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Often, after people learn that I practice Yoga they have all sorts of questions about it. Some questions or variations thereof I am asked frequently; thus, it makes sense to write an FAQ! I should note that this is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to all questions in relation to the nature of Yoga. Instead, this practical FAQ is meant to give answers to actual questions that I am frequently asked by people in the real world in relation to Yoga. I will add to this FAQ--I already have more material--but I just wanted to post what I have thus far now.

Table of Contents

  1. What is Yoga?
  2. Hatha Yoga
  3. Raja Yoga
  4. Kundalini (Laya) Yoga
  5. Tantra Yoga 
  6. I heard the goal of meditation is to think of nothing.  How do I do that?
  7. Is Yoga Consistent with Christianity?
  8. Who are you to write anything about Yoga?
  9. Who was your guru (teacher)?

What is Yoga?

“The word ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit root ‘Yuj’ meaning unity.  Unity of what?  Unity of man, the individual soul with the Universal Soul.  Man calls Him by numerous names such as Paramatman, Almighty, God, Supreme Father, Siva, Supreme Mother and so on.  Yoga which is a system of practice based on scientific techniques, leads man to unity with Supreme Consciousness.”

                —Yoga and You. Sree Rajakrishna [my guru].  September, 1990.

 “The word Yoga comes from a Sanskrit root which means “to go to trance, to meditate.”  Others however derive it from a root which means to join; and Yoke in English is said to be the same word as Yoga.  Both roots are feasible—in the case of the root to join, Yoga would mean the science that teaches the method of joining the human soul with God.”

 —Pātāñjali’s Yoga Sūtra Introduction by Rai Bahadur Śrīśa Chandra Vasu.  2000.


 Yoga is a system such that its practice results in unity with God.  Which word of Sanskrit the term “yoga” originated from (equivalent of union or restraint) is—though metaphysically and theologically they are interesting to consider, practically the difference is irrelevant.  I will write Yoga as synonymous with “union,” yet you can substitute the other if you prefer.

 Yoga is union with God.  Undoubtedly, you have heard there are multiple forms of Yoga; indeed, already I have listed five in this FAQ.  Here are some definitions:


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Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga: Union with God through physical techniques.  This Yoga involves postures/poses, stretching, and breath control techniques.  Think of a person sitting in the stereotypical lotus posture (legs crossed, hands on knees)—sitting in that posture controlling breath is an example of Hatha Yoga.  So is the headstand.) 

 There are a vast number of postures ranging from just sitting in a chair to touching the back of one’s feet to the back of one’s head.  Whether your age is 18 or 81, your weight 140 or 410, your body stiff and arthritic or equal to an Olympic gymnast, there are certainly many poses that you can already do that will improve your current level of fitness.

 If you sign up for classes at your local Yoga center, this from is what your likely to predominately practice. 


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Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga: Union with God through mental techniques.  In a word, meditation.  There are various techniques for mediation which can be divided into two groups—mantras and yantras.  Mantras use auditory techniques.  The stereotypical AUM or OM humming you have surely heard on television is an example of a mantra.  There are many, many others.  Yantras use auditory techniques.  Also on television, you have surely seen a person meditating with a flaming candle in front of them—that is one technique of Yantra Yoga and there are many others).   If you sign up for classes at your local Yoga center, generally you can expect to practice some of this also.

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Kundalini Yoga

Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini means serpent.  Also called Laya Yoga, this Yoga involves evoking and raising potent and powerful energy at the base of the spine.  The most intense of the Yogas, it is also considered to be the most dangerous form.   Practicing Kundalini, one can acquire great progress very rapidly without first learning how to control the energies and abilities they have acquired.  There are stories of physical and mental disabilities that have occurred by people who have practiced this Yoga without a teacher.  So the warnings of the Guru’s go.  This Yoga is strongly related to Tantra Yoga.

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Tantra Yoga

 Tantra Yoga: Union with God through the use of sexual energies.  Undoubtedly, you have heard of this form before.  People ask me about this Yoga a lot, so I thought it good to write a little more about this one than the others.

