A while back I bought the book entitled The Yoga of Jesus by Paramahansa Yogananda and left it behind accidently in San Francisco. Well, on my recent visit up north last weekend, I picked it back up, and man I'm glad I did! Since I was a child, I always loved and resonated with the teachings of the Great Master, Jesus the Christ. At the time, I was limited to the interpretations taught to me through the Christian-Catholic religious and educational circles, which I will always appreciate because it introduced me to the revolutionary ways and principles of living that Jesus taught over two thousand years ago. However, it wasn't until my own "open-hearted" asking, knocking and seeking of the fruits of life, (many of which that Jesus taught) that I learned of the many other interpretations of his ways documented in the spiritual verses, stories and letters that was later called the Bible. I soon found that I truly enjoyed reading and learning about the interpretations of Jesus' words that Yogananda studied and taught so beautifully. If you are interested, a second more comprehensive book of his on the subject is entitled The Second Coming of Christ.
So many of my friends today tell me that they are practicing "yoga" and no matter which form, class or teacher they are studying, it had always occured to me that they were practicing something that would cultivate the fruits of life in their everyday lives. I have to admit, however, that a) I never really knew the literal definition of the term Yoga and b) I always just assumed that the foundation of yoga was based around the system of postures, or asanas as I later found out they were called. As it turned out, my understanding of Yoga was extremely limited. I was amazed at how involved the Way of Yoga truly is for the devoted practitioner.
The following is from the preface of Yogananda's book shown above:
"The word yoga itself means "union": of the individual consciousness or soul with the Universal Consciousness or Spirit. Though many people think of yoga only as physical excercises - the ansanas or postures that have gained widespread popularity in recent decades - these are actually only the most superficial aspect of this profound science of unfolding the infinite potentials of the human mind and soul.
There are various paths of yoga that lead toward this goal, each one a specialized branch of one comprehensive system:
Hatha Yoga - a system of physical postures, or ansanas, whose higher purpose is to purify the body, giving one awareness and control over its internal states and rendering it fit for meditation.
Karma Yoga - selfless service to others as part of one's larger Self, without attachment to the results; and the performance of all actions with the consciousness of God as the Doer.
Mantra Yoga - centering the consciousness within through japa, or the repetition of certain universal root-word sounds representing a particular aspect of Spirit.
Bhakti Yoga - all-surrendering devotion through hich one strives to see and love the divinity in every creature and in everything, thus maintaining an unceasing worship.
Jnana Yoga - the path of wisdom, which emphasizes the application of dscriminative intelligence to achieve spiritual liberation.
Raja Yoga - the royal or highest path of yoga, formally systematized in the second century B.C. by the Indian sage Patanjali, which combines the essence of all the other paths.
At the heart of Raja Yoga system, balancing and unifying these varioous approaches, is the practice of definite, scientific methods of meditation that enable one to perceive, from the very beginning of one's efforts, glimpses of the ultimate goal - conscius union with the inexhaustibly blissful Spirit..."