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Introduction To Four Streams Of Yoga

Introduction To Four Streams Of Yoga

In the current world there are different types of yoga floating around, which makes it really difficult to understand which type of yoga suits you best, what must you practice, what particular practice would you really connect to. Words like kundalini yoga, tantric yoga are often used only as a means to attract people without being true to the original practice. Let’s deep dive into what yoga really is and where all is it mentioned and in which context.

The Bhagwad Gita speaks about the different streams of yoga considering the various aspects of an individual and using that to explore the truth of life. 

The Gita recognized that there are different personalities and preferences and offered us four major Streams of Yoga, to help achieve our life goal

What are the four Streams of Yoga? 

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is all about doing your action without expecting any outcome or fruits of the action. Bhagavad Gita mentions Karma yoga as one of the paths to purify the mind and ultimately leads to spiritual liberation. Karma or actions should be such that one’s dharma is like doing God’s work.

Ways to inculcate karma yoga in our modern day life:

  1. Perform your daily duties and responsibilities wherever it is required. Bring your spirituality and balanced approach to all your daily actions. Try to make it a part of your daily living.
Karma Yoga

Jñana Yoga

It is the Intellectual path or the Knowledge of the self. The goal is to inquire deeply into truth through questioning, meditation, and contemplation until we find that knowledge. It involves a shift in perception. Everything you know, think, believe, or feel will be questioned. It is said to be the most difficult path because it uses the mind and intellect to go beyond and to realize that they are one with the universe.

The first step to Jnana yoga is:

Shravana is hearing or listening to the sacred knowledge in the ancient Vedic texts of the Upanishad. Usually, a teacher or guru will guide the yogi through discussions on the philosophy of non-dualism. In this stage, the student should read and study the Upanishads and achieve a deep understanding of the concepts of Atman and Brahman and the philosophy of non-dualism.

Manana is thinking and reflecting on these teachings of non-duality. The student is expected to spend many hours thinking and contemplating on the various ideas of Svadhyaya and Sravana.

Nididhyasana is the constant and profound meditation on the inner Self. This involves meditation and reflection.

Ways to inculcate Jñana yoga in our modern day life:

1. Hearing, educating & learning about the sacred knowledge of the Vedas and Upanishads to achieve a deep understanding of the knowledge.   

2. Reflecting, thinking & contemplating about the teachings mentioned in the Vedas, Upanishads, and the Gita.

Jnana Yoga

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga is a spiritual path. In this path, you seek liberation by completely surrendering to your chosen God (Ishtha-devta). One must have pure devotion towards their chosen God, and leaving all the desires behind which could make one incapable of being fully devoted. A person who is following this path needs to be emotionally very connected to the higher power and knows how to interact the right way. When someone is using his/her emotional aspect to find out the truth that is Bhakti yoga.

Ways to inculcate Bhakti yoga in our modern day life:

  1. Find your God, with whom you can relate to and completely surrender to that devta. Could be a role model or a mentor.
  2. Cultivate feelings of a real relationship with the God.
  3. Reflect on what your God would do in a given situation and circumstance
  4. Act to please or comply with your God.
Bhakti Yoga

Karma yoga, Jnana yoga and Bhakti Yoga are considered to be yoga as per an individuals dominant human traits. Every human is born with a particular dominant trait and that’s the path we usually follow to find out the truth of life.

There could be a situation when someone doesn’t resonate or connect with the three mentioned paths, then there’s another path called the Raja yoga. It is a path that is not a trait we are born with, this particular path requires training for years.

Raja Yoga

The 6th chapter of Bhagwad Gita is called Abhyasa Yoga or Dhyana yoga, A Yoga of dedicated practice of various techniques to make the mind one-pointed to seek the truth and seek complete liberation for all kinds of pain and suffering. 

This is the very Yoga that Patanjali has expounded in his Yoga sutra. The Ashtanga Yoga is a systematic framework for the practice of meditation. That involves 8 limbs of Ashtanga yoga that are- Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. 

Later in the hatha yoga practice, meditation was also referred to as Raja Yoga. Hatha yoga was a pre-practice for Raja yoga, the yoga of meditation. The Hatha practices of Asana, Shatkarma, Pranayama, Mudra and Bandha are all meant to prepare an individual for the practice of Raja Yoga. 

We today interchangingly use the word Raja Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga. This is the path for someone who is disciplined to carry out regular practice to train body, breath, prana, and mind. 

Way to inculcate Raja yoga in our modern-day life 

  1. Start building disciple to regularly practice a certain sadhana.
  2. The sadhana should include practices for the body-breath and mind.
  3. Cultivating Moderation approach to all things in life 
  4. Move towards Vairagya, non-attachment, so as to focus on the sadhana.  

Every path has its own beauty and uniqueness to it, there’s so much to learn from each and every path we choose.

Even though all the paths are different from each other, but they are really one in yoga, they all lead to the same path. We choose one path which resonates with us and continue to walk in that path. This will finally get you to the path of enlightenment.

Karma yoga, Jnana yoga, Bhakti yoga, and Raja yoga are like different streams of a river that will end up at the ocean i.e. enlightenment.

Choose a path that you can resonate with the most and keep practicing it till it becomes a part of you.

Which path do you connect with the most? Let us know in the comments section below.

Join Shvasa's online live yoga classes to delve deeper into yoga philosophy and learn the benefits of practicing yoga, pranayama and meditation.

Introduction To Four Streams Of Yoga
Shvasa Editorial Team

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