There are so many different practices that people call yoga. What is the most authentic in terms of being supported by Hindu scriptures?

1 Answer 1


The term Yoga is formed from the dhatu 'Yuj'. Panini Dhatupad says following for the meaning of dhatu 'Yuj'.

Yuj samadhau: Samadhi. So, yoga means attaining Samadhi state/ fourth/ turiya state. So, any path that can lead to Turiya/ Samadhi state can be called Yoga.

Yuj yoge: Union. So, when something is united it is called Yoga. When two atoms are united then it is also called yoga between two atoms. Similarly Union of individual with God/ Universe is Yoga.

Yuj samyamane: Censure. Censuring thought waves in mental pond to see the self within clearly. It is like cleaning the mental mirror to see our own self.

So, any path that leads one to Samadhi or Union with something or stopping of thought waves can be called Yoga. As there can be many paths for this so there are many Yogas.

The 18 Chapters of Bhagvad Gita are classified as Yoga. It is because single chapter can lead one to the Turiya state or Union with something. They are:

Chapter 1 : Visada Yoga

Chapter 2 : Sankhya Yoga

Chapter 3 : Karma Yoga

Chapter 4 : Jnana Yoga

Chapter 5 : Karma Vairagya Yoga

Chapter 6 : Abhyasa Yoga

Chapter 7 : Paramahamsa Vijnana Yoga

Chapter 8 : Aksara-Parabrahman Yoga

Chapter 9 : Raja-Vidya-Guhya Yoga

Chapter 10 : Vibhuti-Vistara-Yoga

Chapter 11 : Visvarupa-Darsana Yoga

Chapter 12 : Bhakti Yoga

Chapter 13 : Ksetra-Ksetrajna Vibhaga Yoga

Chapter 14 : Gunatraya-Vibhaga Yoga

Chapter 15 : Purusottama Yoga

Chapter 16 : Daivasura-Sampad-Vibhaga Yoga

Chapter 17 : Sraddhatraya-Vibhaga Yoga

Chapter 18 : Moksa-Opadesa Yoga

Among these Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga are most popular in todays time. Some Yoga fall in sub branches of these Yogas.


Ashtanga Yoga:

As the name implies it is eight limbed Yoga. The eight limbs are:

Yam, Niyam, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.

Patanjali in 'Patanjali Yoga Sutras' describes this Yoga. Several other Puranas also describe it. As in the eight limbs the final limb is 'Samadhi'. So Ashtanga Yogas main goal is to reach to Samadhi. But todays people don't even think about attaining Samadhi. They just practice Asana (specific position) and Pranayama (breathing techniques). And people now think main goal of Yoga is for removing diseases.

Kundalini Yoga:

Kundalini Yoga is also somewhat popular. It is also scriptual based as I discuss in my answer here.

Uniting the Kundalini (Shakti) with Shiva sitting in Sahasrara by crossing 6 chakras in the path and thus attaining Kaivalya is Kundalini Yoga.

Hatha Yoga:

It is based on six limbs which are:

asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samādhi.

Shat-Kriyas applied for purification of body are

Netī, Dhautī, Naulī, Basti, Kapālabhātī, Trāṭaka

They are related with fully cleansing body including internal organs, 'Trataka' is used to gain extreme concenteration and thus leading to Samadhi. It was discovered by Guru Gorakhnath, Matsendra Nath and Other Nava Naths. So, mostly people of Nath Sampradaya Practice this.

Raja Yoga:

It is related with controlling of mind. It is also described in Bhagvad Gita chapter 6. For eg verse 6 says:

"A yogi should always try to concentrate his mind, retiring into solitude and living alone, having subdued his mind and body and got rid of his desires and possessions." For more details see answer here.

Kriya Yoga:

It is advanced Raja Yoga mixed with Pranayama exercises. See answer here. for more details.

There can be other several Yogas like Mantra Yoga (attaining union through mantras), Tantra Yoga, Yantra Yoga and so on many other Yogas. As there can be infinite paths to reach Supreme or to Unite with something, so there are infinite Yogas. One should choose path/paths which is/are suitable for him and finally be united with what he desires

  • Raja Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga are the same; they're just different names of the Yoga school of Patanjali. By the way, you may be interested in the disproof of the Yoga school given in the Brahma Sutras. Also, Adi Shankaracharya states in his Brahma Sutra Bhashya that Ashtanga Yoga is not a valid means of attaining Brahman. Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 3:23
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    @KeshavSrinivasan but Raj Yoga focuses on mind control and Aasana.... whereas Ashtanga Yoga focuses on Aasana, Pranayama and mind control... Raja Yoga doesn't focus in Pranayama...
    – Tezz
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 3:39
  • My understanding is that Raja Yoga is just a name that Vivekananda gave for what was traditionally known as Patanjali Yoga. Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 3:40
  • @KeshavSrinivasan they are same but there is subtle difference I think..I think one can do Raja yoga without any physical exercise also.. just by mind control... Wikipedia says " The term also became a modern retronym, when in the 19th-century Swami Vivekananda equated raja yoga with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali"
    – Tezz
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 3:46
  • 3
    An excellent answer. Yes, it was 2nd international Yog(a) day a couple of days ago, and whole of the Internet was filled with people who are too much into Aasan (even a contortionist would blush). The aim of Yoga is to find inner peace, unite soul with God, be one with the omnipresent Brahman. Meditation is also a step or level in yoga, hope that fellow yoga enthusiasts find it fascinating and do it for the world peace. हरि ऊँ
    – ABcDexter
    Commented Jun 23, 2016 at 17:55

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