Yoga means "joined together." The word comes from the ancient Sanskrit root word "yug," which means "to unify." Yoga is designed to keep the body healthy, the mind calm, and the spirit cleansed through a regular ritual of health and conditioning. A yogi is simply a practitioner of yoga --one who consciously unifies body, mind (including emotions), and spirit so they work together; rather than separately.
Yogi Viirishwara defines a soft system of Yoga as one that incorporates different asana based upon the need of the practitioner, and embraces all asana as part of the path to Yoga. By contrast a hard system would be a Yoga system that only focused on a specific set of asana, and either discouraged or disparaged other asanas. The Yoga system presented here holds to the classic style of moving gently into poses and relaxing, then holding the poses for up to a minute or more. Included in this system are also several forms of Pranayama (breath-control) techniques, meditation, and deep relaxation (Nidra).
Although there are many types of Yoga, each has the same ultimate goal of body-mind-spirit unification.
Bhakti Yoga: The path of love and devotion to God. By constant love, thought, and service of the Divine, the practitioner transcends their limited personality and attains a cosmic consciousness. The path of devotion can be practiced by everyone. All that is needed is faith and constant loving remembrance of God. Missionary work is a form of Bhakti Yoga.
Hatha Yoga: (literally Sun & Moon or perfect balance yoga) Bodily postures (asanas), breath control (pranayamas), and physical cleansing (Kriyas) all help to create a supple and relaxed body. Practitioners of Hatha Yoga experience increased vitality, renewed flexibility, and radiant health.
Japa Yoga: is a part of Raja Yoga. Japa means repetition of a mantra, or chant. The words are unimportant to a Japa practitioner; rather the sound created by the words which represents an aspect of the Divine vibration. Continual repetition of the mantra produces a vibration within the practitioner's entire system and puts the individual in tune with the Divine Vibration.
Jnana Yoga: The path of wisdom. This consists of self-analysis and awareness. The practitioner gains knowledge of the self by ceasing to identify with the body, mind, and ego. Instead, completely identifying with the divinity within oneself and within all things, realizing oneness.
Karma Yoga: Action through selfless service. The performance of duty without attachment or desire for the results of the action. Practitioners of the Karma Yoga philosophy realize a purified mind, and become an instrument of the Divine plan.
Laya Yoga: Energy work. This popular meditation style of Yoga makes one aware of the coiled snake of energy within them. Laya focuses on the seven chakras. Practitioners learn of each chakra, and how to drive energy through them.
Raja Yoga: Meditation and control of the mind. This is based on moral and ethical perfection, and control of the senses, which leads to a state where the mind can be stilled from its thoughts. When the mind is calm, pure bliss is achieved.
Tantra Yoga: The word tantra literally means expansion. A tantric yogi concentrates on expanding all levels of his or her consciousness to unveil and realize the Supreme Reality. True tantra yoga is a pure path, but it has been abused by some self-proclaimed adherents. Tantra yoga is not concerned strictly with sexuality, but with the creative force and transmuting this energy into higher channels
The union of Yoga is achieved through the ashtanga, or the eight limbs of Yoga, developed by the Hindu Sage-Mystic Patanjali:
The integration of these practices produces feelings of bliss, well being, inner peace, and self worth (the body's natural state).
The five Yamas (forms of restraint) are:
The five Niyamas (observances) are:
The obstacles to the Yama-Niyama are the three types of distracting thoughts:
They are motivated by greed, self-interest, and anger. They could be small, moderate, or intense.
They always result in infinite pains and ignorance. They can be overcome by remembering this.
-adapted from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, 2.29-39