 If you stop at the local Barnes ‘N Noble or visit websites like The Church of Tantra, you will find that Tantra is a broad term for practices such that the goal is to enhance spiritual intimacy between sexual partners and give super-sensual pleasures to oneself and others.  That is not exactly what is meant here, and regardless of what they write, websites like the Church of Tantra ARE NOT consistent with the teachings of Yoga (well, some of the teachings, but certainly not others).  I just want to make it clear on the outset: The goal of Tantra Yoga is to be united with God (which is the goal of all the Yogas) by using techniques that harness sexual energies.  This and only this is Tantra Yoga, and any other goal is distortion.

That being said, we can split Tantra Yogis into two groups—let’s name them “celibate” and “active.”  Celibate groups are, as the name suggests, celibate.  Greater sexual energy equals greater progress in meditation.  These Yogi’s will refuse to orgasm for long periods of time—some make a lifetime vow to celibacy—to enhance there meditative abilities and achieve union with God though meditation.

The “active” groups also believe that sexual energy is a potent meditative substance.  Some of these Yogis have sexual intercourse for hours continuously without ever having an orgasm in order to increase there sexual energies.  Then they meditate.  Still others believe in the usefulness of the powerful energy at the moment of climax.  They use techniques that build and build their sexual energies and fluids in order to gain a super-intense orgasm that is used to raise the Kundalini (see Kundalini Yoga above) and achieve union with God.

Tantra Yogis have a reputation for breaking the norms.  Tatnra Yogis would consume beverages and foods that increase sexual appetite—foods like alcohol and eat red meat—forbidden in Hindu culture.  They would also do bizarre things that would shock even our liberal culture.  For example, they have a version of the corpse pose.  Now, the corpse pose is a pose you would likely learn in your first day of a Yoga class.  It involves simply laying on the ground as relaxed as a corpse.  But thistheir corpse pose… let’s just say that it is shocking enough that liberal Lucid chooses not to describe it here.

Tantra Yoga is a very risqué method to achieve union with God.  One of the requirements of liberation is to give up all attachments—you cannot leave until you unattach, and to try and do is both futile and dangerous.  Yet, it is incredibly difficult to have sexual relations and even “normal” orgasms while at the same time not desiring the pleasures received from them.  Obviously!  For this reason, as well as the reasons in the previous paragraph, Tantra Yoga is looked down upon by many.  Tantra Yogis consume products considered destructive on the path to liberation.  Some perform grotesque practices like the unusual corpse pose variation listed above.  The majority of those who practice the “active” Tantra Yogis who sincerely believe that Tantra Yoga will provide them with liberation will not only not receive liberation but will gain a great deal of bondage (attachments to the pleasures).  Yet I should end this section by stating that Tantra Yoga is a legitimate Yoga, and there are strong-willed individuals who with it can find Union . Practice of any of the other Yogas is by far more likely to lead to Union , though.

Additional information on Tantra Yoga can be located here: The Yoga of Sex

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I heard the goal of meditation is to think of nothing.  How do I do that?

There is a simple two step process that will complete this task effectively: first, find a person such that this person would smash your head with a hammer if you asked.  Second, ask that person to smash your head with a hammer.  Then you will have no thoughts.  Simple.  Effective.

 Forgive my humor!  Yoga will not teach you how to think of nothing.  To think is always to think of something: thinking of Yoga, thinking of God, etc...  You cannot think without thinking of something.  You cannot think without thinking of something.  “I am thinking of nothing” is a self-contradictory statement and it is logically impossible for it to be true for any person at any time (and for those who understand “possible universes” talk, it is impossible to think of nothing in all possible universes).

The goal of mediation is not to think of no-things but of one-thing. 


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Is Yoga Consistent with Christianity?

First, the answer to this depends on what is meant by Yoga.  If you mean by Yoga what you would likely learn here in the U.S. in your nearby Yoga center, then yes, Yoga is consistent with Christianity.  You will likely only be taught stretches, bends, breathing techniques, relaxations techniques, perhaps cleansing techniques, and pan-religious symbols for meditation.  However, if instead you mean by Yoga the ancient Hindu system of liberation, then (Second) the answer to this depends on what is meant by Hinduism.

Hinduism theology can be divided into two groups, polytheistic and monotheistic.  So far as polytheistic Hinduism goes, “In the Hindu pantheon there are said to be three hundred and thirty-three million Gods.”-- SpiritWeb: God and Gods of Hinduism.  Now, weather one believes these gods actually exist or not does not seem to me to be in conflict with Christianity.  The Holy Bible never declares the everlasting non-existence of other gods.  The early books of the Old Testament even suggest the existence of other gods by referring to, well, other gods and their having existence.  I am not saying that Christianity supports the existence of other gods, only that their existence is not contradictory to the Holy Bible.

The Holy Bible does, however, make it clear that we are to worship no other God but Him.  Well, Jesus Christ also (the incarnation of God), if one wishes to make the distinction.  Oh, and some pray to mother Mary, though I never found a reason for this supported in scripture, but nevertheless… The Old and New Testament—especially the Old—repeatedly over and over insult, degrade, and ridicule those who worship idols, and discusses how God becomes enraged when people “worship what their hands have made.” 

The conclusion to be drawn regarding polytheistic Hinduism is simply this: believing and belief alone in the existence of other “gods” is not sufficient to make polytheistic Hinduism inconsistent with Christianity; however, both the fact that they worship these gods and the fact that they worship idols—either of these two facts alone clearly indicate that polytheistic Hinduism in inconsistent with Christianity.  My guess is that many Hindu’s would argue against what I have just written, but the counter arguments I imagine that could be given by them all fail.  So, Yoga understood as the product of ancient polytheistic Hinduism is inconsistent with Christianity.

Hinduism as monotheistic—is this a contradiction?  I do not believe so.  When I was studying Yoga in India we attended a lecture by a priest inside a Shiva temple.  It is this pries that is the primary reference for this paragraph and the one that follows.  He stated that “in the beginning” people worshiped God.  As the concept of God was too great for anyone to imagine, it was hard, well, to imagine the Almighty.  So they found a rock, just a rock, and worship that rock.  Not that they believed the rock was anything more than a rock, but so far as worship of the Almighty was concerned the rock served as a material symbol of God (who they called Shiva).  Eventually, they started worshiping other rocks in the same way.  They began carving rocks into shapes. They gave their rocks special names, special physical attributes, and the like.  Thus, the birth of Hindu idol worship.

So, they too worship idols. This is enough to declare monotheistic Hinduism is contradictory to Christianity, right?  Not so fast.  I find this case more difficult to compare than the above.  First, they only believe in one god.  All the names and idols they worship they admit to be constructions of their imaginations, only this and nothing more.  The Hindu priest also declared that sometimes before a religious ceremony he (or was it they?) would recite a prayer of forgiveness.  I do not remember the exact words, but the concepts of the prayer went something like this, “God, forgive us for worshiping you with a name, for we know you are without name.  God, forgive us for worshiping you as a form (idol), for we know you are formless.  God, forgive us for offering you offerings, for we know you need nothing from us.”  So it goes… or something close to that.

So, we have a religion that believes in one God.  So does Christianity.  They give God many names, and so does Christianity (God, Almighty God, God Almighty, the Eternal One, Everlasting, Everlasting God, Jesus, Christ, Jesus Christ, Yahweh,  etc.).  They believe that idol worship is wrong, so does Christianity.  They perform sins on a regular basis and ask for forgiveness, so do Christians.  So far as my understanding of the two religions goes, I cannot find any inconsistency between Hinduism and the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament, Judaism).  But so far as Christianity and the New Testament goes, it is a different case.

