Types of Yoga

There are several styles of Yoga.  All styles lead to the same final goal, which is the union of individual consciousness with the supreme consciousness.  Yoga type should be selected based on the personality and temperament of the practicing individual. Below is an introduction to some of these different styles.

Jyan Yoga– In Jyan yoga, the emphasis is on an intellectual or knowledge based approach to destroy ignorance.

Karma Yoga– Selfless service and charitable acts done without any ulterior motive forms the heart of karma yoga. Service done with the goal of attaining recognition, fame, favors, poweretc is not karma yoga.  Karma Yoga helps develop love, humility, forgiveness and a feeling of oneness.

Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga, Nada Yoga– This type of yoga utilizes sound vibrations as a means of positively affecting the mind and body.

Bhakti Yoga– this yoga emphasizes devotion and love for the supreme as the path to liberation. ancient scriptures like Srimad Bhagavatam and Narada Sutras emphasize pure loving devotion as the simplest path to achieve union of the individual consciousness with Supreme consciousness.

Hatha Yoga- In Hatha yoga, the primary focus is on developing the physical body through the practice of asans or poses and pranayams.

Raja Yoga– Raja means king, so this yoga is the king of all yogas.  Raja yoga encompasses a holistic approach to self realization. The emphasis is on developing the mind. It is also referred to as Ashtanga yoga (asht means eight and anga means limbs) as it emphasizes the 8 limb path to self realization.

“Self-restraints, fixed observances, posture, regulation of breath, abstraction,
concentration, contemplation, trance are the eight parts (of the self-discipline
of Yoga). “~Yoga Sutras

The eight steps are:

1.Yama which are self restraints and consist of non-violence, non- stealing, non-covetousness and non-lying (speaking the
truth) and celibacy

2.Niyam or  observances-cleanliness of body by bathing and cleanliness of mind by thoughts of virtue and truth,
contentment, austerity, self study devotion to the supreme

3.Asanas-the poses

4.Pranayam-Control of prana or life force by controlling the breath using breathing exercises

5.Pratyahar-withdrawal of senses from external objects

6.Dharana-concentration

7.Dhyan-meditation

8.Samadhi-the state of bliss or the union of individual consciousness with divine consciousness

Kundalini Yoga– probably the most powerful form of yoga, kundalini yoga focuses on awakening of the dormant energy called kundalini energy or divine cosmic energy that lies coileed at the base of the spine and its upward movement through the spine.  Kundalini Yoga was introduced to the west by Yogi Bhajan in 1969.  Kriyas form the core of Kundalini Yoga.  Kriyas are a set of poses that are done in a certain sequence to achieve a specific result. Kundalini yoga utilises kriyas, pranayam, meditation, mudras (hand positions), bandhas(body locks) and mantras (sound vibrations) to activate the kundalini energy, stimulate the flow of kundalini energy through the spine, open the chakras thereby helping one strengthen the organ systems and attain bliss.

Kundalini yoga is based on the model of the seven chakra system.  The term chakra (pronounced chuck-ra) means wheel.  Hence chakras are a wheel or vortex of energy and are a part of the subtle energy body or etheric body.  In the physical body they correspond to the endocrine glands and associated organs and influence the functioning of these organs.   An illness in the physical body affects the energy body.  Similarly a blockage in any of the chakras in the energy body will manifest as illness in the spiritual body.  These chakras also govern our personal characteristics and traits. Through the energy body runs a vast network of energy channels or nadis that carry life force or prana. The cleansing and energizing of these nerve channels will cleanse and balance the chakras which in turn will affect the health of the corresponding organs in the physical body.

There are 7 major chakras that are located along the spine starting with the Root Chakra that is located at the base of the spine and ending with the Sahasrara chakra or crown chakra located at the top of the head.   The seven chakras are:

1.Mooladhar or Root Chakra

2.Svadishthan or Sacral Chakra

3.Manipur or Solar Plexus Chakra

4.Anahat or Heart Chakra

5.Vishuddhi or Throat Chakra

6.Ajna or Eye Chakra

7.Sahasrara or Crown Chakra

To learn about chakras in more detail, click here.

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