The Aim of Yoga is the Realization that You are the Wave on the Cosmic Ocean
The yoga we know today has existed for more than a thousand years. According to mythical tradition, Shiva is said to be the founder and Parvati (his consort) was his first disciple. Later, Patanjali became known as the father of yoga by writing the sacred texts known as The Sutras. The word “yoga” means “union” between the mind and body. Action in relaxation. Swami Sivananda explained yoga as “integration between thought, word and deed and between head, heart and hand.”
The ultimate goal is revelation, union with the Divine, and Self Realization. Different paths have been followed in different ages or “Yugas.” In each Yuga, the goal is fulfilled in the way best suited to the individual in that particular age. Each yugas has had its yogis, teachers (gurus), or saints to show aspirants the way. Some of the main types of yoga are: Bhakti Yoga (devotion) and Jnana Yoga (knowledge), Raja Yoga (meditation) and Karma Yoga (action) and Hatha Yoga (meaning Sun/Moon).
Classical Hatha Yoga is generally practiced by performing Asanas (postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Mudras (positions or gestures which represent the psyche), Bandhas (“locks” for channeling energy) and Shatkarmas or Kriyas (cleansing processes). These steps will prepare one for the highest goal of yoga, the awareness of the “atma” or soul in union with the Divine. Asana describes the physical positions, or poses, to enhance strength, flexibility, balance and awareness to ready the body for the higher realms. Prana means “life force” – the breath of life that we are all breathing. Connection to the breath is a powerful way to connect to the higher mind.
“Having done asana, one attains steadiness of body and mind, freedom from disease and lightness of limbs.” – Hatha Yoga Pradipika (1:17)
Ashtanga Yoga is defined as the Eight Limbs of Yoga which is comprised of Yama (self-restraints, moral and ethical discipline), Niyama (self–observances), Asana (postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) which leads to the final stage known as Samadhi (eternal bliss and communion with the Divine).
Bhakti Yoga is devotion and love towards the Divine, a guru and the Self. It is practiced by Bhajans (devotional singing) and Seva (self-less service). It is said that we now live in the Kali Yuga (the Iron Age), the last of the four yugas, the evil age. Negative forces and immorality will prevail during this period. At this time Mantra Yoga, the chanting of the Divine’s name (in whichever form one chooses) has been proclaimed by the rishis (the great seers of old) to be the best method of liberation or “moksha.” Bhakti is also practiced with the use of mantras or sacred sound formulas and vibrations drawn from Sanskrit, the ancient language of India. “Man” means “to think” and “tra” means “the thought that liberates and protects.”
Kriya Yoga is an ancient, scientific method of meditation that cultivates body, mind, intellect and awareness of the soul using powerful meditative and yogic disciplines. It helps us to experience the three divine qualities of light, vibration and sound by using techniques of concentration, posture, mudras (gestures) and breathing. Purposeful, mindful and deep, slow breathing is the most powerful approach of achieving the union of the mind body connection. This develops a one-pointed mind, which enables us to penetrate the deepest levels of consciousness and to change our lives and teaches us that any action – “kri” is done by “ya”, the indwelling soul. It is a universal spiritual discipline that crosses all division and boundaries and is a powerful technique to enhance devotion, vitality and longevity. Kriya has a long, unbroken lineage of masters, ultimately attaining nirvikalpa Samadhi, the highest goal of a realized yogi. The mahavatar, Babaji is an ageless saint the brought Kriya to the physical world and a disciple of Swami Sri Yukteswar Ji, Paramahansa Yoganandaji spread Kriya Yoga from the East to the West.
“The goal of human life is to reach the shore of immortality using the body as the boat to cross the ocean of life and death.” – Paramahamsa Hariharananda