The above list includes only the traditional, generic forms, based on specific scriptural references and classification according to technique. These traditional forms should not be equated with the modern convention of naming a particular system of yoga after a well known exponent of that form such as Iyengar Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, Satyananda Yoga, or the even more ridiculous habit of trademark styles such as Power Yoga, Yogerobics, Aqua Yoga, Dance Yoga, etc.
Whereas some yoga schools specialise in only one of the traditional branches of yoga, others may teach a combination of styles. A particular master of one style may further refine and systematise it and then a so-called "new" school of yoga will result. But these hybrid varieties are in fact nothing new. They have only been contemporised and contextualised for easier adoption by modern people of differing cultural backgrounds. To my mind, the original yoga was in fact the synthesis of all the many forms, cleverly tailored by the master teacher to suit the needs and abilities of the students presenting.
So why all these different schools of thought and technique? It is because our total personality is made up of many facets and because we each vary in composition of these facets. We each possess different God-given skills and, as well, our individual make up predisposes us to certain strengths and weaknesses all of which we can choose to use to our evolutionary advantage. The ancient yoga masters recognised this diversity of human nature and developed (some say simply discovered) numerous methods of mind, body and spirit manipulation to accommodate for all likely possibilities. Are any of these different paths better, faster or easier than any other? Not really. Although varying in style and complexity, each one has its own particular methods of attaining the same pinnacle of self transcendence. The truth about truth and the journey to find it is clearly expressed in these well known spiritual aphorisms:
"Truth is one ~
Paths are many"
"There are many paths
up the same mountain."
"From the top of every mountain
we all admire the same moon."
"One may look through a blue window
and see the sky as blue,
One may look through a red window
and see the sky as red
But in truth, the sky is colourless."
The analogy of the tree of yoga, with its many different branches all connected to a single trunk, is the underlying idea of Integral Yoga, a term coined early in the twentieth century by the great yoga master Sri Aurobindo. His aim, as is that of his lineal descendants, was to restore yoga to its holistic origins rather than allow the factionalising situation he observed at that time, and which had been occurring for many centuries.
Integral Yoga is actually a combination of all of the classical forms and is considered to be the closest to what the origins of ancient yoga and tantra must have been. This collection of branches is not something new, but rather a movement towards redeveloping what was original. Like having a well balanced diet, each person needs a careful synthesis of many elements for all round well being and personal development. Rather than having a narrow perspective which either suits a small minority or else into which everyone must fit, Integral Yoga allows for a broad-based and flexible, tailor-made approach for each individual.
Some people are more intellectual, some are more physical, some are more devotional, some are more artistic, some are more mystical. In creating a more balanced personality and developing a greater harmony within each individual, it is necessary for all the different elements of personality and lifestyle to be addressed. For each of these elements, Integral Yoga has effective tools.
Within each branch of the yoga tree, a person may begin with any level of experience. Whilst some techniques do require a greater level of physical and mental fitness than others, many are easily taken up by the not so fit. In this way Integral Yoga can offer something to everyone, no matter what their abilities or temperament.
Of all the different yoga branches and techniques, in Integral Yoga we always start students with 6 major areas of practise. Within each group there are techniques more suited to beginners and there are others better suited to experienced students, but please do not imagine that you should just take some of these groups and leave the rest. By including something from each of them all together, you will be assured of good all-round physical and mental development, as well as ensuring a safe and effective journey along the yoga path. These are the 6 areas of technique included in Book 2: