Yoga, originating in ancient India, is a practice combining meditation and physical postures that have been used as a healing practice for thousands of years. It is a practice of self-realization, self-awareness and personal transformation that helps one to achieve inner peace, harmony and eventually enlightenment. One of the aims of yoga is to lead one to a more fulfilled spiritual and physical life. Yoga has four main paths of practice, each offering a unique approach to its practice: Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga.
Karma Yoga, also known as the path of action, is a path that deals with the properties of action and incorporating service to others. It is sometimes referred to as “the yoga of good deeds.” This is a path of selfless service, of giving without expecting anything in return. Karma Yoga is based on the practice of right action as a way of purification. It works with action to create positive change within oneself and the world. Practicing Karma Yoga means to take on an attitude of surrender and to give up the attachment to one’s own ego and pride. Instead, someone on this path focuses on finding joy in offering their selfless service and helping those in need.
Bhakti Yoga, also known as the path of devotion and love, is a path that uses devotion, prayer and ritual to reach a higher spiritual plane. This is a path of strong and pure devotion, an emotion that flows from deep within oneself. This path promotes the surrender and faith in the divine. One who practices Bhakti Yoga has a complete dedication to the source of their spiritual path. Instead of individual effort and action, Bhakti Yoga focuses on the practice of devotion and gratitude to the divine. Through their devotion, one on this path can cultivate inner tranquility and peace. Jnana Yoga, also known as the path of wisdom, is a path of knowledge, and the thoughtful study of spiritual teachings and the metaphysical. This is a path of inquiry, cultivation and exploration of spiritual knowledge. Through the practice of contemplation, meditation and self-reflection, one on this path seeks enlightenment and wisdom.
Jnana Yoga places heavy emphasis on inner self-cultivation and development, and discards external trappings and distractions of the material world. Through Jnana Yoga, someone is able to not only increase their knowledge about the spiritual world and divine, but also gain awareness into their true Self and the interconnectedness of all creation.
Raja Yoga, also known as the path of meditation, is a practice of mental training and control that focuses on the development of attention, clarity and being mindful of one’s thoughts, actions and words. This is a path where meditation is used as a tool for self-discovery, for gaining insight into the true nature of existence and expanding one’s consciousness. Through meditation someone is able to reach a higher level of spiritual understanding and establish an inner connection with their divine grace. Raja Yoga is a great anchor for the mindfulness of everyday life, and the application of principles found in this path can help one reach higher levels of clarity, serenity and peace.