Traditionally in India, Yoga has predominantly been practiced as a spiritual discipline consisting of a broad range of activities, exercises, and lifestyle directives to achieve spiritual uplifting.
These Yoga directives and instructions typically span a combination of physical exercises, a specific diet, purification techniques, meditation, ethical behavior, chanting, study, and rituals, among many other things. The various ways these instructions are put together in a coherent ensemble make up the style or lineage of a certain Yoga discipline, that is, it classifies distinct types of Yoga and their method or path.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, India’s classical text on Yoga philosophy, are a great example of “a path” or “a method” that needs to be followed to achieve the goal of Yoga, which is typically the realization of one’s true nature and union with the Divine. Patanjali’s Yoga system is called Ashtanga Yoga or the “Eight Limbs of Yoga,” meaning the eight steps that need to be practiced to achieve liberation from earthly bondage to subsequently gain true wisdom and tranquility of mind.
Although Yoga today is often only practiced as a physical exercise modality — known as Yoga as Exercise — or as a therapeutic modality — that is, Yoga as Therapy — there are still quite a range of Yoga modalities (including many new ones created in the past decades) that primarily focus on spiritual aspects. Examples of these types of Yoga practices include Kundalini Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Siddha Yoga, and Sahaja Yoga, to name just a few.