Updated: Jul 30, 2022
“Yoga is the stilling of the fluctuations of the mind.”
– Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 1.2
In Akasha this is where we work from and work towards: Yoga. Every spiritual or religious tradition has their own word for that one mysterious power that underlies all of creation. Call it God, Allah, Shiva, Elohim, Buddha or the Universe, in the end we are using different words to talk about something that exists beyond name or form. The experience of ‘union with the Divine’ could be called ‘Yoga’. Yoga is the path, as well as the goal on itself. It’s where we come from, where we are, and where we are going.
Clarifying a misinterpretation
Being one of the most misinterpreted spiritual concepts of these days, we’d like to clarify the definition of Yoga and our approach towards it. When Western people hear the word yoga, usually thoughts about asanas (physical postures) arise. Asana is one aspect of the practice, and it’s a foundational aspect, but overall a small aspect of the vast and profound path of yoga. It’s one of the very first steps on the path. The physical postures are said to be a preparation for the actual practice and experience of yoga. The path of yoga includes also breathing exercises, guided visualisation, chanting, meditation, study about universal ethics, among others.
Foundation of Yoga
Yoga has been practiced, and transferred from master to disciple, for many thousands of years on the Indian continent. Around the time of Christ there was one yogi called Patanjali that wrote down these ancient teachings in what is called ‘the Yoga Sutras’. This 2000 years old scripture forms the foundation of modern day yoga. With this document Patanjali - and the masters that transferred those teachings to him - opened up a path for all seekers of truth and happiness. In this path each step towards complete spiritual liberation is described very precisely. It embraces the way we deal with the outer as well as the inner world. It’s a map that leads us towards the understanding and mastery of the mind, in order to transcend it. Although Patanjali included several different approaches to yoga (named underneath), his systematic path is also called Raja yoga.
Paths of Yoga
Through the ages, many practices and forms of yoga arose. Some of these show many similarities with other traditions. Especially bhakti and karma yoga are paths that are practised globally, for example in the Christian, Islamic and Jewish traditions. Here we describe very shortly the main paths of yoga. All of these we are integrating within our life, practice and teachings in Akasha:
Karma Yoga (Yoga of action)
This path we could translate as ‘Love in action’. When every act is done with the intention of selfless service, this is karma yoga. Read more about it here.
Jnana Yoga (Yoga of Knowledge)
The knowledge that people on this path aim to gain, is knowledge about the Self. In this yogic path one aims to develop the quality of discernment; knowing what is true and what is false. With it comes the ability to stay anchored in the witness consciousness.
Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion)
Through chanting, prayer, ritual and offerings one develops devotion. It is an opening of the heart that doesn’t need any knowledge or practice on itself. Bhakti is that feeling of sweet love for the divine and the expression of it.
Raja Yoga (Yoga according to the system of Patanjali)
As Patanjali mapped out a very precise path towards enlightenment (the ultimate experience of yoga), walking this systematic approach step by step is called Raja Yoga. It contains universal ethics, asana, pranayama and meditation.
Tantra Yoga (Yoga of Energy and Connection)
From a tantric perspective we see the outer world, including the body, as sacred as the inner world. The body is used as a channel or gate in order to reach the inner depth. Its goal is to activate the subtle energetic system, realise the interconnectedness of all and remember our true loving being.
Hatha Yoga (Yoga that includes the practice of asanas)
Through practices of asana (physical postures), pranayama and other subtle energy practices the body is being prepared for meditation.
Nada and Mantra Yoga (Yoga of Sound and Mantra)
As the whole creation came forth from the primal sound OM, the yoga of sound teaches us that the universe is one vibrational being. As a ‘musician in this universal orchestra’ every human being is able to use and direct vibration in order to re-establish harmony. Sacred sounds are being used to activate the energy body and amplify certain inner qualities, in order to reach the inner silence.
As the Sanskrit word ‘yoga’ translates as ‘union’, the very purpose of the word finds complete manifestation through ‘integral yoga’. In the light of integral yoga we see the whole of life as yoga. The spiritual life and practice are not just something for the very rare bunch of ascetics living in a cave or on a mountain. It should be integrated in the daily life and available to any human being anywhere on the planet.
“The goal of Integral Yoga, and the birth right of every individual, is to realise the spiritual unity behind all the diversities in the entire creation and to live harmoniously as members of one universal family.”
– Swami Satchitananda
Sri Aurobindo (source of inspiration of the spiritual community Auroville) brought this concept into life in the first part of the 20th century. But it was in the sixties that Swami Satchitananda brought the concept to the West and united 6 branches of yoga under the name of integral yoga. These are basically the same as the 7 branches of yoga named and explained above, with the only difference that tantra yoga is also mentioned above. Practicing all those branches simultaneously means a total integration of the spiritual into the material world. It is a way of living that can be applied to an individual or a community. It is a way of manifesting yoga (union) in its totality.