Integral Yoga integrates everything: body, mind, spirit. It is the combination of six parts of yoga: Hatha, Raja, Bhakti, Karma, Jnana, and Japa Yoga. This theory states that an individual requires these six parts of yoga for all-round development. The Goal of Integral Yoga, According to Swami Satchidananda Saraswati:
“The goal of Integral Yoga and the birthright of every individual is to realize the spiritual unity behind all the diversities in the entire creation and to live harmoniously as members of one universal family. This goal is achieved by maintaining our natural condition of a body of optimum health and strength, senses under total control, a mind well-disciplined, clear and calm, an intellect as sharp as a razor, a will as strong and pliable as steel, a heart full of unconditional love and compassion, an ego as pure as a crystal, and a life filled with Supreme Peace and Joy.”
Swami Satchidananda Saraswati brought Integral Yoga to the west from India. It is taught according to sage Patanjali and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. So it includes all branches of Astanga yoga: Yama, Niyama, Aasana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.
Shree Aurobindo has also talked on Integral Yoga. He aimed to human being to achieve deep and wide spiritual consciousness through integral yoga.
The Six Branches of Integral Yoga
Hatha refers to the practice of physical yoga postures. Power yoga, Iyengar, Astanga, Vinyasa are all hatha yoga. The word “Hatha” gives two meaning- the first is ‘willful’ or ‘forceful’ or yoga activity. The second is: ‘ha’ means sun, ‘tha’ means moon, the yoga of balance. Hatha yoga aligns and strengthens the body. It also calms the body, mind, and spirit and prepares for the meditation. Yoga asana helps to increase awareness on body and breath. As awareness and consciousness increase; one proceeds to the path of enlightenment. Swami Satchidananda wants Yoga asana to be “steady and comfortable.” So overexertion or force is avoided during the yoga pose. It should be practiced with rest and relaxation bestowing for meditative motion.
Raja means ‘king’. It also means ‘best or chief of its kind’. It means the highest stage of yoga. Hatha Yoga is one of the paths to reach the Raja Yoga. In the 19th-century, Swami Vivekananda summarized the Raja Yoga with “Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”. Raja Yoga is a path of meditation and self-discipline, based on ethical principles. The practice of Yoga Sutras of Patanjali strengthens and harmonizes all aspects of the individual, engrossing in Self-realization. The Yoga Sutras are not just philosophy or intellectual game but it is the tool for Raja Yoga. Swami Satchidananda fostered his disciples to put into the practice manifesting that, “Raja Yoga is a golden key to disclose true spirituality, health, happiness, peace, and joy.
It is the path of loving and devotion towards the God. There are different names of the God. The individual can be a devotee on any name of the God. This is the practice to cultivate love and devotion toward God. The teachings on Bhakti Yoga draw references from the Bhagavad Gita, Shreemad Bhagwat Mahapuran and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This teaching asserts Bhakti i.e. devotion aids the practitioner on the path to enlightenment. There are many ways of Bhakti. Normal practices of Bhakti include bhajan (song on the name of God), kirtan (a form of call-and-response chanting), “dancing on God’s song”, puja (worship), prayer, “persistent reminiscence of the divine” etc. Some of the examples of Bhakti Yogi are- Mira Bai, Prabhupada, Akka Mahadevi etc. In Bhakti internal attitude of gratitude is expressed externally, which is said to be Devotion or Bhakti. Ego, selfish wanting etc are released by the Bhakti.
Karma Yoga is the act of selfless service. All the efforts without desire for fruit are called Karma Yoga. The egoless efforts for others’ good are also known as Karma Yoga. The Karma Yogi dedicates all the deeds to the lord. It reaches meditation in action. Any work that is dedicated to god is itself is a path to enlightenment. As practitioner generates love towards all beings he starts selfless serving. It is the yoga of giving without expecting anything in return; thinking of the actions themselves as an offering to the divine. Being loyal to all of humanity, perceiving the lord within all beings and working for common happiness is the essence of Karma yoga.
It is the path of wisdom or knowledge in the Integral Yoga. Jnana Yoga is related in search of the truth. Different types of study, analysis, awareness, etc are required to proceed towards the path of truth. The ceaseless effort of knowing the truth helps the practitioners to stop identifying themselves with their bodies and minds, and realize the unchanging “witness” within. Jnana yoga focuses on separating the self from mind, body, and situation; and understanding the self as a permanent observer. This path is comparatively difficult. Janan Yoga helps to be free from delusion about the self and world. To awaken consciousness and awareness, Integral Yogi’s practice reflection, self-inquiry, study, and meditation. A part of the mind stands back and observes; this part of the mind is the witness to everything.
It is the yoga of repeating mantra or name of God. In Bhagawat Geeta, Lord Krishna says, “Yajnanam Japa-Yajnosmi-Among Yajnas I am Japa Yajna. Swami Satchidananda advised that Japa Yoga is one of the easiest methods to develop a successful meditation. Jnana Yoga requires mental sharpness while Japa Yoga does not require it. So it is an easy method for all. Mantra has divine power. When one continuously enchants mantra, that mantra creates “cosmic vibration” in the space. His mental and spiritual body adapts to cosmic vibration. It creates the path to the goal. There are various types of Mantras. However, mantras received during initiation could be more beneficial. It is not necessary that mantras should have meaning. Repeating any types of mantra with devotion can be a mantra.