What Is Yoga: The Definition and Types

Yoga is the way of purification of the mind, control of bodily movements, and recovery through meditation in beliefs of Far Eastern origin. Yoga is believed to bring salvation to the person by providing divine knowledge and abilities, and it is one of the most basic concepts and techniques of Hindu, Buddhist and Caynist / Jainist teachings. Yoga, which is seen as one of the six orthodox thought/belief currents (astika) in Hinduism, is considered as an intermediary method for mental meditation/intensification in a narrower use in Buddhism and Jainism.

Some practices of Yoga in Islamic Sufism in the Middle Ages have contributed to the formation of a culture strong enough to influence a number of popular religious movements in modern times. In Sanskrit literature, yoga is called yogi / yoginî. The word “yoga” is to connect, unite; It comes from the root of the Yuj in Sanskrit.

For the first time in Yoga Sutra, which is the main source of yoga in the second century BC, this word is used for the first time in the meaning of “connecting God and man”. Although the word used in the literature before Yoga Sutra (Upanishads, Gita) was used in the context of mental concentration and hermit, it has gained its classical meaning with Yoga Sutra. The origin of yoga, as a system with belief and philosophical features (path to the salvation process) on the one hand, and bodily exercises (control of the body to control the soul) on the other, is not exactly known.

Although there are researchers who think that the figures sitting in the prehistoric Indian culture archaeological excavations such as Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, similar to the yoga position in seal prints, Yoga reached India before 3000s until the time when Hinduism was not yet developed, there are also many scientists who refuse this thesis. However, there is a general acceptance that some mental and spiritual psychological phenomena (tapas) experienced by the traveling hermit, known as Sramana, originate in the occurrence of yoga.

Yoga, Buddhism, and Hinduism

Probably, before the emergence of Buddhism (around VI century BC), a systemless yoga was practiced in India. Since the emergence of Buddhism and Jainism, seeing yoga as a meditation tool in the process of enlightenment and bringing it into a system has affected Hinduism in this direction. However, as it is known today, yoga has developed and spread mostly in Hinduism.

In the historical development of Hindu yoga, the Maurya and Gupta periods covering the period between the second century BC and the fifth century after AD are important. Yoga Sutra of Patanjali was written at this stage. Bhagat Gita of the same period also contains extensive information about yoga. Also known as Tattvarthasutra in the same period, Jain interprets the text of yoga in terms of Jainism. The Buddhist Yogacara movement, which emerged during the Gupta period, also contributed to the development of yoga culture. The Bakti Hindu movement, whose origins date back to the sixth century after the millennium and completed its real development between the 12th and 15th centuries, enabled the yoga philosophy to take root in Hinduism.

The modern yoga concept took its final form when the yoga system, which was seen as a philosophical school in the 15th century, was included in the tendency to reach salvation with the control of bodily movements known as Hatha Yoga and which became very popular today. From the beginning of the 20th century, Hatha Yoga has become more representative of Hindu yoga. It is Hatha Yoga, which is especially common in India and various countries of the world today. Apart from the Buddhist and Jainist approaches that interpret yoga as a mental and physical action that contributes to the absolute vigilance of the mind in the process of enlightenment and liberation, yoga is practiced especially by the members of the Samkhya school, a dualist Hindu philosophy, in Hinduism where it has become more systematic and popular. Yoga, which is performed in Hindu schools other than this, is more systematic and it is based on advanced archaic practices under the influence of folk yoga.

8 Steps of Yoga Sutra

According to Yoga Sutra, yoga practice consists of eight steps. First of all, yoga is aimed at balancing the physical, mental and spiritual activities of the person, controlling and directing them to salvation (moksha). As a result of the process that starts from body control and extends to the soul and mind control, a state of serenity called “samadhi” is achieved. The mind that reaches Samadhi is one step closer to salvation in case of absolute happiness called “Prasada”. This process gives the person supernatural abilities.

The first two of the eight steps that will lead the person to this point are the “Yama” (preparatory steps) (not to kill, to avoid lying, to avoid theft and adultery, to not covet possessions and wealth) and the “Niyama” (to follow the orders of religion, to gain habit to read regular worship and scriptures, keep the body clean). In the third row, “asanas” (comfortable and easy sitting) come to control the body. The fourth step, Pranayama, is one of the cornerstones of yoga. Proper breathing is vital in many respects and provides numerous benefits. Pranayama teaches us to breathe right. It is claimed that regulating breathing has a hypnosis effect on the individual; however, it is suggested that breathing exercises can be dangerous for physically weak people and therefore pranayama should be hidden.

The fifth step is the “pratyahara” in the yoga system, which is also defined as “the process/step of desensitization of feelings against the positive or negative effects of the outside world”. In fact, practices in this step are exercises aimed at desensitizing the individual against internal factors such as hot, cold, crowded and loneliness as well as internal factors such as lust, hate, anger, frustration, and fear. This step, in which mantras are also used extensively, is also considered as preparation for deep thought or the initial step.

