yoga; meaning "to yoke" or unite
In the western world, the root of yoga has been lost. Right now, when you think of yoga—what comes to mind? More than likely, you answered the physical asana, or the poses. You answered Core Power or the heated studio around the corner from your apartment. While the physical practice is just as much a part of yoga as any other branch, it is by no means the only branch. There are actually four types of yoga, all of which, when practiced, will further the individual along their path of Self-realization. That is what yoga was originally intended for—Self-realization. As you can see above, the root of yoga means to unite or connect. As individuals embodied, our goal is to realize our union within the source of our origin. But for more information on that, see the Spirituality page.
bhakti: the yoga of devotion, be it to the Divine or anything else
jnana: the yoga of wisdom. the path of knowledge and truth
karma: the yoga of action and service for others
raja: the yoga of meditation and asana
If you have a physical yoga practice, don't get me wrong. It's an incredible practice for not only longevity, but also joy. I taught the physical asana for a long time and the main thing that I reminded students was that yoga was a maintenance practice for the body. By living in a body that feels good and is easy to operate, you allow the mind the freedom to rest and meditate. These teachings are all the utilizations of my training with Katonah Yoga.
But this idea of yoga was invented in the east and developed by the sages. The same sages that have brought us spiritual wisdom consisting of the teachings that outline the operations of the universe. In reality, we should all develop a yoga practice, but let's take it a level further than being number one in attendance at the MWF 9:30 am class. Practice raja yoga so that you may live a more joyful and easeful life of embodiment. Do it to free up the mind for meditation. Practice jnana yoga so that you may explore your inner self. There is a lot going on in the subconscious mind. The exploration of your inner world is a direct exploration of the universe. Go deep and have fun. Find a theory, practice or ideal that you absolutely love and devote yourself to it. Find a teacher who acknowledges your strength. This is the path of bhakti yoga. Karma yoga brings it out into the world. Do good by others because yoga is about union.
Try it out:
Find a place in nature with as little people around as possible. Be it a river or stream, a hike in the foothills, a deserted beach, your own backyard. Go for a walk. Take your shoes off if you can. Meditate. Connect with the earth. That's yoga too.