Since there is a wide range of imaginations and perceptions
about Yoga, we would like to give you a brief analysis about
the original meaning of yoga and a description of different systems
The word yoga is based on "yuj"(the root of the
word) and means "to link with" or "to unite".
What is to be linked or united? The atma and the Paramatma-the
soul and the Supreme soul or Supersoul. This definition is well
known and generally accepted but there is one major misconception
about it: many inexperienced yogis and jnanis think that "unite
with" is to be equated with "to merge with". Uniting,
however, does not mean that the soul loses its individuality,
but it means that the soul acts in accordance with the Supersoul.
Each soul is the servant of the Supersoul-Krishna (God).
There are different yoga systems which can help us to reach
this goal. The reason for the difference between the systems
is that they are meant for particular ages and persons. Nevertheless
they all have one goal in common: to become free from material
bondage and to spiritualize the consciousness.
People who are unfamiliar with the Vedic tradition of yoga see
it as an exercise program or a way to relieve stress. Yoga does
help in this way, but its main purpose is to help one regain
their spiritual concsiousness and link again with God.
The following are the most prominent yoga systems:
Raja-yoga or Astanga-yoga
Raja means "royal" and astanga means "eightfold".
So the terms refer to the royal or eightfold path of liberation.
This process reveals how one can reach liberation by gradually
going through eight steps:
yama: sense control
niyama: rules and regulations
asana: sitting postures
pranavama: breathing exercises
prarvahara: withdrawal of the senses from the sense objects
samadhi: self realization, spiritual trance
The following eight mystic perfections can be achieved by the
practice of yoga:
anima: to become smaller than the smallestHatha-yoga
mahima: to become bigger than the biggest
laghima: to become lighter than the lightest
prapti: to fulfil desires
prakamya: to be able to experience any enjoyable object
isita: to control sub-powers of maya
vasita: to control others, avoid the influence of the 3 modes
kamavasita: to get objects from anywhere
The problem with mystic powers in general is that the practitioner
cannot stop using them and thus falls into a subtle trap of maya
by which he uses up his good karma and then no longer can control
Hatha yoga is not a yoga system in itself-as most people think-but
one of the eight steps of the astanga yoga process. It includes
specific sitting and breathing techniques by which one controls
the life airs (prana, apana, vyana, samana and udana). The process
is mainly meant to keep the body free from disease and the mind
peaceful and stable.
This is a simple system for spiritual advancement and is especially
recommended in Kali Yuga for elevating one's consciousness. Most
people cannot sit and meditate for thousands of years as many
yogis did in previous ages. There are mantras for material and
This is a process by which one can attain perfection through
action. It is meant for those who are attached to fruitive, materialistic
activities. Generally, the karma-yogi is interested in his own
happiness, but is at the same time strictly following prescribed
religious duties and offers the results of his activities as
far as possible to God. Thus, karma-yoga is considered an intermediate
state between material and spiritual life.
Through studies in the path of enlightenment, empirical studies
and mental speculation debates, etc, the jnana-yogi tries to
come closer to the Absolute Truth. Without proper guidance, however,
it is very likely that one becomes bewildered or agnostic by
following this path. Knowledge alone may show one the right direction
but is not necessarily purifying the consciousness because even
though someone may know something, it does not mean they will
also have the realization.
This process is in certain ways similar to Astanga-yoga. In
addition, the yogi tries to awaken the kundalini shakti which
is situated within the chakra of the lower back (muladhara chakra).
Through specific techniques the kundalini is elevated through
the sushumna channel to the highest cakra (sahas-rara). At this
point the two shaktis are combined and at this time the successful
yogi leaves together with the life air through the top of the
head. An experienced guru is required since there is the danger
of psychological and physical damages resulting from the practitioners'
inability to control the kundalini shakti after rising her up
from the muladhara cakra.
This process is meant for those with mystical inclinations-people
who are attracted by mystic powers. Kriya-yoga teaches techniques
that help to enrich the blood with additional oxygen which causes
a rejuvenation of the chakras and the brain. The process further
enables one to dematerialize and again materialize at will and
explains how various gross energies can be used to activate subtle
energies. The process itself is described in the Garuda Purana.
This process teaches one how to attain the Supreme through loving
devotional service. In this way the goal of ALL the other yoga
processes is easily achieved. Although it is the most direct
and straight forward process to achieve the Supreme, it is the
only one where the practitioner can be married. Having a Krsna
conscious child is bhakti-yoga. All other processes strictly
demand complete celibacy, are comparatively mechanical and offer
only artificial sense control. One example is of Visvamitra Muni-
he was mediatiting and became agitated by the ankle bells of
the heavenly society girl, Menaka. He was no longer able to control
his senses and fell down with her.
By chanting the Holy Names of the Lord, one is engaging in bhakti
yoga and is able to achieve all perfection. Hari das Thakur,
one of Lord Caitanya's intimate associates chanted 300,000 names
of the Lord a day. He was approached by a prostitute who was
Maya incarnate but he did not succumb to her advances and advised
her to chant. The power of the Holy Name was that she gave up
prostitution, accepted Hari das as her spiritual master, and
chanted 300,000 names of the Lord a day for the rest of her life.
There are two stages of Bhakti- yoga. Vaidhi bhakti is the
beginning stage where rules and regulations help the devotee
get rid of their material attachments and begin practicing devotional
service. Raganuga bhakti is the spontaneous unalloyed level of
devotional service. Only pure devotees are in this stage and
one must not imitate them.
Engage in Bhakti-Yoga, loving devotional service to Krsna
and chant His Holy Names:
Hare Krishna Hare
Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare