What Is Integral Yoga?

Integral Yoga Definition

Integral Yoga is a system of yoga based on the teachings of Swami Satchidananda.  Also referred to as Supramental yoga this holistic approach to yoga fuses elements of Hatha, Bhakti, Jnana, Japa, Karma and Raja yoga. 

Physically it is a gentle, healing and accessible practice that unites different yoga paths based on the individual.

Let us accept all the different paths as different rivers running toward the same ocean.

– Swami Satchidananda
a flower with each petal representing a branch of integral yoga

Integral Yoga Deep Dive

Founder of Integral Yoga, Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002), was a student of the well-known and influential teacher Swami Sivananda whose style he developed.

Satchidananda’s goal was to aid his students in their yoga journey by finding a sense of harmony throughout their whole lives – hence, the name Integral Yoga, which refers to a mind, body, and spirit approach.  This is quite unlike many forms of postural yoga today, which often take a more physical approach.

One of Satchidananda’s famous quotes “Truth is one, paths are many” highlights that Integral Yoga is not a religion and can be a culmination of many things that are instigated based on the individual.

Satchidananda found fame with his teachings in the 1960’s and was the author of several books including the famous interpretations of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. He was also the founder of the Yogaville Ashram in Virginia.

The first Integral Yoga Yoga institute was opened in New York City in 1966, and Swami Satchidananda’s popularity grew as he began offering lectures, demonstrations, and classes which saw him appearing at Carnegie Hall and Woodstock Music and Art Festival. The first yoga teacher training was initiated in 1975, which is now a recognized Yoga Alliance course.

Swami Satchidananda sitting at a table in front of mountains in switzerland
Swami Satchidananda in Switzerland.

What Integral Yoga Is Not

The idea of integral yoga was not unique to Swami Satchidananda and should not be confused with the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo

Aurobindo took a more psychological approach used for development and self-inquiry, unlike Satchidananda’s more holistic approach. Both yogis also used the term supramental yoga.

Inspiration

Satchidananda and the teachings of Integral Yoga are based on the Classical teachings found in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which are made up of moral and ethical precepts as well as self-study and meditation. 

The Eight Limbs, according to Patanjali are:

  • Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses
  • Dharana – Concentration
  • Samadhi – Enlightenment
a giant statue of patanjali
A statue of Patanjali.

The yogas

So what are the different types of yoga that Satchidananda was teaching? Let’s take a look at each one individually.

  • Hatha Yoga: Within modern contexts, hatha yoga is referred to as asana (yoga postures), breath work (pranayama) and kriyas (cleansing practices). These aspects provide a physical approach to the practice and are used as a way to strengthen and cleanse the body.
  • Raja Yoga: Considered to be the highest form of yoga and often referred to as royal yoga, Raja yoga is attained through the state of meditation. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali provide details on how to practice the royal yoga. Satchidananda said that raja yoga was the key to “unlock all health, happiness, peace, and joy”.
  • Bhakti Yoga: Devotion to God or a spiritual teacher is the practice of bhakti yoga.Found in both the Bhagavad Gita and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali it is a process of full surrender to God as a tool on the path of enlightenment.
  • Karma Yoga: Not concerned with the results of an action, Karma yoga is the act of selfless service. It is considered a form of “meditation in action” and an important role within the Integral system which views Karma yoga and service to others as central to the role of happiness.
  • Jnana Yoga: Based on the intellect and considered the “path of wisdom”, Jnana yoga is the practice of self-study and awareness.
  • Japa Yoga: The repetition of mantra is the basis for Japa, which is considered one of the easiest ways to build a meditation practice.  Mantras are often prescribed by a teacher or guru.
a woman meditating cross legged with her hands in prayer

Integral Yoga In Your Life

The Practice

Integral Yoga is considered a health-based practice that can be used to restore the body and promote health.  Practices are used as a restorative aid the balance dis-ease.  Practices are gentle and based on prevention as well as restoring so it’s a great fit for most people.

What to expect in a class

In an Integral Yoga class, you can expect an accessible practice that focuses on many different facets of yoga. 

The most common aspects to appear in a public class will be yoga postures (asana), breathing exercises (pranayama), vocal work (mantra), and meditation. 

Other aspects of yoga, such as jnana and karma, would take place off the mat.

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To go deep and expand your yogic knowledge, access our free Yoga Terms Encyclopedia, where we host a profound wealth of ancient and timeless yogic wisdom in an accessible modern format.

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Sarah is a Brighton-based yoga teacher and teacher trainer with a passion for teaching self-inquiry and rest.

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