Yoga is generally understood as a process of unification. This unification is multifaceted. In one dimension, it is a unification of the various systems that exist within the human being including the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual systems. In total there are believed to be five different systems within human life. These are typically referred to as the koshas which are the physical, energetic, mental, subtle, and bliss sheaths. In our current understanding of yoga, we are working to unify these five bodies or layers of the human being. Another process of unification occurs between of the individual consciousness and the universal consciousness.
This unification is often referred how to start doing yoga at home for beginners to as Samadhi and is one of the primary transformations that occur within the practice of yoga. Observing this from a different angle, Samadhi is a transformation of perception in which disillusionments about the world are reformed so that the truth behind reality can be seen in its purest of form. Yoga, as a system, has developed into various branches through which people pursue the evolution and unification of the elements within their being. Each branch retains its own unique set of ideas and philosophies which defined the process and eventual obtainment of complete unification.
There is no right or wrong system of yoga as the each possesses their own distinct characteristics that accommodate the needs of various characteristics and personalities that exist among human beings. Each system is designed to accommodate a different personality type, and yoga has developed into a broad reaching system that can be practiced by nearly anyone who is interested in pursuing a spiritual life. A practice like Jnana yoga is ideal for someone who is philosophically minded whereas the practice of bhakti yoga is good for someone who is emotionally perceptive and inclined towards a sense of devotion. In this article we will be reviewing the more mainstream practices of yoga which are derived from the tradition of yogic spirituality. These traditions of yoga are as young as 500 years and as old as several thousand. While there are many modern practices of yoga which have been defined by various teachers, the systems we will be discussing are traditional systems which have been in existence throughout many generations.
Hatha Yoga The word hatha has several meanings. Typically it is divided up into two individual words, ha and tha. The meaning of these words can be interpreted as the sun and the moon. It can also be said that these two words are Beeja Mantras or primordial sounds that are responsible for composing matter. At the same time, ha represents the pranic body while tha is that of the mental body. Whichever interpretation one chooses to believe or follow, an essential component of hatha yoga is a balancing of the polarities of energy within the body (ida and pingala) as well as a purification of the mind and the body.
Most people, in a modern context, consider hatha yoga to be a practice of the physical body. While this is not incorrect, hatha yoga includes many more philosophies and techniques that address more subtle aspects of the human system. One of the essential components of hatha yoga is the element of purification. In hatha yoga purification occurs within the many aspects of the human being; there is a purification of the physical, mental, and energetic, and emotional bodies. It is believed that once all of the bodies are purified than spiritual advancement towards self liberation can occur. Unlike Raja yoga, which we will discuss later, hatha yoga does not outline a prerequisite of moral values before conducting the techniques of yoga. Rather, hatha yoga begins with the yoga postures or asanas and the energetic purification techniques of pranayama. Once a considerable understanding of these two practices is attained, more advanced techniques including Shatkarmas (body cleansing), Pranayamas (nadhi cleansing), Mudras (energy channeling), Bundhas (energy locks), and other techniques which lead towards Samadhi (self-realization) can be practiced.