The system of classical yoga developed by Patanjali in ‘Yoga Sutra’s. This covered asana, pranayama, mantra, and meditation. The sutras state, “Yoga is the complete control of the operations of the mind.” The ‘operations of the mind’ are known as Vrittis in Sanskrit.

Vrittis constitute all our mental activities from the deep subconscious to the highest superconscious state. Controlling the mind can lead to us finding our true self. The goal of yoga and meditation is to silence the mind. This is the state of pure awareness and this is known as ‘Liberation’ or Moksha.

 8 limbs of yoga

In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps provide guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. These eight limbs are:

  1. Yama – rules of social conduct
  2. Nyama – rules of personal behaviour
  3. Asana – physical posture
  4. Pranayama – control of vital force/ prana
  5. Pratyahra – control of senses. Includes visualisation and mantras
  6. Dharana – right attention/control of mind e.g. focus on chakra, mind-heart
  7. Dhyana – meditation – state of awareness
  8. Samadhi – Spiritual Realisation

Yoga Systems

Yoga (and meditation) is often regarded as a tree with different branches which are unique but essential. These branches are as follows:

Jnana Yoga

The yoga of Knowledge and Self-Enquiry which requires control of senses and pranas, which depends on pure diet and self- control.

Bhakti Yoga

This is the yoga of Devotion which involves the worship of the Divine, Deities, and Gurus through rituals, devotional songs, and chanting God’s name (Japa). It also focuses on meditating on the form of Divine.

Karma Yoga

Includes two main methods:

1) Prayers and rituals for self-purification

2) Service to people – most practitioners from Yoga and meditation lineages are expected to do some service called SEVA e.g. help poor, needy, schools, sick etc. This also help animals, plant and planet e.g. social/political activism.

Raja Yoga

Raja means “royal”. Raja Yoga is the path of Yoga that focuses on meditation and contemplation.

Mantra Yoga

Includes prayer, chanting and singing praise to the Divine. It is connected with music, poetry, and mythology which are different levels of mantra. Mantra yoga is the “asana of the mind”.

Tantra Yoga

Includes mantra, yantra, visualisation, devotional worship, temple worship. It is the most misunderstood path of yoga, especially in the west. Tantra gives the best description of subtle bodies, chakras and kundalini. Kundalini yoga is part of Tantra.

Hatha Yoga

This is the yoga of force or effort i.e. the path of physical yoga. Classical hatha yoga was a path for hermits requiring physical prowess.It uses yoga and meditation and includes pranayama to achieve perfect health. Hatha yoga is the most well- known path of yoga and encompasses any physical practice of yoga from Iyengar to Ashtanga.

What every yoga instructor should know?

Yoga at its very core is a system of meditation aimed at reaching a state of mental peace and calm. In ancient times, it was incorporated with Ayurveda to make a powerful healing tool as this incorporation recognised that yoga therapies should be tailored to the individual and not the group. Unfortunately, this aspect has been lost in today’s world as many yoga and meditation teachers have not been given this knowledge that would make their practice more fruitful and rewarding.