The Sanskrit word yoga has many connotations, but its primary meaning according to the old writings is the integration, or yoking together of two or more things.  Two oxen may be yoked together in order that a farmer can plow his field; the so-called higher self can be integrated with the so-called lower self; the noumenon can be in communion with the phenomena; the heart can merge with the mind; the male with the female; the yin with the yang; the polar opposites can melt together.   Yoga means all these things and more, but the inference is that the two should become one.   Actually, there is no need of becoming, because the inferred two (and all of heterogeneity) are always and already the essential one.   Yoga implies that the two (the dual) can become one (the nondual), and the perspective of almost everyone is strict dualism, separation, absolute heterogeneity.   The mind that tries to understand through dichotomies already posits that there are two things that need to become one.    So the inference that the word yoga defines is one of faulty perspective, and the seeking to heal the fault through skillful ways and means. The direct path of all yoga is the simple understanding of nonduality.  Yet, such a simple understanding comes about usually after a long series of mental exercises that help to adjust a faulty perspective toward real and clear perception and understanding.   So the simplicity appears after a battle with the complexity of the mind.  Most of the yogas in traditional approaches to liberation and enlightenment are structures of doctrine, ethics, and exercises in skillful concentration that help to clear the path of obstructions so that the traveler can make more speedy and efficient progress toward the “goal”.   But the “goal” is already right here right now; all that is required is to just discover it and abide in it.

      There are as many yogic methods as there are psychological states of a person.    When a specific psychological state presents a help or a hindrance to achieving the needed transformation then there is usually a yogic method in some traditional context that can be profitably used to increase the positive factors or to decrease and even eliminate the negative factors in such a specific psychological state. There are several traditional systems that incorporate many diverse methods and techniques of yoga. The Hindu tradition has six basic “schools” of religion and philosophy, the most prominent of which is probably Vedanta. Vedanta philosophy culminates as the Upanishad writings attached to the ancient Vedas.   The Bhagavad Gita is the condensation of the details of the philosophy of the Upanishads. The Bhagavad Gita generally breaks down its approach to yoga in three groups, the Yoga of Karma, the Yoga of Devotion, and the Yoga of Knowledge. There are eighteen chapters in the Bhagavad Gita, each chapter therein entitled as a form of yoga, a total of eighteen forms of yoga divided into the aformentioned three groups.  Kashmir Shaivism divides its approach into four special areas, each designed to benefit students of four degrees of capacity to understand.   One of the Shaivist texts, the Vijnanabhairava details one-hundred twelve kinds of yoga, each one belonging to one of the four degrees. Buddhism has many different “schools”, but each one teaches generally the same doctrines as the others, the difference mainly being the approach used to teach the details of the Buddhadharma.    Many diverse types of yoga are taught within Buddhist teachings, including tantric yogas similar to the Hindu tantric yogas.   There is also Hatha yoga which is a set of physical techniques designed to keep the practitioner healthy and physically fit.   Kundalini yoga is the yoga of energies rising in the subtle body system promoting liberation and enlightenment.   Buddhism, Hindu tantra, and Shaivism detail processes and procedures of Kundalini yoga, while Taoism has its own similar techniques such as Qi Gong, embryonic breathing, and transformational inner alchemy.   There is also the synthesized yoga of Patanjali, and many different names for such yoga systems and techniques such as Eightfold yoga, Raja yoga, Siddha yoga, etc.

     An integral perspective of all different forms of yoga brings about an understanding that all the different paths lead in the same direction and each of the principal “schools” are adapted to a part of the complex mentalities and capacities of practitioners and are designed to develop the highest potentialities of Being and Becoming.   All yogic methods are techniques using psychological processes, functions of mind which are not normally known about or used, so that latent abilities might manifest.  The general objective of yoga is inner and outer freedom, transfiguration of the lower nature into the divine higher nature, and a harmonious and perfected human life.





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