The science of yoga
Nowadays, more and more people are enjoying the benefits of yoga science. Seen in its general sense, yoga is the art of getting in touch with Reality, the technique or science of harmonising with the Infinite and invites us to become conscious of a higher life. In the yogic view, life has always been seen as a process of progressive self-transcendence from the realm of matter to the realisation of Supreme Spiritual Bliss. Although India has protected this way of life for millennia in its aphorisms it could not be found that one will be a better Hindu through the practice of yoga, rather the aspirant comes to the awareness of his divine origin. Yoga has nothing to do with any particular social category or nation. One can be a Jew, a Mohammedan, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu and a yogi.
The approach to yoga is not just a matter of studying books or listening to lectures or discourses, but is more practical. According to the Hindu view, each technique, if followed with perseverance and proper concentration, can lead to the high level of consciousness that corresponds to the state of yoga.
Yoga is knowledge, but it is also found in doing, in action. This course aims to convey through the written word and certain diagrams the philosophy and psychology of yoga, purification techniques and yogic diet, specific instructions. Yoga should become a way of life and, through a new attitude, use its philosophy and psychology to overcome negative habits and conditioning.
Throughout this course, you will encounter several definitions, ideas and practices of the science of yoga. Each course will contain topics and practices, or associated views, as described by ancient yogis and masters. Instructions will be given for conscious pranayama breathing, along with some instructions of the Hatha Yoga system of postures (asanas), actions (kriyas). There will be lectures on health as well as instructions for various techniques of the yoga system of relaxation and the higher phases of withdrawal of the senses into the inner being, concentration and meditation.
In Sanskrit yoga means “union” and is defined as the union of the soul (jivatman) with the Cosmic Soul (Atman). Its meaning can also be noted by the words unity and oneness. But the purpose of yoga is not really oneness, but rather to make you realise your true identity, that of the Divine Self that lies within every human being. At the same time yoga is the method or path we adopt to realise this true identity. Thus yoga has a double meaning; it encompasses both the method and the end point.
In its various aspects yoga is also defined as physical harmony and fine health, balancing and peace of mind or as harmony between body and mind. In this sense they are beautifully expressed by Swami Sivananda Saraswati: “Yoga is the harmonious integration of thoughts, words and deeds or that between head, heart and hands.” In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the classic yoga texts, several definitions are found among which we recall: yoga is skill and efficiency in action; yoga is the supreme secret of life; yoga is the giver of unspoken happiness; yoga is serenity; yoga is the destroyer of pain.
In the past, Maharishi Patanjali, in his work Yoga Sutras, defined yoga thus: “the complete control of various mental patterns or changes of consciousness”. In his view, yoga involves control over the conscious, unconscious and superconscious realms of being, where the observer of these higher states gains perfect knowledge.
Yoga is also understood as the science of developing creativity, as a process for discovering the deeper aspects of being, as the science of being, the science of consciousness.
Yogic philosophy teaches us that God gives each of us a physical body adapted to our needs and also provides the means to maintain it in good health, but the neglect of modern education makes it an ineffective tool. Yogis recognise the human body as the work of a great intelligence and regard the body as a functional system, the design and functionality of which indicate the greatest wisdom and care. The Yogi knows that his body exists because of a great Intelligence and that the same Intelligence operates through the physical body and that as the being falls into the work of Divine Law it will continue to be healthy.
Practiced regularly, yoga awakens the paranormal yogic powers (siddhis), creates mental clarity and calm, relaxes the mind, focuses attention and sharpens concentration, increases body awareness, relieves stress patterns; answers the questions of who I really am, what I was born for, where I came from and what will happen after death. To benefit from the beneficial effects of the techniques, yoga should be studied and experienced under the guidance of a guide, over a longer period of time.
Experience can teach you what the sages and saints have proclaimed throughout the ages, namely that true and lasting happiness cannot be based on what is impermanent in its nature.
Integral Yoga is an interweaving of specific methods designed to develop every aspect of being: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. It is a scientific system that integrates the different branches of the yoga path to bring about a complete and harmonious development of the being. The body, emotions and intellect must be developed to a level where they function in perfect harmony and health. Only then can one live a fully happy life.
Our Integral Yoga course is based on authentic yogic knowledge adapted to the contemporary context and is not just a method of transmitting information or useful techniques. This course focuses on the practice and philosophy that complements the realisation of the Divine Self in one’s being. It aims to teach and promote yogic values and the thought that governs the merits of individual behaviour (dharmic thought).
The yoga practitioner is a seed of the universe aspiring to the realisation of the Divine Self. True and lasting happiness can only be attained through the knowledge of that which is permanent, eternal, or the Divine, which dwells in the heart of all beings and is the source of all life. It has been called Self, Nature, God, Brahman, Atman, Purusha, Cosmic Consciousness, Cosmic Soul, Infinite, Absolute and so on. Since this happiness is infinite, it can be experienced only when man rises above his limited personality. The realization of God is the goal of life, and all our activities are a preparation for this realization. All our duty (dharma) contributes to the realization of the supreme duty, namely that of realizing God.
