Buddhism A–Z
What is Yoga in Buddhism?

The Sanskrit word yoga means “union” or “to join.” It is related to the English word yoke. In the West, we often associate yoga with hatha yoga, a type of yoga using posture and breathing techniques that millions of people practice for relaxation, flexibility, and health.

In Buddhism, yoga is a generic term for spiritual discipline and is associated with many aspects of practice that may have nothing to do with poses. These include types of meditation and the study of certain texts. 

For example, there are many stages in Buddhist tantra yoga, some of which involve elaborate rituals and visualization techniques. Visualizing oneself as an enlightened being is a common tantra practice, sometimes called deity yoga. 

Tantra yoga is about working with the mind and body to realize the ultimate nature of reality. It is sometimes spoken of as guru yoga because the student must be guided through the stages of tantra by a guru, with whom the student forms a close bond. Tantric practice is described as a form of yoga because it “yokes,” or joins, all aspects of life with the path to enlightenment. Some esoteric Buddhist practices are similar to hatha yoga, in that they use certain postures and movements to work with energies in the body.

Although hatha yoga is not a Buddhist practice in itself, many Buddhists like to combine hatha yoga with their meditation practice. The physical discipline of hatha helps them sit in meditation with more comfort and composure. Hatha yoga can also be practiced as a form of mindfulness meditation.

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Buddhism A–Z

Explore essential Buddhist terms, concepts, and traditions.