- Published: Saturday, 29 September 2012 23:31
This Sanskrit word, derived from the root yuj, “join, unite, fix the mind on,” means, among other things, “union” and, by extension, the discipline leading to union with one’s higher Self or the Divine. It is cognate with the English word yoke. It entered the English language about 1820 and is now popularly associated in the West with the discipline involving various bodily postures called HATHA YOGA, which is one of several different systems:
1. RAJA YOGA, the “kingly” discipline which is based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and involves a type of meditation designed to control the movements (vrittis) of the mind (citta) and lead to realization of the Self.
2. JNANA YOGA, a discipline which focuses on analysis of the constituents of the world and oneself, such as is described in chapters 13-17 of the Bhagavad Gita. The word jnana means “knowledge.”
3. KARMA YOGA, a discipline which emphasizes action (karma) with renunciation of any desire to see the results (phala, “fruit”), work without attachment; this is described in chapters 2-7 of the Bhagavad Gita.
4. BHAKTI YOGA, a discipline which focuses on total devotion to the Divine, such as is described by RAMAKRISHNA or chapters 9-12 of the Bhagavad Gita.
5. JAPA yoga, a practice that uses repetition of a MANTRA, such as a spiritual passage or the name of a deity. It is sometimes used as an adjunct to bhakti yoga. The word japa literally means “muttering” in Sanskrit.
6. HATHA YOGA, a practice involving a variety of bodily postures (asanas) said to enhance both health and Self-realization. It, too, is often used as an adjunct to other forms of yoga. The Sanskrit word hatha literally means “force, persistence, oppression.”
7. KUNDALINI yoga, a technique which is designed to raise the kundalini (“serpentine”) energy said normally to lie dormant at the base of the spine. Its awakening vivifies the CHAKRA centers in one’s body, enabling one to attain certain psychic powers (SIDDHI) and, eventually, Self-realization.