An Introduction to Paths of Yoga


Carrie_Yoga_shoot_002_(8328572519)It seems that everywhere you turn these days there is either a yoga studio nearby, an advertisement for yoga on display, or someone talking about yoga. It’s no secret that yoga is a hot topic in today’s society.

To seasoned yoga practioners however, it is so much more than just a craze. It’s a philosophy. It’s a means of integrating one’s mind, body, and spirit through one of the five traditional yoga paths:

Path #1: Hatha Yoga – The most commonly known practice in the West, Hatha Yoga uses the practice of asanas (yoga postures), pranayama (yoga breathing), mudra (body gestures), and shatkarma (internal cleansings) to unite the mind, body, and spirit and purify the body and cultivate prana (life force energy). It evolved from Tantra Yoga which embraced the physical body as a means to achieve enlightenment.

Path #2: Raja Yoga – Raja Yoga is an extremely challenging and difficult practice to engage in as it attains enlightenment from direct control and mastery of the mind. The oldest system of yoga, it combines the four internal sub-practices of yogic meditation – Yama, Niyama, Asana, and Pranayama and the four external sub-practices – Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadi to help one calm the mind and bring it to a point of focus. This allows the practitioner to direct their attention inwardly toward their true nature of Divinity.

Path #3: Jnana Yoga – Also called the yoga of wisdom, Jnan Yoga requires great strength of will and intellect as the mind inquires its own nature and transcends the minds identification with its thoughts and ego. The fundamental goal of this path is for the practitioner to become liberated from the illusionary world of maya (thoughts and perceptions) and to achieve union of their inner Self (Atman) with the oneness of all life (Brahman). This can be accomplished through the Four Pillars of Knowledge: Viveka (discernment, discrimination), Vairagya (dispassion, detachment), Shatsampat (six virtues), and Mumukshutva (longing, yearning).

Path #4: Tantra Yoga – Borrowing from the ancient vedic and yogic spiritual practices, Tantra Yoga allows one to experience the reality of their true Self and the oneness of the cosmos by cleansing the body and mind to break the knots that binds us to our physical existence. In doing so, the bodies of energy and spirit create a bridge from the physical to Devine through the purification and cultivation of prana (life force energy) and the activation of kundaline (awareness).

Path #5: Bhakti Yoga: Meaning “devotion” or “love, this path is one of the easiest to master and unites the practitioner with the Divine through a unity of mind, body, and spirit. By having an open, loving heart, the practitioner will be bestowed with jnana (knowledge or wisdom). There are nine main practices of this path with each creating its own specific bhava (feeling) that appeals to different inner constitutions: Shravana, Kirtana, Smarana, Padasevana, Archana, Vandana, Dasya, Sakhya, and Atmanivedana.

To your inner peace – Anna

References:

“YOGA 101: THE BASICS.” Yoga Basics. Web. 2 Nov. 2014.

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