What is yoga?
Yoga has become increasingly popular in recent years – and is practiced by millions of people all over the world. While this is to be welcomed, it should also be pointed out that yoga is in fact so much more than just a keep-fit regime – which is something some practitioners may unfortunately limit it to, especially in the west. Certain aspects of yoga do indeed enhance general wellbeing, including health and relaxation, but in traditional yoga philosophy things like this are simply a means to an end.
The real purpose of yoga is not fitness, beauty, strength or anything of the kind; the real purpose of yoga is one thing and one thing only – illumination by the Divine Spark within us all, which in Hindu philosophy is termed the atman or purusha. The word yoga literally means “union”, implying union with this Spark. Through yoga we “unwrap” the Divinity within, thereby allowing our true spiritual natures to shine forth ever brighter.
There are many types of yoga; here is a brief explanation of some of the main ones:
Hatha yoga – consisting primarily of physical postures known as asanas, this type of yoga is often associated with physical fitness, health and relaxation. While it is true that hatha yoga will achieve these things, this is not its goal. Its goal is to help prepare the body, and also to some extent the mind , for enlightenment. In its most advanced form it merges with aspects of kundalini yoga, explained below.
Mantra yoga – the yoga of sound. Certain sounds not only have sacred meanings, but are sacred in themselves by virtue of the power of their vibration. The repetition of these sounds can have an effect on a physical, mental, psychic or spiritual level. Virtually all Aetherius Society services include the chanting of mantras.
Bhakti yoga – the yoga of devotion. This is the yoga of worship of, or love for, an aspect of the Divine, which would include great sages, as well as the Divine in a more cosmic sense. Devotion to one’s guru is an aspect of bhakti yoga.
Kundalini yoga – yoga philosophy teaches that at the base of the spine is a mystical force known as kundalini – sometimes called “the serpent power”. This force is tremendously powerful. It is active within us all; but only to a fraction of a degree. Without it we could not live. Kundalini yoga is about raising this power, ultimately in its entirety, from the base of the spine through each chakra to the crown chakra. This results in the state of cosmic consciousness, which is the highest state achievable by mortals on Earth. Kundalini yoga is dangerous, and not recommended or taught by The Aetherius Society – but a basic understanding of it will greatly help us to understand an aspect of the “mechanics”, so to speak, of yoga. It is only a very rare individual who can really handle kundalini yoga – examples including Dr. George King and Swami Sivananda. (Please note that today certain techniques described as kundalini yoga are being taught which are in fact not kundalini yoga in its traditional sense.)
Jnana yoga – also written Gnani yoga. This is the yoga of wisdom.
Raja yoga – the yoga of mental and psychic control. This is the emphasis of the Yoga Sutras of Sri Patanjali.
Karma yoga – the yoga of service. This yoga is all about spiritual action. Service to others can take many forms – but in essence it is about helping all life forms to realize that within them is a Spark of the Divine.
All types of yoga serve to prepare for and encourage the rise of kundalini, but some do so in a slower, more natural and balanced fashion, while kundalini yoga tends to force this rise, which is what makes it dangerous. So colossal is this power, that even a slight lapse of correct concentration could cause severe mental and physical damage. We should treat kundalini with due caution and great reverence, but never fear it – since it lies at the very heart of the meaning of life and is the power behind the higher states of consciousness. (Please note that while it is in fact possible for certain drug use to induce altered states of consciousness, no drug can bring about the highest states. Drug abuse damages a person’s body, mind and aura and as such is utterly contrary to the principles of yoga and is strongly discouraged by The Aetherius Society.)
The serious practice of the higher forms of yoga will result in the development and enhancement of psychic and intuitive powers. These powers should be experienced, controlled and then either used in service or rejected, which will then facilitate the experience of higher states of consciousness.
The distinction between the yogas is in some ways somewhat artificial; there is a good deal of overlap between them, and they are all interconnected.
The greatest Yoga is – SERVICE.
Serve – and you will become enlightened.
Serve – and you will be practicing true selfless love.
Serve – and the mighty power of kundalini will rise in natural, unforced fashion and open the chakra jewels in your higher bodies, in will pour inspiration and you will be standing on the verge of the initiation into adeptship.
There are no words great enough to describe the wonder of – SERVICE.
Mars Sector 6 in the third of The Nine Freedoms
Of all the yogas I have studied, karma yoga is the greatest yoga of all. It is karma yoga which will save the world.
Dr. George King