“To further understand then how yoga works, I endeavour to understand what yoga is”. Yoga traditionally was called a teaching of liberation – moksha shastra. It seeks to free us from our limited perception/understanding of who we are.
“Who we are today is based on what we identify with”.
If we associate ourselves with our particular bodies, names, possessions, and relationships, we are reduced to be finite persons limited by our own finite identification. Who we really are is beyond all of this. The yogic perspective declares us as immortal beings, part and piece of the universal consciousness.
Yoga helps us understand this fundamental truth. It chips away at our finite identification and liberates us to become infinite in our awareness and capabilities. The word “Yoga” derives from the Sanskrit word “Yuj,” which means to unite. The yogic objective is to provide a Union with Cosmic Intelligence.
Which type of Yoga is for you?
All human beings are unique. Each one possesses different inherent strengths and weaknesses. No matter what path you choose for yoga, all the paths lead ultimately to the same destination – union with Brahman. No form is better than the other; there are just different paths. With this overview, you may find the yoga path best suited to bring health and enlightenment to you.
The choice of path depends on your requirements. The path chosen will ultimately help you progress along your inner journey. Are you looking at flexibility or looking towards being more compassionate? Do you seek union with the Divine, or are you in the midst of a search for knowledge and wisdom?
You choose the road. It will make all the difference.
Jnana or Gyana Yoga (Wisdom Yoga)
Jnana literally means ‘knowledge’. In the context of yoga, it means the meditative awareness process leading to illuminative wisdom. The goal is to seek the knowledge hidden in all of us through questioning, meditation, and contemplation. This is considered the most challenging path because it requires tremendous strength of will and intellect, a radical shift in perception.
Raja Yoga (Royal Yoga)
The Raja yoga is often referred to as the “royal road,” and the asanas in this yoga focus on controlling the body and the mind to attain enlightenment. When body and energy are under control, meditation comes naturally. Raja Yoga usually refers to Sage Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. (“Ashta” means eight, and “Anga” is limbs, so it means Eight Limb Path).
Karma Yoga (Action Yoga)
This yoga technique aims at liberation through self-transcending service.
The word is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Kri,’ which means “to do.” Thus, everything that we do, all actions, is Karma, and Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Selfless Work, without any expectations in return. Karma is the path of eliminating the ego and attachments. Karma yoga focuses on the causes and effects of an individual’s actions. It purifies the heart by teaching how to live a life of spiritual action and selfless service.
Bhakti Yoga (Devotional Yoga)
Bhakti means “to serve the Divine.” It is a way of union through devotion and involves surrendering oneself to the Divine through prayer, worship, and ritual. This surrender is generally for the supreme being in any of the forms. When an individual practices bhakti yoga, it helps to decrease the practitioner’s ego. A decrease in ego helps prevent fickleness, new distractions, or even pain and instead induces strong bonds of love. Slowly, the practitioner loses the self-identity and becomes one with the object of faith; this is a state of self-realization.
Hatha Yoga (Force Yoga)
Hatha yoga aims at liberation through physical transformation.
The syllable ‘ha’ denotes the pranic (vital) force that governs the physical body, while the ‘tha’ refers to the chitta (mental) force. This makes Hatha Yoga a catalyst for an awakening of the two energies ( vital and mental) that govern our lives. It is concerned with physical and mental purification and training. Hatha yoga strives to bring the physical body into a perfect state of health so the soul has a fitting vehicle of expression to work through.
Hatha yoga comprises asanas (postures), pranayama (control of breath), and relaxation techniques that help to control the physical body and the subtle life force called prana. Ananda, ashtanga, Bikram, integral, iyengar, and kundalini are a few types of hatha yoga.
Tantra Yoga (Continuity Yoga)
This is the sensual yoga. By embracing this form of Yoga, we become more “complete” by recognizing and stimulating our inherent sensual spirituality. It allows us to discover parts of our sensuality that may have been asleep or repressed. Energy is released that is evolutionary and “upwardly motivated.” We can learn to use this energy for pleasure, achieving our worldly goals, and aiding our spiritual evolution.
Mantra Yoga (Potent sound Yoga)
Mantra is a Sanskrit word derived from two roots: Manasa or mind and Tarana or save. A mantra is something that saves, and uplifts the mind. Mantra Yoga is known to have its origin in ancient Vedic Sciences and also in Tantra. Did you know that all the verses in Vedas are called mantras?
It is believed that a person who can chant or sing Vedas can achieve the ultimate salvation or union with supreme consciousness only by chanting the mantra. This is what the mantra yoga aims at. It is the power of the word to create or destroy that this path emphasizes. It utilizes the focused intently to make every word you speak in harmony with Spirit and your own soul.
Kriya Yoga (Yoga of Action with Awareness)
Kriya yoga helps one to live and act totally consistent to action with awareness. Kriya means action, and Yoga means citta-vritti-nirodha: Citta (mind), Vritti (ideas), Nirodha (control). Tapa (penance), Svadhyaya(self-study), and Isvarapranidhana (devotion) are the main components of Kriya yoga. This form of yoga helps to control the ideas in our mind, thus helping an individual to be aware of everything that one may be doing.
Kundalini Yoga (Yoga of Awareness)
The word “kundalini” literally means “the curl of the lock of hair,” it is a metaphor, a poetic way of describing the flow of energy and consciousness within each of us. This system of Yoga is concerned with awakening the psychic centers, also known as the chakras, that are within us. The human body has seven chakras, and in Kundalini Yoga, higher-level chakras are awakened, as well as the activities associated with these higher psychic centers.