YOGA, derived from Sanskrit root yuj having its equivalent in Latin as jugum, in Gothic as juk, in German as jock, is the equivalent of yoke in English. Yoga refers to yoking or harnessing of mind in order to cultivate parāvīdyā or higher knowledge, the result of those psychical and physical processes which are employed to discover man's supreme inner essence through samādhī. Samādhī being the ultimate stage, certain other ascetic practices precede it in the different varieties of Yoga such as Mantra, Haṭha, Laya and Rājyoga. Rājyoga or eight-limbed (aṣṭaṅg) yoga is based on Patañjali's Yogasūtras which are further rooted in the metaphysics of Sāṅkhya system, sometimes held to be a pre-Āryan postulation. It is generally held that various yoga practices were in vogue before Patañjali who codified the scattered sūtras into one treatise which later came to be known as yogasūtras, an authoritative critique on Yoga. Whether this Patañjali is the same man Patañjali, the grammarian, is a problem which still awaits solution. The constant activity of the mind being the major obstacle to realization, the Yoga has been defined as silencing of the mental ripplings ---yoga chittvṛtti nirodha.

        In the Bhagavad-gītā, various aspects of the term yoga such as karmayoga, jñānayoga, and bhakti yoga have been taken into account. Aurobindo saw a new vision and possibility of advancement in spiritual life through yoga. In view of the complete transformation of the 'being' wherein all the yogas are taken into consideration for reaching the superamental level, he calls his yoga as the integral yoga.

        Equanimity of mind can be attained through different ways. On the basis of the degree of renunciation and control of body, yoga has been generally classified under four major heads : Mantrayoga, Haṭhayoga, Layayoga and Rājyoga. But these four or many other types of yoga are not totally compartmentalized spheres. They are rather closely linked and overlap one another. Though yoga is a system which has a vast scope and variety yet the popularly known yoga is Haṭhayoga which professes the control of the different systems of the gross body in order to attain mastery over the subtle body.

        In Mantrayoga this creation is held to be nāmrūpātmak (full of names and forms) which is required to be deduced into one idea with the help of the mantras and then by entering into that idea the yogi can reach the final cause of the universe. Hindu scriptural science and idol worship much depend on this Mantrayoga. In Layayoga certain pressure points under the names of chakras are identified and the kuṇḍalinī lying in the base lotus is harnessed to reach the last lotus, the sahasrar, situated in the uppermost region of the skull. This meeting of Śakti with the Śiva in the skull is held to be conducive to the Mahālaya samādhi which is the aim of Layayoga. In haṭhayoga, gross-body-oriented exercises are undertaken and then the subtle body is mastered which being devoid of all filths of worldly passions comes face to face with the Supreme Reality. The chief practices of haṭhayoga are six practices (ṣaṭ karmas), āsana, mudrā, pratyāhāra, prāṇāyāma, dhyānā and samādhi. Analytical wisdom is the main force to be realized in Rājyoga, in which ripplings of the mind are to be silenced with the help of yama (don'ts), niyama (do's), āsana (posture), prāṇāyāma (breath control), pratyāhāra (control and withdrawal of senses), dhyāna (contemplation), dhāranā (meditation) and samādhi (superconscious absorption).

        Yoga has much to do with a diseaseless body so that hard penances and physical exercises may be undertaken. Yogasūtras being the authoritative work on yoga, other popular treatises on yoga are : Gorakṣa Śatak by Gorakhnāth, Haṭhayoga Pradipikā by Svātmārāma, Gheraṇḍa Samhitā by Gheraṇḍa, a Vaiṣṇavite ascetic of Bengal and Śiva Samhitā, a tantric text.

        Sikhism rejects the traditional forms and practices of yoga and teaches its followers the blessings of intense love and reverence for God. It teaches the brotherhood of mankind. Like true karmayogīs, all Sikh Gurūs led very active lives without any attachment to this world. Before the advent of Gurū Nānak and Gurū Gobind Siṅgh, many distortions of Pataṅjali's Yogasūtras and Haṭhayoga Pradīpikā had been in vogue. By the time of the Gurūs, yoga had been reduced to a mere instrument of earning sidhis and intimidating others in order to multiply the number of the followers. The Sikh Gurūs have used the terrminology of yoga in their verses and recognized the utility of self-realization but the methodology prescribed by them is that of nām-simaran, remembrance and praise of God rather than self-mortification. Gurbāṇī primarily aims at the welfare of mankind. In Jabāla Upaniṣad, Gorakṣa Śatak and Haṭhayoga Pradīpikā, we do come across a detailed account of body-based six chakras, sixteen bases, nine doors, prāṇāyāma besides different types of vital air. Many hints about these ingredients of yoga are available in the Gurū Granth Sāhib also, but according to the Gurūs, first of all, man is required to become gurmukh in order to unravel the mysteries of the universe and bear the unstruck sound of the word after rising above the nine outlets. A spiritually blind man cannot remove the dirt of the mind even with frequent baths and mortificational yogic exercises (GG, 1343). Gurū Nānak says that observance of six-fold actions, Vedas, Samṛti, reading of Śāstras, yogic exercises and pilgrimage are useless and this can push an adherent into hell if he does not enshrine love of God in his heart (GG, 1124). Gurū Gobind Siṅgh also pays court to this fact in the Akāl Ustati included in the Dasam Granth.

        A description of six chakras exists in Gurbāṇī. There is also reference in it to the "upside down" lotus. When this "upside down" lotus blooms, God realization takes place (GG, 108). Gurū Nānak says that this lotus blooms when all the four kinds of fire---violence, selfishness, anger and greed---are extinguished by remembering God and the sādhak experiences the ecstasy by drinking nectar of nām. The description of navel-lotus is given in detail in Sidh Gosṭi where Gurū Nānak regards this navel-lotus as the abode of prāṇā vāyu, the vital breath. Where yogasūtra is based on the metaphysics of the Sāṅkhya, and lays emphasis on the dissociation or the negation of one's self from the Prakṛti or the worldly activities in order to attain the kaivalya or aloneness, the Gurūs have accepted the household life as most fulfilling because only through it one can remain in touch with the world. The attainment of nidhis-sidhis which was the principal aim of the yogis in the medieval period, has also been rejected in Sikhism. Self-realization through devotion and the conquest of ego have been applauded.

        Both Yoga and Sikhism are essentially mystical faiths. While Yoga is myticism without social and cultural roots, Sikhism is firmly embedded in society as well as in the world. A Sikh mystic aspires to spiritual perfection to serve the cause of Truth and God, to justify His ways to men, and to bear testimony to His existence, grace and love.


  1. Jodh Singh, The Religious Philosophy of Guru Nanak. Varanasi, 1983
  2. Briggs, G.W., Gorakhnath and the Kanphata Yogis. Varanasi, 1973
  3. Barthwāl, P.D., Gorakh Bāṇī. Prayag, 1960
  4. Dwivedī, Hazārī Prasād, Nāth Sampradāya. Varanasi, 1966
  5. Svātmārāma, Haṭhyoga Pradīpikā. Madras, 1972

H. Kumār Kaul