Understanding Integral Yoga

Three women meditating in integral yoga class
Lumina/Stocksy United

Integral yoga follows the teachings of Sri Swami Satchidananda, who came to the United States from India in the 1960s and eventually founded the famed Yogaville Ashram in Buckingham, Virginia and many other yoga institutes. Integral is a gentle, Hatha practice and classes often also include breathing exercises, chanting, kriyas, and meditation. Integral yoga was instrumental in the introduction of yoga to the western world.

The Integral method, so called because it seeks to integrate the mind, body, and spirit, is intended to give students the tools they need to live peaceful, healthy, joyful, useful lives. Indeed, Satchidanada’s teachings go beyond the physical practice of yoga postures: He sought to inspire students to find fulfillment in themselves and promote a peaceful existence with others.

Sachidananda is also the author of many books. His translations and interpretations of the Bhagavad Gita and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali make these arcane texts comprehensible to contemporary readers and applicable to modern life. Today, the Integral Yoga worldwide community includes over 20,000 teachers and therapists who practice within the yoga and healthcare communities to develop programs for both general and special populations.

Integral Yoga Areas of Instruction

Integral yoga incorporates several areas of focus and instruction.

  • Hatha Yoga: The practice of yoga postures (asana), breathing exercises (pranayama), cleansing practices (kriyas) and deep relaxation to strengthen and purify the body.
  • Raja Yoga: The practice of meditation to balance and control the mind.
  • Bhakti Yoga: Devotion, manifested through constant love, to a God, the divine, or a spiritual teacher.
  • Karma Yoga: Selfless service, free from attachment to the idea of the results of these actions.
  • Jnana Yoga: The intellectual approach, by which a transcendence of the body and mind is achieved through study, self-analysis, and awareness.
  • Japa Yoga: Repetition of a mantra, a sound vibration with an aspect of the divine.

Is Integral Yoga for You?

Integral yoga appeals to those who want an approach that addresses their whole life, including physical, spiritual, intellectual, and interpersonal relationships. Classes tend to be gentle, accessible, and particularly non-competitive and the teachers are usually extremely knowledgeable. Find out more at Integral Yoga Institute of New York and Sri Swami Satchidananda.

By Ann Pizer, RYT
Ann Pizer is a writer and registered yoga instructor who teaches vinyasa/flow and prenatal yoga classes.