What is yoga?

In the ‘western world’ people are most familiar with Hatha yoga postures (asana), which are sought as a balanced method of increasing physical strength and flexibility. Breathing practices (pranayama) and meditation are also readily embraced as students appreciate the power of such practices to calm the mind-body and to touch the innermost peace that is our nature. Traditionally however, yoga refers to a far broader range of concepts relevant to human experience.

“… yoga refers to that enormous body of spiritual values, attitudes, precepts, and techniques that have been developed in India over at least five millennia…” (Georg Feuerstein)

As such Yoga is the generic name for various spiritual paths originating in India and having been influenced by India, indeed beyond. Yoga also often refers to the classical yoga of Patanjali, which is amongst the 6 orthodox systems of philosophy.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is a more body focussed practice, very familiar to westerners. Asana practices are used to strengthen the body - mind for the physicality of awakening, which is considered a full body experience. Generally it is thought Hatha and Raja yoga are complementary practices. Swatmarama's Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a text from the 1400 c.e, but there are numerable other texts and there is some evidence that yoga asana were practices well before this date.

Raja Yoga

Raja yoga refers to the dualistic system of classical yoga of Patanjali (200BCE). The term raja has been used since the 1600 c.e to distinguish it from Hatha yoga. Raja means royal; it is thought the term came into use either due to the number of kings following this system or because it was considered the more supreme practice compared to other yoga's.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga is the heart path of yoga, where the emotions are channelled towards the divine and all experiences may be surrendered to the divine. The divine is usually a personal God and the culmination of spiritual practice is the experience of union, rather than total identification, with God.

Karma Yoga

Karma yoga is the yoga of ego-less action. The main text that expounds the principals of karma yoga is the 500c.e. Bhagavad Gita. That we perform our role and dutiful action without expectation of particular outcome, is the teaching. Whereas is jnana yoga the focus is on inquiry in karma the focus is doing with an attitude of surrender. Mother Theresa of Calcutta is a good example of a karma yogi.

Jnana Yoga

Another mind focussed practice the system of jnana is pretty similar to the non-dualistic (advaita) teachings of Vedanta (The Upanishads). The term jnana is first mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (500-600BCE). The term jnana means “insight” or “wisdom”. Techniques include self observation and self enquiry, not necessarily within a meditation context; these techniques trace thoughts back to their origin to reveal the inherent emptiness of such construct - that which is truth remains. There is a long tradition of Vedanta throughout Indian history in various schools.


A variety of practices that work towards realisation by their focus on shakti, the creative expression of the divine in the manifest world. A path non-necessarily monastic, very suited to those living in the world by it's focus on life situations and relationship as a pathway to realisation. The swakriyayoga taught at yogaphysio is shared from Anandamayi Maa Ashram. It includes specific pranayamas, mantra and kriya's that are designed to facilitate a direct experience of oneness.

Copyright © Yogaphysio. All rights reserved. Website by KOOK