Yoga is a family of ancient spiritual practices, which was originated in India, where it remains a lively living tradition and it has seen as a way to enlightenment.Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga are known as the four main yogas, but there are many other types. In other parts of the world where yoga is well-liked, notably the United States, yoga has turned into associated with the asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga, which are extremely popular as fitness exercises.

Yoga as a means to enlightenment is central to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. It has also influenced other religious and spiritual practices throughout the world.

Important Hindu texts establishing the basis for yoga carries the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.

Yoga Practice And Intention

Modern yoga practice normally includes traditional elements inherited from Hinduism, such as moral and ethical principles, postures intended to keep the body fit, holy philosophy, instruction by a guru, singing of mantras (sacred syllables), quietening the breath, and stilling the mind by way of meditation. These elements are at times adapted to meet the requirements of non-Hindu practitioners.

yogaProponents of yoga see daily practice as beneficial in itself, it leads to improved health, emotional well-being, mental clarity, and joy in living. (Some cynics question these claims.) Yoga adept’s growth toward the experience of Samadhi, an advanced state of meditation where there is inclusion in the inner ecstasy.

The goals of yoga are usually expressed differently in different traditions. In theistic Hinduism, yoga might be seen as a set of practices planned to bring people closer to God - to help them reach union with God. In Buddhism, which does not assume a creator-type God, yoga might help people deepen their wisdom, sympathy, and insight.

In Western nations, where there is a strong stress on any individualism, yoga practice might be an extension of the search for sense in itself, and addition of the different aspects of being. The terms Self-Realization and God-Realization are used interchangeably in any Hindu yoga practice, with the underlying belief that the true nature of self, exposed through the practice of yoga, is of the same nature as God.

The ultimate goal of yoga is to reach the liberation (Moksha) from worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death (Samsara). Yoga involves mastery over the body, mind, and emotional self, and transcendence of desire. It is said to guide slowly to knowledge of the true nature of reality. The Yogi reaches a progressive state where there is an end of thought and an experience of heavenly union. This union might be of the individual soul (Atman) with the supreme Reality (Brahman), as in Vedanta philosophy; or with a particular god or goddess, as in theistic types of Hinduism and some forms of Buddhism. Enlightenment might also be described as death of the limited ego, and direct and permanent insight of the non-dual nature of the universe.

For the average person still far from enlightenment, yoga could be the best way of increasing one's love for God, or cultivating compassion and insight. While the history of yoga strongly relates it with Hinduism, proponents claim that yoga is not a religion itself, but also contains practical steps which can benefit people of all religions, plus those who do not consider themselves religious.

Yoga And Tantra

Yoga is often stated in company with Tantra. While the two have deep resemblance, most traditions distinguish them from one another.


They are actually similar in that both amount to families of spiritual texts, practices, and lineages with its origins in the Indian subcontinent. (Coincidentally, both have been famous to some extent in the West, with perhaps a shallower understanding of their nature). It needs to be noted however that for the most part, we are speaking of unlike families of texts, lineages, etc.

Their differences are variously expressed. Some Hindu pundit see yoga as a regular process whereby body consciousness is seen as the root cause of bondage, while tantra views the body as a means to considerate, rather than as an obstruction. It should be said that in India, tantra is often carries quite negative connotations involving sexual misbehavior and black magic. Nevertheless, most forms of tantra follow more normal social mores. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is usually classified as a Hindu tantric scripture.

Tantra has its roots in the first millennium CE, and also incorporates much more of a theistic basis. Almost completely founded on Shiva and Shakti worship, Hindu tantra thinks the ultimate Brahman as Param Shiva, obvious through Shiva (the passive, masculine force of Lord Shiva) and Shakti (the active, original feminine force of his companion, variously known as Ma Kali, Durga, Shakti, Parvati and others). It in fact focuses on the kundalini, a three and a half-coiled 'snake' of spiritual energy at the end base of the spine that rises through the chakras until union amid Shiva and Shakti (also known as Samadhi) is achieved. (However some of the Hindu yoga teachers have adopted these concepts).

Tantra emphasizes mantra (Sanskrit prayers, frequently to gods, which are repeated), yantra (complex symbols stating gods in various forms through intricate geometric figures), and rituals, which range from simple murti (statue representations of deities) or image devotion to meditation on a corpse! While tantric texts (see kaularvatantra, mahanirvana tantra) and teachers (e.g. Abhinava Gupta) might seem odd and highly arcane from the point of view of traditional yoga, which these integrate with yoga concepts seems clear..

In Tibetan Buddhism that embraces both, yoga is seen as a meaning for “spiritual practice”, while “tantra” refers to a particular category of texts and practices, etc that is about analogous to the Hindu ones described above. (The fact that Hindu "yoga" has these things also might have escaped the attention of classical Tibetan commentators.) In that spirit other Buddhist traditions, such as Theravada, practice a form of "yoga" but reject "tantra".

Yoga As Exercise


While Yoga develops as a spiritual practice, in the West it has grown in style as a form of purely physical exercise. Some Western practice has little or nothing to do with Hinduism or any spirituality, but is just a way of keeping healthy and fit. This differs from the usual Eastern view of yoga. While it is not always probable (or even desirable) to totally separate "exercise yoga" from "spiritual yoga," this article seeks to focus on the former.

Yoga as exercise has evolved into many subdivisions and variations. There is some debate whether the phrase Hatha Yoga properly describes yoga as exercise, since the customary Hatha Yoga system is a spiritual path in its own right.