The “Dharana”, which can be described as the mind’s focus on a certain point or the entry threshold to think deeply, is the sixth step in the yoga system. After that comes the “dhyana” (the mind’s focus on a certain subject for a long time by getting rid of the effects of the outside world) and “deeper contemplation” where the object-subject distinction ends, and which can be defined as the “necessary result of previous practices”. Each yoga student is encouraged to choose the type of yoga that best suits his or her tendency. One of the main duties of the murshid, called guru, is to assist the disciple in this matter.

What are the Types of Yoga

  • Bakti yoga

It is the easiest type of yoga and is common among those not included in the clergy class. It is the basis of this yoga to believe in the humbleness and the existence of supreme power. Bakti yoga is a way of faith and devotion to this supreme power. This is frequently referred to in Upanishads and is considered one of the definitive ways to reach samadhi. In Gita, it is presented as a third way together with karma (practice) and jnana (knowledge) to reach Brahman. It is stated that those who adopt and apply the way of Bakti will be friendly to everyone, will not remain loyal to the world and will move away from all kinds of pain and pleasure.

  • Karma yoga

It is only to occupy the mind with its essential duties. This type of yoga is also called “kriya yoga”. Sometimes it is defined as “a state of kindness, compassion, cleanliness and avoiding greed.” Emphasis is placed on the impossibility of completely abandoning the action in Gita and that it is not useful. Therefore, what is important for the individual is that his desire to act is not eliminated and he does not think about the benefit to be obtained afterward.

  • Raja yoga

This yoga type is also given different names such as jnana, Samkhya, Dhyana, Patanjali, Astanga yoga. As a matter of fact, dhyana yoga and buddhi yoga were called in the eighteenth part of Gita. Contrary to karma and balance, this type of yoga is not the yoga that everyone can practice, but it is stated that only people with high ability and understanding can be practiced. Raja yoga begins with the process of eliminating ignorance, which is the cause of pain and suffering. According to most researchers, when the word yoga is used alone, this type of yoga is usually meant.

  • Hatha yoga

Raja acts as a ladder to reach yoga. The first syllable of the word Hatha means “sun” and the second syllable means “moon”. For this reason, hatha yoga metaphorically is the unification of the sun and the moon and the human and god in real terms. It is claimed that Hatha yoga facilitates the process of maturation and enlightenment of the person thanks to physical movements and breathing exercises.

  • Laya yoga

Laya Yoga is a form of yoga based on listening to the inner voice that can be heard even when the ears are closed. This happens either by the mind silencing or by controlling the breath. In Hatha and laya yoga, the aim is to bring the individual to the raja yoga, which is accepted as a higher level.

  • Mantra yoga

Similar to Bakti yoga, this type of yoga is for ordinary people; here it is suggested that the person repeatedly repeats the glazed words called mantras. It is argued that this practice will help the mind reach calm by reducing mental distractions and tides, but simply repeating words without providing indifference (vairagya) to the outside world will not benefit spiritual development. Because it is not possible to talk about yoga without Vairagya and Abhyasa.

Misconceptions on the Definition of Yoga

First of all, yoga, which means “unity/wholeness/alchemy/being one”, is not a religion. It is a philosophy that began 5,000 years ago in India. Their inspirations of yoga during the times when eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism began to sprout have raised the question of “is yoga a religion?” However, it is not necessary to study ways such as Buddhism or Hinduism to practice or study yoga. The father of the classic ashtanga yoga (eight-pointed path, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois ‘Ashtanga, should not be confused with yoga), is said to be Patanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra. Such texts offer a structure on the physical and mental body for spiritual development and mastery.

Another misinterpretation is whether yoga is a sport; no, yoga is not a sport. But we live with the illusion that we are only our physical bodies because of gray and metal false developments such as technology, industrialization (the reason we call false; we have heard neither our essence, our mind nor our soul in the direction of development). And when viewed from the outside, this is perceived as a sport that consists of only a few movements we do.

Yoga is first and foremost the essence and beginning of the philosophy of being (ontology), it is one or more lifetimes in which a person uses his body as a tool to balance his mind and eventually become one with his own essence and the essence of the universe in this world full of suffering and exams. It is a journey. The aim is never to enter religion or lose weight or becoming fit (a body show as seen by the Western Culture on social media today). Yoga, a 5,000-year-old tradition (8,000 in some sources), concerns only the individual and his essence.

What you really need to start practicing yoga is your body, mind and a little curiosity. However, it is also useful to have a pair of yoga tights or shorts and a loose t-shirt. No special shoes or socks are required because you will be barefoot. It is nice to come to class with towels. As your practice improves, you may want to buy your own yoga mat, but yoga classes generally have the mat and other accessories that are suitable for you.

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Savaş Ateş

I like meditation and yoga. I read a lot of books about them. I applied them in my daily life. I want to write about my experiences.

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