PATHS OF YOGA
There are four principle paths of yoga: Raja, Bhakti, Jnana and Karma.
Karma Yoga is the path of selfless action; action without consideration of personal gain.
Jnana Yoga is the yoga of the intellect.
Bhakti Yoga is the devotional path of yoga.
Raja Yoga is the royal path of yoga; the eight limbs or steps which guide a student's personal, social and spiritual growth.
The path followed by a student depends on his background, his/her mental-emotional predispositions and natural tendencies.
There is the possibility that in following a particular path one's growth may become unbalanced, with a tendency to concentrate on one aspect (such as devotion or intellect) to the neglect of other aspects of one's life. Any path, properly followed, should result in a balanced life.
The yoga most familiar to Westerners is Hatha Yoga -- the physical practices of yoga -- which originally derived from Raja Yoga. The eight steps of Raja Yoga are:
- Y AMA - social ethics
- NIYAMA - personal ethics
- ASANA - posture
- PRANAYAMA - energy control through the breath
- PRATYAHARA - sense withdrawal
- DHARANA - concentration
- DHYANA - meditation
- SAMADHI - enlightenment
HATHA: Ha- sun; tha- moon
Hatha Yoga consists of steps 3 and 4, with step 5 being experienced in deep yoga relaxation. In other words Hatha embodies the physical practices of yoga: asana; pranayama; and savasana (deep yoga relaxation). In Hatha Yoga purification of the body is the first step toward spiritual enlightenment.
This does not mean that Hatha is not, or cannot be, an integrated practice. Integration is achieved through the physical practices; mental concentration and correct breathing, while practicing the asanas add to the total effect of this discipline. The student should beware that s/he does not become obsessed, or overly engrossed with the physical body.