The aspirant to the state of yoga regards the care of his body as a sacred duty. Through yoga it is simple to enjoy good health – it requires changing habits. Health is a natural state whereas illness originates in negligence, ignorance or ignorance of the laws of nature. In the yogic sense of the word, illness is a sin of the body and the sick person is held responsible for their health.
The yogic rules of health are not restrictive, they are simple and few in number. They free us from a lot of obstacles that prevent our own forces from acting fully and also prevent us from enjoying life to its true intensity. They give us true freedom. The methods, though simple, are also sensible, scientific and so easy to apply that one might wonder why modern education has come to neglect them so much, thus depriving us of the wonderful benefits that flow from their regular and careful practice. Health is not just the absence of disease, it is a more complex concept, a combination of physical, mental and spiritual well-being and the ability of an individual to function harmoniously in life.
The origins of yoga lie hidden in time, it evolved slowly and was developed by sages not only in India but all over the world. Yogic teaching, in its complexity and originality, represents a unity of knowledge that has a universal dimension.
In the history of medicine, the science of yoga is the foremost in the struggle for rejuvenation. The methods of the science of yoga have proven their effectiveness over thousands of years. In the approach to yoga, the Hatha Yoga branch is the first, or as it is called, the first and fundamental step in the science of yoga. Without it, we cannot advance in yoga practice and we cannot form a balanced psyche. When man acquires perfect physical and mental health, i.e. when the body is strong and healthy, when the nervous system is free from disease, he becomes fit for higher creative activity and is able to successfully overcome even the most difficult difficulties.
The Hatha Yoga tradition is based on experience accumulated over a long period of human history. All those who practise Hatha Yoga systematically and rationally, who perform the techniques with care and awareness, will soon notice an improvement in their state of mind and health. The gradual nature of the practice is important not only for perfecting an exercise, but is also decisive for strengthening the will, for building self-discipline and for developing a regimen that strengthens an absolutely balanced nervous system,
Body postures (asanas), deep relaxation, conscious breathing (pranayama), cleansing processes (kriyas) can make your body supple and relaxed. They can also increase vitality, energy, mental focus and help prevent and cure various ailments. By practising Hatha Yoga the body will be purified, impurities and toxins will be removed and food will be easily assimilated and used by the system. As the body and mind are purified and mastery over the mind is gained, the sincere aspirant attains the goal of Yoga, the realisation of the Divine Self.
Hatha Yoga can also be regarded as a unique psychosomatic discipline unparalleled in its beneficial effects. The yogi who masters Hatha Yoga to the highest degree can acquire perfect control over his body and possesses the prerequisites to prolong his life. The Hatha yogi wants to acquire a strong, healthy, suffering-free body, ready for a long life. He is master of his own body and mind; he awakens the paranormal powers (siddhis), uses them to support those in suffering, and achieves union with the Supreme.
The main paths of yoga science
The science of yoga has four fundamental paths that are part of a system of evolution that has retained its original power: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga; true guiding lights that unite in the one Supreme Truth.
Karma Yoga, yoga of action
Karma Yoga purifies the heart and is the path chosen primarily by the extrovert. By renouncing the fruits of actions and offering them to God, one moves beyond the ego. By performing duty without attachment or desire for the results of action, the yogi’s karma mind is purified. When the mind and heart are purified, the yogi becomes an instrument (Divine channel) through which the Divine Plan or Work is carried out. In this way, individuality can be transcended and it becomes possible to experience Divine Consciousness.
For the karma yogi, the body and mind are part of the world of matter, with a limited lifespan, but the spirit is eternal and passes from one body to another (reincarnates).
“Just as a man throws off his worn-out clothes and puts on new ones, similarly the embodied Divine Self casts off the worn-out body and enters a new one (through the process of birth).”
Through the cycle of reincarnation, as the veil of ignorance thins, we come closer to reunion with the Divine Self. At the heart of the yogi’s karma thinking is the law of karma, of cause and effect, of action and reaction. Every action and thought bears fruit either in this life or in future lives. We reap what we sow, shaping our future by what we do and think in the present.
Bhakti Yoga, the path of love and devotion to God, to a Divine incarnation
Bhakti Yoga is especially for those of an emotional nature. The Bhakti yogi sees God as an embodiment of love and is motivated primarily by the power of this feeling. Through prayer, he surrenders himself in love to God, channeling his emotions with unconditional love or devotion. Abandonment to the Divine is the highest and easiest method of enlightenment. He who surrenders is always protected by the Divine power even if he has nothing and no one to protect him, he belongs to God and is constantly under the protection of the Divine. Through love, thought and constant service of the Divine bhakti the yogi transcends the limited personality and attains Cosmic Consciousness. The path of Bhakti Yoga or devotion can be practised by anyone. It requires faith and constant loving remembrance of God.
