What is the meaning of Yoga, a word which we hear so often? How many
Yogas are there? How do we practise yoga?
Yoga is that which unites (yuj to yoke) the Jivatman (the individual
soul) with the Paramatman (the Supreme Self or God). Any path of
spiritual discipline which help achieve this union is Yoga. Yogas
are generally considered four in number: Jnanayoga, Bhaktiyoga,
Rajayoga and Karmayoga. The path of Vedanta already described under
question 20, is called Jnanayoga.
In Bhakti yoga, cultivation of love of
God, meditation on His form and repeating His name form the primary
disciplines. Rajayoga prescribes meditation on the Atman by the
following eight steps: Yama (restraint), Niyama (observances), Asana
(posture), Pranayama (regulation of breath), Pratyahara (withdrawal
of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation)
and Samadhi (trance experience).
Karmayoga advocates the purification of
mind by performing one's duties in a detached way and as a service
to the world. This purity of mind will ultimately result in the
experience of the Atman who is within everyone of us. Health
and purity of body, and moral rectitude are basic disciplines common
to all the four Yogas.