Yoga Means Union. It has links with the English word Yoke. Although many people think this term refers to union between body and mind, or body, mind and spirit, the traditional acceptance is union between the Jivatman and Paramatman that is between one’s individual consciousness and the Universal Consciousness.
Therefore Yoga refers to a certain state of consciousness as well as to methods that help one reach that goal or state of union with the divine.
The Paths of Yoga
The various Yogic practices have been traditionally classified into Margas (paths). These paths are:
Karma Yoga: the way of right action, serving without the motivation of obtaining the results of labour. Karma Yoga is practiced by giving and not expecting to receive. This is believed to cancel out our bad karma that we have from the past and previous lives, and give us good karma so that we may reach our enlightenment more quickly.
Bhakti Yoga: the way of devotion, devotion to a supreme being absorbing the emotions and self in pure love. The Hare Krishna’s practice Bhakti Yoga by devoting themselves to Hare Krishna. They are known as devotees. As Yoga is non-denominational it may be practiced by devotion to whichever God is in your belief, or simply to yourself.
Jnana Yoga: the way of knowledge, studying God and learning to discriminate between illusion and the reality that all is God.
Hatha Yoga: the physical path, using the body through asana and pranayama to control the mind and senses. Many Yoga Masters and teachers have devised their own styles of Hatha Yoga some are exlained below:
Ashtanga (or Power Yoga): An athletic, fast paced yoga that is not recommended for beginning students. It uses Ujjayii breath throughout and engages MulaBandha.
Bikram: Sometimes called Hot Yoga, an athletic, physically focused yoga practiced in a room heated to 100+ degrees. Bikram is a rigid sequence of 26 poses. Beware: Bikram instructors often behave like drill seargents and encourage their students to push hard which can lead to injuries.
Iyengar: a technical yoga with a strong focus on alignment and a heavy use of props. Iyengar yoga also emphasizes the therapeutic properties of the poses.
Sivananda: A traditional approach to yoga with a rigid class structure of asana, pranayama, meditation and relaxation. Sivananda yoga teaches many advanced poses.
Viniyoga: a therapeutic and individualistic approach to yoga incorporating Vinyasa through the use of repetitious movements in and out of a posture.
Tantric Yoga: the feminine path (but not just for females!), worshipping the goddess energy and seeing the body as the temple of the divine.
Kundalini Yoga: the path of energy, arousing the energy stored in the chakras through breathing and movement. Balancing the Chakras is an important practice in Kundalini Yoga. And it is a dynamic, esoteric and energizing yoga incorporating pranayama, movement, asana, and chanting.
Raja Yoga: the path of meditation, controlling the mind from wandering and obtaining mastery over thought. It is also known as Royal Yoga.
Mantra Yoga: the path of chanting and devotional meditation.
By Danielle Bryant BSYA