Integral Yoga is a holistic Yoga modality that aims to integrate body, mind, and spirit, by combining physical, philosophical and spiritual practices that allow individuals to access their true nature of inner peace and joy.
It was conceptualized by Swami Satchidananda Saraswati (1914-2002), and the first Integral Yoga Center was founded in 1966 in the United States. Swami Satchidananda was an Indian Yoga guru, spiritual master and religious teacher who became very popular in the West, having even given the opening speech at the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969.
Integral Yoga foundations are based on the classic Yoga scriptures, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the Bhagavad Gita. The practice of Integral Yoga combines the six branches of classical Yoga: Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Japa Yoga.
Integral Yoga does not see itself as a religion, but as a spiritual practice where individuals can benefit from its tools and are free to find a combination of practices that will suit their own needs. In fact, Satchidananda encouraged Yogis to respect all religions and faiths, as he believed they shared the same essential universal principles. This belief is summarized by his motto: “Truth is one, paths are many.”
The Integral Yoga system includes the practices of Yoga postures (Asanas), breathing exercises (Pranayama), meditation, and mantra repetition. It also focuses on moral and ethical principles such as non-violence, non-greed, moderation (examples of the Yamas), as well as purity, contentment and self-study (examples of the Niyamas).
Other main practices and guidelines of Integral Yoga are selfless service, healthy living (following an organic and vegetarian diet, abstaining from alcohol and any drugs, for example) and environmental awareness.
This set of practices aims to help individuals to keep optimal health and strength; control their senses; maintain a disciplined and clear mind, and a sharp intellect; and sustain a heart full of love and compassion.
The final goal of Integral Yoga, according to Satchidananda, is to come to the realization of the spiritual unity behind everything that exists and to live in harmony with every being as members of one universal family.
Nowadays Integral Yoga classes are given around the world. Its headquarters — the Satchidananda Ashram (Yogaville) — is located in Buckingham, Virginia and offers a range of year-round workshops, retreats, Yoga teacher and Yoga therapist trainings, continuing education programs, among others.