The yoga culture and its healing methods are wider-ranging and older than generally realized in the West. Most people think Yoga is certain posture and exercises. These are all a tiny part of one single branch: the Hatha yoga. Nevertheless, this is important: without any drug, needle or diet, certain simple postures and exercises may dramatically change bodily health, with beneficial consequences on the mind. Then there are the Gnana yogis, yogis of the mind, who use little if any physical exercise or postures but reorient and revitalize the whole personality through their mind. Which of these two methods or systems is to be used depends on the patient or the pupil. In this, the yogis are ahead of most of us: they recognize that humans are as different as night and day. What is poison to one is cure for another.
A third type of yoga is Bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion or love. the whole personality, mind and body, are cured by emotional input. Then there are the Karma yogis, the yogis of action. Soldiers, statesmen, business men are often cured or satisfactorily developed merely through their actions. There are the Mantram yogis, who develop through repeating magic words or chants, “mantrams”, and all of them pay attention to their breath.
Yoga, therefore, is not a narrow special practice or philosophy. It is the whole past civilization or culture of a continent, its science, religion and behaviorism rolled into one.
In the Near East a corresponding wide-ranging discipline or philosophy is and was Sufism, the inspiration behind the Hebrew, Zoroastrian, Christian and Muslim cultures and religions. The present popular fashion of connecting Sufism exclusively with Islam is deplored as much by knowledgeable Muslims as by other scholars.
Sufis have for millenniums been living side by side with yogis in India and other parts of the world. Both have benefitted and expanded their concepts. Both, again, are closely related to the Buddhists, particularly to Zen.
(excerpt from Planet Earth Demands)