Yoga is a truly holistic discipline for body, mind, and spirit. Classical Yoga is, in the broadest sense, about awareness, action, and transformation. Yoga is not Yoga when practised mechanically without moment-to-moment awareness of mind, energy, and the body. Action without awareness is a way of being and doing that is detrimental to the art of conscious living. There is mental dispersion, unskillful action, lack of grace, and an inability to face life with integrity, valor and openness. The whole point of Yoga, therefore, is to help us reclaim Life in its beauty, harmony, plenitude, and boundless creativity. Action with awareness ultimately leads to inner transformation: transformation of mind, emotions, our subtle energetic body and the physical body. Awareness becomes more subtle and refined, the mind becomes more lucid, our energetic body becomes more harmonious and expansive, and our physical body reclaims its youthful vigor, poise, and optimal functioning.
In Classical Yoga, the Yoga of Awareness is referred to as Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga. Jnana Yoga is the Yoga of uncovering, little by little, through sustained inner inquiry, the pure, luminous consciousness that is hidden by the mind-body complex. We might call it the Yoga of “unpeeling”: unpeeling the layers of the mind-body complex and exposing the patterns and conditioning inherent to it, in order to touch on that which is pure, unconditioned awareness.
Raja Yoga is the Yoga that enables us to make the transition from outer-directed sensory awareness to sustained meditative awareness, from a state of distraction and dispersion to increasingly subtle and profound states of meditative absorption where the duality of the Seer and the Seen gradually dissolves.
The Yoga of Action is traditionally referred to as Karma Yoga. It is the Yoga of pure creative action (action referring to the activities of body, speech, and mind). Action becomes pure and creative when it is no longer tainted by strategies, desires and expectations. There is no longer a “doer”: doing becomes an extension of Being-in-the moment. The practice and perfection of the Yoga of Action is considered indispensable in that it brings with it freedom from the chains of cause and effect (ie. karmas) and the suffering inherent to all forms of conditioned action.
The Yoga of Transformation is traditionally referred to as Tantra Yoga. Tantra Yoga is a Yoga of inner alchemy that makes use of all the yogas (Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Raja, Bhakti Yoga, etc.) insofar as they contribute to the unfolding of the increasing subtlety, power, discernment and luminosity of consciousness-energy (referred to in Tantra Yoga as Shiva-Shakti). It is a little-known fact that the practices that are nowadays identified as forming part of Hatha Yoga, were originally developed by the tantric sages of ancient times (Hatha Yoga dates back to at least the 5th Century A.D.). Some of the better known of these sages were Matsyendranath, Goraknath and Vairochana.