For many, the idea of Yoga is physical postures and breathing techniques, to attain fitness and flexibility. This is not the whole story, however. Hatha Yoga, which has been popularized world-wide over the last 50 years or so, is one element of the much larger understanding of Yoga which we find in the ancient texts, such as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali or the Bhagavad Gita. Yoga has a vast range as seen in the practices of Tibetan Yoga, the Vedantic and Tantric traditions, and various spiritual disciplines, many under other names and forms, found in traditions around the world. Yoga means “union” and the underlying idea is to achieve union with the Divine, whether the Transcendent, the Universal or some individual form of the Divine Self. For the most part, Yoga has been focused on self-realisation and for many disciplines, this has implied abandonment of the outer, worldly life in order to focus all one’s attention and energy on the supreme realisation being sought.

The Integral Yoga, however, goes beyond the realisation of the Divine as the goal, as it recognises that there is a divine intention in the manifestation and that this intention is being carried out through Time in an evolutionary process.

None of the paths of Yoga can be considered “easy” because they all involve, one way or another, a change from the ordinary outward looking focus and preoccupation with one’s own desires, life, family, career, success, fame, etc., whether through an austere renunciation, or through a devotional practice or even through works in the world, carried out for a higher purpose, not the satisfaction of one’s ego-desires.

The integral Yoga adds an additional element of difficulty as the seeker cannot simply “cut the knot” of the complex motives, drives, urges, desires, tendencies and limitations of the mind, life and body; rather, the entire mechanism of the life must be taken up, dissected, and rewired to meet the needs of a higher calling and the pressure of the evolutionary force of change. Every detail of one’s life, motivations and mental process eventually comes under the purview of the yogic process.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “this yoga implies not only the realisation of God, but an entire consecration and change of the inner and outer life till it is fit to manifest a divine consciousness and become part of a divine work. This means an inner discipline far more exacting and difficult than mere ethical and physical austerities. One must not enter on this path, far vaster and more arduous than most ways of yoga, unless one is sure of the psychic call and of one’s readiness to go through to the end.”

“When one enters into the true (yogic) consciousness then you see that everything can be done, even if at present only a slight beginning has been made but a beginning is enough, since the Force, the Power are there. It is not really on the capacity of the outer nature that success depends, (for the outer nature all self-exceeding seems impossibly difficult,) but on the inner being and to the inner being all is possible. One has only to get into contact with the inner being and change the outer view and consciousness from the inner; that is the work of the sadhana and it is sure to come with sincerity, aspiration and patience.”

“Nobody is fit for the sadhana — i.e. nobody can do it by his own sole capacity. it is a question of preparing oneself to bring in fully the Force not one’s own that can do it with one’s consent and aspiration.” Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, Chapter 5 Bases of Yoga, The Call to Yoga, pp. 95-96

Author's Bio: 

Santosh has been studying Sri Aurobindo's writings since 1971 and has a daily blog at He is author of 16 books and is editor-in-chief at Lotus Press. He is president of Institute for Wholistic Education, a non-profit focused on integrating spirituality into daily life.