Balancing StonesThe Four Paths of Yoga by Sue Fuller

There are four main paths of yoga. Most people are drawn to one or more or even all of these paths during their yoga journey.

The four main paths of Yoga are - Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga.

Each path is suited to a different temperament or approach to life.

There are many different views about this...

All the paths are considered to lead to the same destination – ancient yogis might have viewed this as the ultimate union with Brahman (the creator) or reaching an enlightened state.

However modern yogis may have a slightly different take.  It could be regarded as experiencing a profound connection with the universal life force, a feeling of knowing yourself on a deeper level or just a sense of inner peace.

The paths of yoga are very different from the schools of yoga.  The four main paths are ancient and have been practiced for thousands of years.  When we talk about the different schools of yoga many of these have been established fairly recently, however they will incorporate one or more of the different paths of yoga. 

Karma Yoga – Karma Yoga is selfless service, also known as the Yoga of Action.  It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly and can be performed anywhere and at any time.   So long as the service is carried out with the right attitude,  For example students that spend time living on Ashrams will spend a proportion of their time each day performing karma yoga; this could include cooking, cleaning, gardening or anything else that contributes to the daily running of the ashram.

MeditationBhakti Yoga – Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion.  Early yogis devoted themselves to god or Brahman; nowadays many might consider the great universal life force.  Bhakti Yoga is often practiced in the form of prayer, chanting or Kirtan, repeating mantras, ceremonies (Pujas), studies of religious scriptures and other basic techniques that display devotion to a chosen god or a higher energetic force.  The aspirant must maintain a balance and have a genuine devotion without becoming obsessed. 

Kirtan is the Sanskrit name given to chanting.  Kirtan is also known as the yoga of sound, different musical notes vibrate on different frequencies.  Sound is therefore used to help clear different nadis (energy channels) and to help awaken spiritual and psychic energy.

The Sanskrit word bhakti comes from the root bhaj, which means “to adore or worship God.” Bhakti yoga is also regarded as “union through love and devotion.”

Raja Yoga – Raja Yoga is also known as royal yoga, it is this branch of yoga that hatha belongs to.  Raja yoga includes the physical practice of asanas, pranayamas and meditations, the eight limbs of yoga are followed in Raja Yoga. 

Indian TempleJnana Yoga – Jnana Yoga is the yoga of knowledge, through the study of Vedanta and early yoga texts and scriptures.

This is the most difficult path, requiring tremendous strength of will and intellect.

Vedanta

Veda means knowledge and Anta means end. Therefore Vedanta is said to be the philosophy which leads to the end of all knowledge.

The basic teaching concerns the ultimate identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul. The goal of Vedanta is for the seeker to have the direct experience of his or her true nature.

Sue Fuller is the creator of the Yoga 2 Hear range of audio yoga classes.  Sue has a range of over 60 different audio yoga classes available on CD or MP3, the range includes classes for the absolute beginner right through to strong classes for more advanced practitioners.  Sue is a columnist for the yoga Magazine and a regular writer for Natural Health; she is also a course author for The British School of Yoga.