Yoga is an ancient system of philosophy and practice that leads to higher knowledge through greater understanding of yourself and the world around you.
Yoga, contrary to popular perception, does not indicate merely physical postures and movements. Postures and movements are just one of the many aspects of yoga designed to help you bring about total transformation in your relationship to yourself and the world around you.
You can imagine your journey through the practice of yoga the way you would your journey hiking up a mountain. The mountain is a great metaphor for the challenges and obstacles we face in the process of our development.
There are many paths up the spiritual mountain. While different paths will give you different techniques and approaches, there is no exclusive way. All the paths lead to the same place, the summit.
Often a well rounded approach that incorporates a combination of techniques and approaches is most appropriate. Although many people are born within contexts that have revolved around particular systems of beliefs that exclude all others, thinking that theirs is the best, authentic spiritual growth requires that you look beyond dogma and acquire a broader view.
So often our cultures and traditions condition us to think that a one size fits all formula is the best approach to our spiritual growth. Yet choosing a yoga practice depends on your preferences, your strengths, and your disposition.
Incorporating one or more of the following traditional paths of yoga will propel you towards the “goal:”
1. Hatha Yoga
Hatha yoga is the path of physical postures and movements that most people simply regard as yoga. Hatha yoga is not so much a traditional path of yoga but a way of training the body in order to prepare one for the meditation of Raja Yoga, the next path I will mention. Hatha yoga includes all the various brand names for this particular type of exercise, depending on the styles and sequences of the postures and movements — which range from vinyasa, a very fast and active power-based hatha yoga, to yin, a very slow and passive flexibility-based hatha yoga— and depending on the person who founded the style and sequence, such as Bikram and Iyengar.
2. Raja Yoga
Raja yoga is the royal path, the path of meditation, and it requires an ability to continually observe the mind. Raja yoga a way of attaining greater understanding through study of the thoughts and the breath.
3. Karma yoga
Karma yoga is the path of action, and it requires selfless service to society. Karma yoga is a way of surrendering your limited sense of self by volunteering efforts to the collective. Most people simply refer to karma yoga as charity or volunteer work.
4. Bhakti yoga
Bhakti yoga is the path devotion, and it requires an emotional nature. Bhakti yoga is a way of directing your life to something greater through activities of love, song, and prayer.
5. Jnana yoga
Jnana yoga is the path of knowledge, and it requires a strong intellectual nature. Jnana yoga is a way of attaining greater understanding through modes of inquiry with questions such as these: Who am I? And what is the world?