The Sacred Syllable, "AUM"

Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning "Union," and refers to a number of different though related practices which have grown up in the Hindu religion and culture, and which aim at Divine Union.

The most widely known forms of Yoga are Hatha Yoga, where Union is achieved first by attaining control of the physical body, and Raja Yoga, the yoga of meditation.

The other main forms of Yoga include:

  • Karma Yoga - the way of Action, where one learns to achieve union whilst working or performing tasks;
  • Jnana Yoga - the way of Knowledge, in which one achieves self-realization through using one's intellect; and
  • Bhakti Yoga - in which one achieves union through religious devotion.

These are not to be considered separate from one another: for example, practitioners of Jnana Yoga may often practice Bhakti Yoga as well, to provide balance; whilst a seminal text on Hatha Yoga clearly says that it is meant to be a preparation for achieving Raja Yoga.[1]

There are also other forms of Yoga which are in reality variations or particular styles of the above-mentioned forms, for example:

Of related interest is Tantra, a tradition which derives its authority from ritual texts ("tantras"). The Tantric tradition aims at achieving divine union by uniting sacred masculine and feminine polarities - referred to as Shiva and Shakti - and transcending the same. Tantra uses a wide variety of techniques to do this - including Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, etc. However, somewhat pruriently and notoriously, the most widely known Tantric techniques amongst the general public are those which involve sexual intercourse.


  1. Svatmarama, Vishnudevananda (ed), 1987, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Om Lotus Publications, New York.
  2. Yogananda, Paramhansa, 1950, Autobiography of a Yogi, Hutchinson, London.

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