Often in the West we think of “Yoga” as a series of exercises for health and relaxation. In its origins, however, yoga (literally meaning “to yoke”) is about the unification of individual consciousness with universal consciousness.
Yoga asanas (the physical postures we are most familiar with in the West) are just one small part of a much more comprehensive system of paths leading to the recognition of our fundamental interconnectedness with everything! It provides a variety of paths to suit different temperaments which allow us to know the Self beyond the small personalized version of who we think we are.
There are 4 major paths of yoga recognized today and described in ancient texts including the Bhagavad Gia and Patanjali’s yoga sutras.
Raja Yoga (the eight-limbed path) is the path of mind control
This includes yoga asanas (what we are most familiar with calling yoga). It actually starts with a series of ethical guidelines for personal conduct including things such as not stealing, not killing, not taking bribes, developing self-discipline etc. I like to think of these in terms of the Universal Values. Following this there are physical postures (asana), breathing practices (pranayama), withdrawing attention from external sensory experience (pratyahara), concentration of the mind, meditation, and Samadhi (merging with universal consciousness).
Freedom Fridays are a chance to come and practice Raja Yoga at Heart Space.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of love
Bhakti is really the practice of Love for Love’s sake and no other purpose.
It can include a variety of practices and rituals such as chanting, prayer, offering of actions to God, offering of self to God, and listening to stories of God.
In the beginning Bhakti Yoga may look like religion (with rituals) but it culminates in the cultivation of pure love and devotion to all of creation and the seeing of God in everything. When this occurs, our fellow humans, animals, earth, and the entire cosmos are the objects of perpetual love and devotion. When we no longer feel separate, all that remains is the presence of the divine breathing, speaking, and acting through us.
Bhakti yoga uses the innate human desire for connection and intimacy (ie union) to channel our emotions and attention towards the divine until we recognize that the love within us is that divine presence.
Satsang at Heart Space is an opportunity to practice and experience Bhakti Yoga.
Karma Yoga is the path of action
Karma literally means action. Our actions in the world, whether it be work, parenting, volunteering or otherwise, can all be karma yoga if we perform it without any expectations good or bad of a particular outcome for our self or others. We learn to let go of attachment to the fruits of our action and work towards being in a state of constant awareness. This breaks down ego and ultimately leads to a state of union.
Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge
Based on the ancient Advaita teachings of the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, Jnana yoga involves distinguishing between projections of the mind and what is ultimately true, eternal and unchanging. In the Bhagavad Gita it says:
“Those who see with eyes of knowledge the difference between the body and the knower of the body, and can also understand the process of liberation from bondage in material nature, attain to the supreme goal.” 13.35