Monday, February 29, 2016

Breaking it down - the different paths of YOGA.

Although there are many paths of yoga, in the last blog post concerning where all this was originating from, we said that there were 7 disciples that left Adi Yogi (the first Yogi) with 7 different forms or paths of Yoga to bring to the rest of the world.  These paths although different do interlace and do lead to the same destination - to Yoga; to union and oneness.  They lead us to our true selves, our true nature that of existence, knowledge and bliss absolute.  Although these days in your studios etc. you may be hearing just the styles of asana practice mentioned such as Hatha, Iyenger, Ashtanga etc., these are brand names and not to be confused with the different approaches to Yoga which I have tried to briefly explain below.  This is the synthesis of Yoga and the depths of practice and you will see that actually the practice you may be familiar with that you need a mat for is just a tip of a great big iceberg!  Enjoy exploring!

Bhakti YOGA – The Devotional Path
This is the Yoga of devotion, seeking oneness with all of creation often through chanting and song, with worship and ritual, visiting spiritual places and connecting to a higher awareness of consciousness.  Here one can learn to surrender the ego and channel the emotions positively learning acceptance and tolerance, this is yoga of the heart!

Karma YOGA – The Active Path
This is the Yoga of selfless service, we can learn to remove our ego through our actions and service without want or need for any personal gain or benefit to ourselves or thanks for what we have done.  This is giving up any reward or fruits from our action, performing actions selflessly.  Working for the good of others in our mind and not that of ourselves.

Hatha YOGA – A branch of RAJA Yoga
This is the path of purification for the body and mind using yogic postures, breathing and cleansing techniques to liberate the body ready for a higher level of self-awareness.  So when you see a timetable for a studio offering Hatha, Sivananda, Satyananda, Ashtanga, Vinyassa, Yin, Iyengar, Slow Flow, Power, Bikram, Therapeutic, (the list goes on!) this all constitutes as Hatha Yoga, it is using the body and breath.  The different names may represent different teachers that have applied a certain sequence or technique or different styles of movement etc.  Ha represents the Sun and Tha the moon and we bring the two together through Hatha Yoga.

Raja YOGA – The Mystic Path
This continues on with Hatha Yoga following 8 limbs outlined by the Sage Patanjali. These are our ethical codes of do’s and don’ts or Yamas and Niyamas, Asana (postures), pranayama (breathing techniques) Pratyahara –withdrawal from our senses and sense pleasures, Dharana – concentration, Dhyana – meditation and Samadhi – the super conscious state which has different stages leading to complete oneness, duality no longer exists.

Jnana YOGA – The Intellectual Path
This is the path of cultivating knowledge of the true self, inquiring into ‘Who am I?’  Involving the study of the scriptures and intense contemplation of their meanings and meditation into what is real and what is not real, the meaning of the self, this is Yoga of the mind!

Tantra YOGA – The Spiritual Path
This is the path of divineness and probably the most misunderstood.  Tantra is eradicating all duality and seeing all as divine, from every blade of grass to every soul on the planet, to the stars and moon.  Every action is a divine action.  Often tantra is using mantra and the raising of the kundalini, which is a dormant energy in all beings that we raise up through the energy centers to the highest level of awareness.  It is a powerful path and needs the right Guru.  Everything is seen as sacred and can relate to the Shakti – female energy of the cosmos.

Nada YOGA – The Path of Sound
This is often referred to Laya yoga or even Kundalini yoga and is the use of sound to attain the blissful state.  It is the concentration of the inner sounds, the annahata sounds- the internal sounds or sounds of the soul.  It is the transformation of the self-realized through tone.

Kriya YOGA – The Path of Purification
This path is purification of the soul through the performance of austerities; study of the scriptures and of self-surrender.  This is the constant practice of the Yama’s and Niyamas, those that purify the impure mind, which diminishes our animal nature and elevates the divine nature that resides in all of us.  This is spiritual discipline that leads to the complete control over the mind.  This doesn’t mean being able to live your life with one arm raised over your head all day every day or be able to stand in freezing water with no clothes, this means being able to except insult and injury, being able to fast and control our eating habits, to be able to control our sleep and having complete control over our desires.  There should be austerities performed for body, speech and mind to steady our minds and fix it on oneness.

So as we can see YOGA is so much more than just rolling out your mat, it is a complete way of being, a way of higher living to reach liberation from the constant circle of births and deaths.  We see a beautiful mountain and want to reach the top, so which path are you going to begin on?  In YOGA all the paths should intertwine at some point, practicing a synthesis to bring us to truth. 
Have a wonderful Adventure.

Mangala / Nicky.

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