we are whole in ourselves and in feeling balance in our physical bodies, we then start to feel balance and integration in the entire being. 

Tantra YogaThis is the yoga  of seeing the sacred in everything and the realization that the divine is everywhere. Tantra transforms life into sacred ritual. Working with emotions and sensations as part of the sacred unity of life and as pure universal energy moving through us.

Karma Yoga is the yoga of skillful action. Through Karma Yoga we realize the right relationship between the physical world and the spiritual world. It teaches us how to act, without the presence of a “doer”.  This is possible because the “doer” or ego exists to keep us safe, and as a vehicle for the universal energy to exist as a human being, but it is not ultimately who we are.  

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotional love. This is deep heart centred connection with the divine which can take the form of devotion to a deity or a form of the divine, or can be practiced as a devotion to life itself and each moment as divine. By opening the heart in this way we start to know that we are this love and it is us, and that this love extends to everything. 

Mantra Yoga is the yoga of sacred sound.  According to ancient Vedic tradition the universe originated in the sound “OM”, and is in a state of constant vibration. Through sacred chant the ego-mind attunes itself to universal consciousness through the medium of sound.  

Raja Yoga is the yoga of meditation.  Meditation is the practice of mindful awareness. In the practice of meditation we learn how to enquire and watch ourselves, and the many ways that our ego tries to show us that we are separate. In meditation the aim is not to clear the mind but to watch our thoughts and emotions and physical sensations as they arise in an impartial and unengaged way. 

Jnana Yoga is the yoga of self-realization through study of the self and spiritual teachings. This path focuses on the discovery of what is already present through intensive self enquiry.  We learn to develop a witness consciousness that can distinguish real from unreal.  It is the process of constantly asking “who is it that is performing these actions, feeling these feelings etc”.  


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