Let's understand Yoga by diving into ancient texts. Tracing Yoga in the Vedas, Yoga Sutras and then Tantras. What kind of Yoga they reveal to us and what kind of yoga we practice today?
On high level, there are three kinds of Yoga, they all leads to Samadhi or transcendence.
Krishna in Bhagwat Gita, revealed three types of - Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Later around 2BC, Patanjali compiled a text - Yoga Sutra. This is also known as Raja Yoga and Classical Yoga. Bhagwat Gita is considered as fifth Veda and a Vedanta text. Thus, there are four main paths of Yoga inspired from the Vedic tradition.
- Karma Yoga - Yoga of Action
- Jnana Yoga - Yoga of Knowledge
- Bhakti Yoga -Yoga of Devotion
- Raja Yoga – Yoga of Meditation
Philosophically and technically, science of classical yoga is one of the six darshana (philosophical view point), has foundation in Sankhya darshana. These darshana accepted the Vedas as the final authority. They are closely linked. They are are more geared towards - knowledge or mind.
On the other hand, Tantric practitioner especially from Nath sect, realized that it is not easy to sit into meditation. It requires the involvement of body and breath to reach to the higher state of mind. Thus, around 15AD, Swami Svatmarama wrote and complied the practices of Hatha Yoga, in a book called Hatha Yoga Pradipika. This is considered one of the primary text on Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is considered a tool or stair to reach the heights of Raja Yoga.
- Hatha Yoga – Yoga of Body, Breath/Energy and Mind
Tantra neither accepts or rejects the Vedas, but intertwined and further strengthens the yoga philosophy and practices by providing more practical tools and techniques. Thus, philosophy and practices of Yoga are derived from both Vedic and Tantric systems. Tantric practices are more geared towards energy or power.
There are many other kind of Yoga available in Tantric tradition, such as Kundalini Yoga/Laya Yoga, Nada Yoga, Swara Yoga etc. Tantra uses everything available to us to speed up the process for transcendence.Today’s Yoga
Today, most people practice some form of Tantric Hatha Yoga. As per Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Hatha Yoga contains 10 major components, however most practitioner today mainly focuses on one or two components, e.g. Asana practices and call it Yoga.
Thus, most individuals generally define Yoga as Asana or fitness exercises which are nothing but the first step of Hatha Yoga. Even you are just doing yoga-asana, but the most important thing is that you have to be regular in practice to experience the benefits. It does not matter whatever time you can allocate from your daily life, it can be 30 minutes or an hour or two; you must be as regular as you brush your teeth.
Being a Yoga Student for years, I can say that modern medicine has its own value and place but regular practice of yoga can keep a person healthy at body, mind and spirit without any negative side effects.