Though yoga seems complex and we find so many different presentations of yoga, there are actually only two distinct paths of yoga which we will outline here.
Watch my video on this topic here.
There are two paths in yoga: that of the enlightened life and that of pure meditation.
The path of enlightened life consists of living a “normal” life of work, home, family, friends, and community, but in the practice of controlling and directing the mind, in yoga. This means having a dharmic life in divine connection in the here and now. Or, to use Krishna’s words in the Bhagavad-gita, a life “as an offering unto Me.” The path of enlightened life is clearly the main recommendation in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam. In The 3T Path, I detail this process in its many facets.
The other path is that of pure meditation. In the Bhagavad-gita, it is called dhyana-yoga. Here in the Yoga Sutras, it’s described as astanga-yoga, the eight-limbed path of yoga. A good portion of the Yoga Sutras is devoted to this practice. For it, the yogi has to forego “normal” life. Even to this day, you’ll find yogis living in caves or in the wilderness, close to a sacred river, away from civilization. In this path, the yogi must spend all day, for the rest of his or her life, in meditation, interrupting it only to eat meager raw wild foods and to get some sleep. Due to the arduous nature of this practice, almost no one takes to it. These days, the practice is practically extinct. In ancient times, yogis would meditate for so long and so intensely that they would achieve the power to manipulate matter with their minds. These superpowers will be described in the third chapter.
I mention this here because one interpretation of the two sutras, 1.17 and 1.18, is that one refers to the path of exclusive meditation and the other to the constant practice of living an enlightened life. In one, samadhi is achieved by the ever finer focus of the mind; in the other, it is achieved by the constant practice of trying to live more and more in yoga at every moment.
My book, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras REVOLUTION: How Timeless Yoga Wisdom Can Revolutionize Our Lives Today is now available here.