It is an essential part of the New Testament that Jesus was the Son of God, the incarnation of God.  Jesus was the fulfillment of the Hebrew Bible and upon His death made a Way for us to Heaven.  Jesus is the way to his father—not one of many ways, but the way.  My reasoning is this—if a monotheistic Hinduism believes everything written in this paragraph, I do not see anything inconsistent with it and Christianity.  If monotheistic Hinduism rejects any one of the first three sentences of this paragraph, however, then it is clearly inconsistent with Christianity.  My guess is that some monotheistic Hindus would accept all three statements while others would reject it.  So, if Yoga is understood as a system as a product of monotheistic Hinduism, whether it is inconsistent with Christianity depends upon whether the practitioner accepts the first three sentences of the paragraph.

Even in the cases where Yoga is understood as being inconsistent with Christianity, such cases can be easily adapted to be consistent.  Note, however, that I stated adapted; that is, not in its original (pure) form.  The concepts of karma and reincarnation—important concepts in Hinduism’s Yoga which are inconsistent with Christianity—can simply be ignored and not practiced by the Christian (the New Testament makes it clear that we live one life, one life only, and judgment is based on that life—I will try to reference a direct passage in the future.).

Another example: in my Meditation FAQ I neglected to mention that mantras are also incantations—yes, magical spells of protection.  Oh the Holy Bible is clearly against the use of these!  When describing OM , I neglected to mention that traditionally it is believed to protect a soul either within or wandering without the body from spirits and demons wishing to cause you harm.  Am I trying to trick you into sinning, is that why I left that out?  No, no, I say nay to that.  I myself usually use OM to meditate.  Personally, I reject (do not believe in) the protective powers of incantations.  To me, OM is simply an auditory device that is useful for meditation—only that and nothing more.  Again, I do not believe in magical spells.  I do believe that a resonating hum better enables me to focus my mind.  Not a spell.  Not a sin.  Famous Christians, like Mother Teresa, have been known for their meditations.  I would bet that, here in the U.S. , the local Yoga center around where you live is adapted in such a way that it is consistent with Christianity. 

Myself… I am fully a Christian, by no means a Hindu, and embrace the benefits of Yoga without any inconstancies between it and my faith.


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Who are you to write anything about Yoga?

In 1998, I began learning about Yoga primarily from books I purchased, and I practiced what I learned for about a year.  Then, in 1999, I took Tae Kwon Do lessons; shortly after I began taking lessons there this institution began offering free Yoga lessons to all Tae Kwon Do students.  I took lessons for a couple of months, and continued what I had learned from both the books and the lessons until 2001.

In 2001, I left the U.S. to study Yoga in Kerala , India .   There, I studied Yoga from a guru for two hours a day, six days a week, for nearly three months (I also practiced more in solitude).  The focuses of his teachings were Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Astanga Yoga.  He also taught metaphysics and moral philosophy.  It was here that I was certified to teach others Hatha and Raja Yoga (certified in August, 2001).

Additionally, while in Kerala I met and learned some things from a German female guru.  Her focus was Tantra Yoga and Kundalini Yoga. 

Moreover, while abroad I chose to complete a research project writing about the metaphysics and moral philosophy as presented in Vyasa’s and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as well as the Hathayogapradipika.  Furthermore, I did some research on Kundalini Yoga while abroad.  And finally—I think it good to note this—that living where I lived and studying what I studied, necessarily I learned a healthy amount about Hinduism.


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Who was your guru (teacher)?

Sree Rajakrishna.  He is the Guru at the ashram labeled below.  He told me his lineage once, but to be honest, I do not remember!  From what I do recall, I think it was such that his teacher’s teacher was someone famous.  Perhaps I’ll take a more careful look into his lineage at a later time.

Center for Yoga and Meditation
Sandi, Cockade, Bawdie
Trivandrum-695 003
Kerala, India

The last I spoke with him, he was working on building a hermitage near a lake (I viewed the plot, it was beautiful!).

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Marques LaRoy Schwartz.
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Revised: August 07, 2002 .
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