What is Yoga, Really?
A while back I bought the book entitled The Yoga of Jesus by Paramahansa Yoganandaand left it behind accidently in San Francisco. Well, on my recentvisit up north last weekend, I picked it back up, and man I'm glad Idid! Since I was a child, I always loved and resonated with theteachings of the Great Master, Jesus the Christ. At the time, I waslimited to the interpretations taught to me through theChristian-Catholic religious and educational circles, which I willalways appreciate because it introduced me to the revolutionary waysand principles of living that Jesus taught over two thousand years ago.However, it wasn't until my own "open-hearted" asking, knocking andseeking of the fruits of life, (many of which that Jesus taught) that Ilearned of the many other interpretations of his ways documented in thespiritual verses, stories and letters that was later called the Bible.I soon found that I truly enjoyed reading and learning about theinterpretations of Jesus' words that Yogananda studied and taught sobeautifully. If you are interested, a second more comprehensive book ofhis on the subject is entitled The Second Coming of Christ.
Somany of my friends today tell me that they are practicing "yoga" and nomatter which form, class or teacher they are studying, it had alwaysoccured to me that they were practicing something that would cultivatethe fruits of life in their everyday lives. I have to admit, however,that a) I never really knew the literal definition of the term Yoga andb) I always just assumed that the foundation of yoga was based aroundthe system of postures, or asanas as I later found out theywere called. As it turned out, my understanding of Yoga was extremelylimited. I was amazed at how involved the Way of Yoga truly is for thedevoted practitioner.
The following is from the preface of Yogananda's book shown above:
"The word yogaitself means "union": of the individual consciousness or soul with theUniversal Consciousness or Spirit. Though many people think of yogaonly as physical excercises - the ansanas or postures that have gainedwidespread popularity in recent decades - these are actually only themost superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding theinfinite potentials of the human mind and soul.
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 ansanas,whose higher purpose is to purify the body, giving one awareness andcontrol over its internal states and rendering it fit for meditation.
Karma Yoga- selfless service to others as part of one's larger Self, withoutattachment to the results; and the performance of all actions with theconsciousness of God as the Doer.
Mantra Yoga -centering the consciousness within through japa, or the repetition ofcertain universal root-word sounds representing a particular aspect ofSpirit.
Bhakti Yoga - all-surrendering devotionthrough hich one strives to see and love the divinity in every creatureand in everything, thus maintaining an unceasing worship.
Jnana Yoga - the path of wisdom, which emphasizes the application of dscriminative intelligence to achieve spiritual liberation.
Raja Yoga- the royal or highest path of yoga, formally systematized in thesecond century B.C. by the Indian sage Patanjali, which combines theessence of all the other paths.
At the heart of Raja Yoga system,balancing and unifying these varioous approaches, is the practice ofdefinite, scientific methods of meditation that enable one to perceive,from the very beginning of one's efforts, glimpses of the ultimate goal- conscius union with the inexhaustibly blissful Spirit..."