The Six Branches of Yoga & Understanding Their Duties

  • Hatha Yoga or Yoga of Postures
    Hatha Yoga is perhaps the path of Yoga you are most familiar with since this is the most popular branch of Yoga in the West. This branch of Yoga uses physical poses or Asana, Breathing Techniques or Pranayama, and Meditation to achieve better health, as well as spirituality. There are many styles within this path – Iyengar, Integral, Astanga, Kripalu, and Jiva Mukti to name a few.If what you want is a peaceful mind and a healthy body to go along with it, Hatha Yoga may just be the path for you.
  • Bhakti Yoga or Yoga of Devotion
    Bhakti Yoga is the path most followed in India. This is the path of the heart and devotion. Yogis who practice this branch sees the “One” or the Divine in everyone and everything. Bhakti Yoga teaches a person to have devotion to the “One” or to Brahma by developing a person’s love and acceptance for all things.
  • Raja Yoga or Yoga of Self-Control
    Raja means “royal”. This path is considered to be the King of Yoga and this may be due to the fact that most of its practitioners are members of religious and spiritual orders. Raja Yoga is based on the teachings of the Eight Limbs of Yoga found in the Yoga sutras. A Raja Yogi sees the self as central, and as such, respect to oneself and for all creation are vital to this path. They achieve self-respect by first learning to be masters of themselves.If you wish to learn discipline, then Raja Yoga would perfectly suit that need.
  • Jnana Yoga or Yoga of the Mind                                                                                                                                   Jnana Yoga is the path of Yoga that basically deals with the mind, and as such, it focuses on man’s intelligence. Jnana Yogis consider wisdom and intellect as important and they aim to unify the two to surpass limitations. Since they wish to gain knowledge, they are open to other philosophies and religion for they believe that an open and rational mind is crucial in knowing the spirit.
  • Karma Yoga or Yoga of Service                                                                                                                                         Karma Yoga is the path of service for in this path, it is believed that your present situation is based on your past actions. So by doing selfless service now, you are choosing a future that is free from negativity and selfishness. Karma Yogis change their attitude towards the good and in the process, change their souls, which leads to a change in their destiny.
  • Tantra Yoga or Yoga of Rituals                                                                                                                               Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the paths, Tantra Yoga is about using rituals to experience what is sacred. Although sex is a part of it, sex is not the whole of it since this path aims to find what is sacred in everything we do. Tantra Yogis must possess certain qualities like purity, humility, devotion, dedication to his Guru, cosmic love, and truthfulness among other things.
    • There are still a lot of misconceptions about Yoga, for instance, Yoga being a religion. Yoga is not a religion. It is more of a set of techniques for us to find spirituality. In fact, Yoga is being practiced by a lot of people from different religions like Christians, Jewish, Buddhists, and Muslims.Another misconception is that Yoga is an exercise, a way for us to keep fit. It is partly true, but if you think that Yoga is just that then you are greatly mistaken. Yoga develops the body since a weak one is a hindrance to spiritual growth. It does not simply focus on the physical but on the mental and spiritual aspects as well.

    * Master Phoenix Le Grand, PhD. M.A.

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