What is Yoga?
Originating in the Indus Valley and the ancient and holy civilization there, the practice of yoga transcends all religious, being supra-religious. From the Sanskrit origin of the word “yoga” we learn the concept of unity, or of connection to the divine. Therefore yoga is not a religious practice, more of a facilitation or conduit toward any given religion. It could be said that the practice of yoga might be applied to any religion, regardless of origin and deity. The attempt to connect with whatever entity you consider divine, in itself, is a practice of yoga. However you search for the Truth about the nature of the divine is up to you. The search for divine Truth can take many forms. You may very well be a student of informal yoga and not realize it.

Most unlearned people connect yoga automatically with aerobics, as if it were some simple gyration of the body and nothing more. Although a small portion of the practice of yoga does deal with physical movements, much more in yoga searches for Truth through other means. And by other means, we do not mean through magical means either. The fantastical self-torture has nothing to do with yoga, and is instead attributed more correctly to “Fakirism.” The nature of what yoga actually is can be explained with the following parable:

There was a big tree in a jungle. On the top of a branch there was a very big honey-comb. But the ascent to the top of the tree was difficult. One had to cut steps on the trunk of the tree and ascend; but that demanded great patience and intelligent work.

A slender creeper entwined that tree and reached up to a great part of the height. It appeared to be strong, though it perilously dangled in the air.

A greedy man, desirous of possessing honey, without much effort, began to ascend the tree with the sole help of the creeper. He was too lazy to cut steps on the trunk of the tree and thought that the creeper was strong enough to take him to the top. When he was a few feet above the ground, a violent wind broke the creeper and the man fell down and fractured his limbs.

The Truth about god is the honey, and as students of yoga we attempt to extract this honey. How we extract the Truth is up to us, and the tenets of yoga although the most likely to achieve successful results, are not the only methods by which this goal is accomplished. Also realize too that there is never a finite amount of honey in the tree. No one person can hope to extract all the Truth about the divine in one lifetime.

Yoga traditionally is divided into four paths: jnana, bhakti, karma, and raja.

Jnana Yoga: Also known as the Yoga of Intellect, the students of Jnana Yoga seek connection with divine Truth through scholarship. With Jnana the acquisition of knowledge is paramount, and constant study is the defining characteristic of this path.

Bhakti Yoga: The second type of Yoga is Bhakti Yoga, or the Yoga of Divine Love. This practice of Yoga focuses on the emotional connection that one can have with the Divine, and building a deep love with the Divine that completely integrates you into the practice.

Karma Yoga: The third system is the Karma Yoga, the exercise of building your life through good deeds in a pattern that brings you closer to unity with the Divine. Your unselfish acts propel you closer to the understanding of Reality.

Raja Yoga: The last exercise is the Raja Yoga, or the Yoga of Meditation. One becomes more and more aware of the Divine as the Center of Being. Your thoughts are challenged and controlled so that they connect in a greater way with the Divine, and the manipulation of the body enables the mind to be set free. In this way the practitioner seeks to elevated beyond the level of the mind, so that they can be released from the physical shackles of the body and from death itself.