When we look back at the history of the practices of Yoga, we find several lines of development. One is to move the consciousness away from focus on the outer world and its events, activities and insistent occupations to focus entirely on entering a status of unity with the Divine, the Absolute, whether conceived of as unmoving or moving, impersonal or personal. Another line of development, particularly in the field of Hatha Yoga, has been to focus on the capacities of the body to reach stages of flexibility, strength, and contained peace beyond what we normally experience in our physical bodies. The traditional path of knowledge uses development of the intellectual capacities to a highest stage of performance to break through the limits of our normal surface intelligence. The traditional path of devotion uses development of the emotional powers to achieve a purity and power of love and devotion far beyond what we call love in our normal lives. The traditional path of works uses development of action in the world to harness the will toward carrying out a divine impulsion or mandate. The way of works includes numerous humanitarian projects such as feeding the hungry or caring for the sick or elderly. All of these are positive and noble endeavors, clearly, and reflect the idealism and dedication of the practitioners of these traditional paths of development.
The integral Yoga seeks to achieve a total transformation of consciousness. The limitations of our physical, vital, emotional and mental consciousness are to be overcome through a transition of the awareness, first inwardly to create a separation from the surface ego-personality and to come in contact with the psychic entity, the true soul, residing deep within each person, and then acting from the flame of aspiration that characterises the soul to shift the standpoint of consciousness upwards, beyond the mental into what would be to us at this point, supra-mental regions of awareness. As a result of these changes, our way of knowing will be transformed from the intellectual, logical process to a knowing through identity that unifies us with the divine and also provides a new motive and power of action in life.
Sri Aurobindo observes: “…the principle of this Yoga is not perfection of the human nature as it is but a psychic and spiritual transformation of all the parts of the being through the action of an inner consciousness and then of a higher consciousness which works on them, throws out their old movements or changes them into the image of its own and so transmutes lower into higher nature. It is not so much the perfection of the intellect as a transcendence of it, a transformation of the mind, the substitution of a larger greater principle of knowledge — and so with all the rest of the being.”
“This is a slow and difficult process; the road is long and it is hard to establish even the necessary basis. The old existing nature resists and obstructs and difficulties arise one after another and repeatedly till they are overcome. It is therefore necessary to be sure that this is the path to which one is called before one finally decides to tread it.”
Sri Aurobindo, Integral Yoga: Sri Aurobindo’s Teaching and Method of Practice, The Integral Yoga and the Ordinary Life, pp. 9-10