The main goal of Yoga is to clean the mind and calm the mind. “Yogaha Chitta Vritti Nirodaha,” Raja Yoga says. In the very beginning, when Patanjali talks about Yoga—at the very outset—he answers the question,  “What is Yoga?” The answer is: Chitta Vritti Nirodaha. That means: a waveless, calm clean mind is Yoga. Clean up the mind and make it free from any kind of waves. You should remember this always. When you practice Yoga, what is the purpose of it? To keep the mind clean and calm.

Anything that you do to calm the mind, to clean the mind could be called Yoga. The very term “Integral Yoga” means: Everything is accepted. Whatever you do in the name of Yoga is Integral Yoga. It doesn’t matter how you call it—Ashtanga Yoga, Iyengar Yoga, Kripalu Yoga—it doesn’t matter. They are all different names. And they may do it a little differently; it doesn’t matter. If you think that one is better than another, then go ahead and do that one; the goal of all of them is Yoga.

We are not against anything. Sometimes, I hear people say “Oh, this is not Integral Yoga. They are doing something different.” No. It doesn’t matter what practice you do. Get into Yoga. Don’t be worried about different approaches. All are accepted as long as they are clean, calm, and not strenuous. I have heard that some practice quite strenuously. If you are practicing paschimottanasana, forward-bending pose, how do you practice? You relax and you bend forward. If you can’t bend and touch your toe, somebody jumps on your back? That Yoga is not good. Beware of that kind of Yoga. The Yoga text itself says that asana is to be: “Sthira Sukham.” That means “steady and comfortable.” Do it comfortably, to your own capacity. It’s not a physical exercise; you don’t have to perspire and sweat. It’s a gentle way, gentle way, easy, easy, easy.

Don’t let anybody jump on your back, or push you to touch your toe. If you find that kind of Yoga, stay away from it. I don’t think the Hatha Yoga Pradipika or Raja Yoga, allows you to jump on someone’s back and make them bend forward. That’s not the original Yoga. So, take it easy, but not lazy.

Often I am asked about the relationship between Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga. They both end up in Yoga. The only difference is Hatha and Raja. They are both related to Yoga. Because people’s capacities, tastes, temperaments vary. It’s almost like one and the same food doesn’t satisfy everybody. We have to have different types of food to cater to the different tastes of the people. But, the purpose of giving all this food is to satisfy your hunger.

Likewise, you are hungry for Yoga, but you may not be capable of always standing on the head in a headstand. So, for people who cannot stand on the head, they are taught to learn how to walk on the feet. So the walking people also can attain Yoga. Not only the people in the headstand. Raja Yoga is mostly concerned with the mind. By training the mind, you can reach the Yogic goal. Hatha Yoga is mainly physical. But still, there is mind in it.  And, in Raja Yoga, also there is the physical. You cannot be totally 100% one-sided. But, predominantly, the mind is the focus in Raja Yoga; predominantly, the body in Hatha Yoga; predominantly, service in Karma Yoga; predominantly, heart and devotion through Bhakti Yoga. So, there are various types of Yoga for one and the same reason.

The only thing I would caution is to not get too carried away with the physical part. When the mind becomes okay, the body becomes okay. Mind over matter. So the entire Yoga is based on mental reformation. Reform the mind. Body is only a minor part of it. When the mind is calm and clean, you see yourself clean. The real spirit is reflected in that calm and clear mind.

Normally, every thought colors the mind. Every thought creates a color, and that color transforms the body also. When your face glows, your mind seems to be happy. An unhappy mind creates unhappy thoughts and that reflects in the face—you see an unhappy face. So, if you want to keep the mind calm and clean, at least have clean thoughts that will not disturb the mind. Anything that disturbs your mind is unclean. That means we have a lot to work on. Every time the mind is disturbed, that means you are thinking an unclean thought. Don’t blame others for your disturbance. Your thought is not clean. So, clean up your thoughts and calm the mind.

The main idea behind Yoga is mastery of the mind. Clean the mind. Keep the mind free from all the disturbing vrittis, or thoughts. That is what Patanjali gives as the goal of Yoga. First, eliminate the disturbing thoughts by inviting in healthy thoughts—peaceful, loving thoughts. That will make your own mind, your own body, happy and healthy. Then you see yourself as pure spirit. The Bible also says the same thing. The Bible says: “Blessed are the pure in heart.” If they are pure in heart—pure means clean and calm—what is the outcome of it? “They shall see God.” And that is the real purpose behind all the Yoga practices.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda