The word Yoga origins from the Sanskrit and means 'spiritual union' or 'spiritual awareness'. Root Yog and means to bind, to connect or to join.
We could conclude it means a union or communication of the soul to God as a complete science of the human being yoga takes into account the physical, metaphysical and spiritual aspect. It means unity and harmony: it harmonizes person's life, actually it is a path of self-discovery that leads to harmony and balance by enhancing every facet of physical fitness.
As said in the previous article, where I was writing about yoga history, the first written in the yoga spiritual process are found in the Vedas (spiritual knowledge). Vedas are the oldest scriptures, where the practice of spiritual disciplines are defined. Yajna (yajna was used before word yoga) and the practice of spiritual disciplines and it translated into word 'sacrifice'. However, the Latin meaning of sacrifice is 'sacred doing', which leads to conclusion that yoga is sacred doing or better said spiritual practice. Therefore, when someone says 'I do Yoga', it is like saying 'I do spiritual union' or 'I do religion'.
But Westerns aren't very familiar with the spiritual 'side' of yoga, and how much of the spiritual aspect of Yoga should be incorporated into Yoga training? In western world mostly Hatha Yoga is practiced and yet, Hatha yoga is believed to have both spiritual and physical aspects the two that are most important. Since the beginning of Yoga, as said in the previous article approximately 5000 years ago, Yoga has been attached to Hinduism, which is one of the oldest major religions today. Today Yoga has been detached from Hinduism, but the spiritual aspect of Yoga is still readily apparent.
Yogic philosophy does not conflict with any religion: yogic philosophy follows the same basic principles as any other religion, so there is no conflict between basic principles. However, yoga is not a religion. For example, people of many religions, Christians, Muslims, Jews as well as atheists, practice yoga because of its numerous benefits: because of asanas (postures or exercises), for which even doctors, who are traditionally not prone to alternative medicine, claim to be extraordinarily healthy. One the other hand there are people who practice yoga because of meditation in order to contact their higher consciousness. Many who practice yoga meditation are deeply religious or are just seeking verifiable experience and personal transformation.
Person who is dedicated to yoga strives to live in an ongoing state of harmony- to achieve living in higher consciousness: body, mind and spirit are brought into union.
Types of Yoga and its SpiritualityThere was something written about Yoga types in previous article, in this section we will look more deeply into it.
Bhakti Yoga or also known as devotional yoga is the most natural path for those who seek emotional fulfillment and well being. It is practiced by meditating or visualizing the Lord and feeling his love. Bhakti is the Sanskrit term that signifies a blissful, selfless and overwhelming love of God as the beloved Father, Mother, Child, Friend or whichever relationship or personal aspect of God that finds appeal in the devotee's heart.
Karma Yoga refers to the universal principle of cause and effect- it means 'to do'. Karma Yoga is also known as Buddhi Yoga or 'the discipline of action'. Karma Yoga focuses on duty (dharma) while being detached from the reward. It's basic principle is that someone can attain Moksha (salvation), which could also translated as 'love of God' by performing duties, but not expecting any pleasure out of that. In short, Karma Yogi lives for God or for higher self, and not for ego anymore.
Jnana Yoga is the path of wisdom, as Jnana means wisdom or discernment and is often interpreted to mean "knowledge of the true self". Jnana yoga is one of the four basic paths in yoga (jnana, bhakti, raja and karma.), according to Yoga and Vedanta philosophies.
Raja Yoga is referred as Ashtanga (eight-limbed) yoga because there are eight aspects to the path to which one must attend. It is concerned principally with the cultivation of the mind using meditation to further one's acquaintance with reality and finally achieve liberation. Raja means royal or kingly. Raja yoga meditation is generally based on directing one’s life force to bring the mind and emotions so into balance that the attention may be easily focused on the object of meditation, or the Lord directly.
Mantra Yoga involves mantras, which are words or phrases which are chanted thoughtfully and with growing attention until the mind and emotions are transcended and the superconscious is clearly revealed and experienced. It is said that the music of mantra rescues the mind and brings it back to the object of one’s meditation. There are thousands of mantras which are mainly from the ancient Sanskrit language. Typical on the other hand are:
- Aum (meaning Spirit, the Word of God, which creates, preserves, and transforms),
- Aum Mani Padme Hum (Om the jewel is in the Lotus Hum)
- Asato Ma Sat Gamayo (Lead me from the unreal to the Real)
In Laya Yoga you need the aid of a teacher to learn laya yoga meditation: there are 5 main energy centers in your spine (tailbone, sacrum, spinal cord, heart center, throat center) and two in your head (third eye, crown of your head). The teacher knows how to locate them and helps reach the doorways to different realms of higher consciousness.
In Tantra Yoga word Tanra means "expansion", which means that Tantra Yogi concentrates on expanding all levels of his or her consciousness to unveil and realize the Supreme Reality. Tantra Yoga has been abused by some self-proclaimed adherents, and it is not concerned with sexuality, but with the creative force and transmuting this energy into higher channels.
Hatha Yoga is widely spread in Western world because of its benefits for health and vitality. In Sanskrit, ha means sun, tha means moon. In short, Hatha yoga is the practice of harmonizing the body’s inner currents: feeling, thinking, willing, acting until they are in perfect balance.
Kundalini yoga involves a combination of raja, hatha, tantra, laya and mantra yogas. Its principal goal is the stimulation of the spiritual life force at the base of the spine so that it will rise from the lower centers of your being into the spiritual centers in your head where higher consciousness is perceived and, ultimately, lived in.
Kriya Yoga is a blend of raja, jnana, and bhakti practices. The word kriya means "to do, to make an effort," or "to transform."