Jnana Yoga, the path of knowledge or wisdom
Jnana Yoga is the path of wisdom that requires a strong will and an extraordinary intellect. It is the path of self-realisation through inner investigation and awareness.
The Jnana yogi uses his mind to investigate his own nature and thus knows the difference between what is real and what is apparent. The Jnana yogi becomes aware of body, mind and ego in a whole new way, calling them the apparent ‘non-self’ or ‘self’. Understanding and realizing this “not-self” is an important step towards freedom from identification. This process goes through successive stages of detachment and self-observation. The aspirant comes to know himself as an indivisible part of the Divine that lies beyond thought.
In the sacred writings of the Upanishads the state beyond thought has been called ‘Aham Brahmasmi‘ or ‘I am That’ and reflects the ultimate goal of the path of yoga – union with the Divine Self. With this, the duality between thinker and thought ends and all that remains is Oneness, the source of all that exists.
Raja Yoga, the path of physical control and mental fluctuations
Raja Yoga is often called the ‘royal path’. The path of Raja Yoga is surrounded by moral values and ethical perfection, has existed since ancient times and is a way of spiritual development that includes among its many benefits methods of transforming physical energy into spiritual energy. By mastering mental fluctuations, this path leads to a state of concentration and meditation, a practical method by which the mind can be stilled from its thoughts. Raja Yoga has become increasingly popular among aspiring yogis of all cultures. Nowadays it is seen as one of the most important spiritual practices in the world and has become a path practiced in various schools. Raja Yoga is one of the many paths that make up the ancient practice of yoga and has been adapted to suit different cultures. Through Raja Yoga all limitations are transcended and Divine Ecstasy (Samadhi) is experienced.
In this introduction we also mention:
Yantra Yoga, the path of telepathic fusion with the beneficent energies of the universe through sacred charts
Literally Yantra means support or instrument. A yantra is essentially a geometric composition, a sacred instrument for contemplation, focus, meditation and last but not least an instrument to enter the gigantic resonant sphere of specific, beneficial energies that the yantra contains and manifests.
Among the evolutionary tools used in Tantra Yoga are the mantra (a sacred sound) and the yantra (a divine diagram). If working with a mantra takes time, resonating with the manifesting sphere of a yantra can transform your consciousness instantly.
The spiritual energy of a yantra continuously blesses sincere and pure souls who have a strong determination to evolve. The action of a yantra can also be seen as a physical, psychological and spiritual opening to the understanding of mystery. Thus Yantra Yoga stimulates man to explore and reveals to him the mystery that is the link between him and the Macrocosm while revealing to him the reality of the Divine Self.
Tantra Yoga, the path of expansion of consciousness through the fusion of the human microcosm with the macrocosm
The Sanskrit word tantra is a combination of two processes, “tanoti” and “trayati“, meaning expansion and liberation. This process is used in yoga to achieve the ultimate state of Spiritual Liberation (moksha) through a system of practices designed to lead the aspirant to higher spiritual experiences.
Tantra Yoga is a system of spiritual evolution that includes several practices and schools and seeks to bring about a state in which reality becomes free from concepts or divisions through direct knowledge that manifests beyond thought. Its true purpose is to transcend duality. A tantric aspirant aims to see all aspects of the phenomenal world as manifestations of Divine Energy (Shakti).
The objective of tantric practice or tantrism is to transcend the barriers between the sacred and the profane as a means of revealing our true essence, the Divine Self.
Kundalini Yoga, the path of awakening the energy of the infinite latent potential of the being that lies dormant at the base of the spine
Kundalini Yoga is an ancient, powerful and transformative form of yoga that derives its name from its emphasis on awakening Kundalini energy and regular practice of specific techniques. The Sanskrit word kundalini means “circular” and is referred to as a noun for “snake” (meaning “coiled”) and therefore Kundalini energy has often been interpreted as “snake power”.
Kundalini is our potential energy, an infinite force of power that can be awakened through certain practices. Once awakened, it frees us from mental blocks and opens energy pathways, allowing a quantity of energy, at the right frequency, to flow freely through the mind-body system. With consistent practice, the mind becomes clearer, the body becomes stronger and more flexible, and the level of energy flow increases allowing us to shine in the light of the Divine Self.
Laya Yoga, the path of highest unification with the Divine, the return to the original state
Literally laya means “dissolution”. Laya Yoga is a very advanced form of yoga, a high spiritual practice that requires deep commitment. Through Laya Yoga, one dissolves the ego and merges with the Cosmic Soul through sacred sound. Laya Yoga was created by sage Gorakhnath, who was a disciple of sage Matsyendranath. The aim of the practice of Laya Yoga is to raise the conscious level of the mind to a higher state, making the yogic mind able to listen within to the Divine Sound. Among the benefits of Laya Yoga practice are: restful sleep, mental clarity, balanced moods, relief from physical and psychological tension, relaxation, a reduction in anxiety and a cessation of discursive thinking at will.
Although there are a multitude of pathways throughout this course we will not address them separately.