Integral yoga is a philosophy, a path and a practice designed to create "an easeful body, a peaceful mind, and a useful life." The practice is a synthesis of six classical yoga disciplines: Jnana, Bhakti, Raja, Karma, Japa, and Hatha yoga.
What You'll Find
Founded in New York City in 1966 by Swami Satchidananda, today the Integral Yoga organization has 30 centers on six continents with an international headquarters in Satchidananda Ashram-Yogaville, in Buckingham, Virginia. Practitioners attend a variety of Hatha yoga classes geared to every level and adapted for a spectrum of conditions, from prenatal to mobility-challenged to HIV/AIDS.
There are frequent workshops and courses teaching meditation, breathing practices, the study of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Bhagavad Gita and other spiritual classics. Integral Yoga centers host kirtans (devotional chanting) and satsangs, group meetings for study and discussion. The organization offers teacher training, and encourages participation in classes and events with sliding scale fees for those who need them. Individual sites, such as the New York Center in Greenwich Village, run their own vegetarian food stores, natural remedies apothecaries, and yoga-related bookstores.
The emphasis on personal peace is supported by Integral Yoga's six-part practice, a global discipline that builds awareness as it purifies the mind and body.
- Jnana yoga concerns the study of sacred scriptures and of the self in order to gain wisdom.
- Bhakti yoga is the practice of love and devotion to a deity or a spiritual teacher.
- Raja yoga uses meditation to achieve control of the mind.
- Karma yoga is selfless service - dedicating actions to a higher good without attachment to results.
- Japa yoga is sacred sound vibration, the repetition of a mantra.
- Hatha yoga is gentle asana practice, including breathing exercises and deep relaxation.
What Makes It Different
IY's concern is with the mental and spiritual growth inherent in a yoga practice. The method follows no set asana sequences, and you do the poses at your own pace. Satchidananda often reminded seekers and students, "It's called Integral Yoga, because we integrate everything: body, mind, spirit." Joining a hatha yoga class is the first step.
Integral Yoga encourages a deepening involvement with the spiritual study of yoga the embrace of wholesome, natural foods and a healthy lifestyle, and a personal commitment to service without expectation of reward. Satchidananda taught that world peace is only achievable through the attainment of inner peace.
Is It For You?
If you're jonesing for a beach body, hooked on lean hamburgers, mad for the rigors of hot yoga, and just need a mid-week energy realignment to keep your high-octane life in check, Integral Yoga might not be for you. But if you want to dig into core issues like the difference between illusion and reality, find your balance through fluid movement and improved nutrition, and discover what you have to contribute to the world, Integral Yoga could get you started on a whole new relationship to your yoga practice.