- The word Yoga derives from Sanskrit verb ‘yuj’, which means to unite. The term Yoga therefore means union. This refers to merging of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness in the state of ‘samadhi’. This is the more subtle meaning, on the denser level this also relates to the union between body and mind, or body-mind-spirit.
- ‘Yogah cittavrtti nirodhah’ (Patanjali) > ‘Yoga is to gain mastery over the mind’
The 4 Paths of Yoga
Karma Yoga – The Path of Self Sacrifice and Action
It is a path for those who are of an outgoing nature or work all the time and cannot sit or relax easily. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without a thought of gain or reward and be one with what you are doing. The repetition of mantras during any action is used to keep your mind focused on the work being performed and not let your mind wander into, what you will gain or not gain from the actual work. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions and offering them to an abstract idea (god), you learn to sublimate the ego.
Bhakti Yoga - The Path of Self Surrender and Devotion
It is the path for those who are of an emotional nature. It is found to be a natural path for women in particular. Devotion is expressed through devotional chanting or dancing. Through prayer, worship and ritual you will surrender yourself to the Divine, channelling and transmuting your emotions into unconditional love or devotion. Your idea of god is that god is the embodiment of love.
Jnana Yoga – The path of Self Analysis and Knowledge
It is the path for intellectual people. This is the most difficult path as it requires a tremendous amount of willpower and intellect. It encompasses acquiring a complete knowledge of a certain situation, philosophy or experience, using contemplation and meditation and applying this knowledge in practice. The Jnana Yogi uses his mind to inquire into its own nature.
Raja Yoga - The Path of Self Control (Physical and Mental Control)
It is the path for systematically inclined and organised people. Often called the ‘royal road’ it offers a complete step-by-step method for controlling thoughts by transmuting our mental and physical energy into spiritual energy. Raja Yoga is also called Ahtanga Yoga referring to the eight limbs (levels) one needs to follow in order to attain absolute mind control. The most prominent practice of Raja Yoga is meditation. It also includes all other methods which help one to control body, energy, senses and mind. The Raja Yogi employs Relaxation and other practices such as Yamas, Niyamas, Mudras, Bandhas etc to gain control of the physical body and the subtle life force called Prana. When the body and energy are under control, meditation comes naturally. Hatha Yoga forms part of Raja Yoga and deals with the awakening and rising of Kundalini, the primordial – cosmic energy within our being.
Raja Yoga is not to be confused with Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga (flow), which is only sequencing of certain asanas.
There are four main paths of Yoga – Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Each is suited to a different temperament or approach to life. All the paths lead ultimately to the same destination, to the state of the union, and the lessons of each of them need to be integrated if true wisdom is to be attained.
The knowledge of Yoga has infinite powers, yet many people know about Yoga on a very superficial level, and many teachers are seen abusing the tradition for their personal gain. Yoga is not a fitness program. Posture or asana cannot be the sole reason for Yoga as it is only a small aspect of the whole science of Yoga.
Yoga has come to your life to teach you how to live, to give you light so you start to remember, what you already know, but have forgotten. Yoga leads you to full enlightenment and that is a continuous path, going deeper and deeper into your own inner exploration to discover what Yoga really is. Everyone will get different answers on this path, as they are all made to fit that individual with his own relevant circumstance. Strive not to only take pieces of it, aim for the whole truth.
It is imperative to start living with awareness because only if we nurture this sight, will we be able to stand unshaken. To differentiate truth from ‘untruth’ is so important in these times; we are being polluted on the level of body, mind and spirit because we have forgotten how to discern the difference. Yoga is prana in itself, it is multidimensional and intelligent. Yoga might as well be prana taking the form of itself on a physical plain.