Yoga is more than a way to stretch your body and reduce stress. It’s also a 5,000-year-old system of mental and physical practices, including philosophy, meditation, breath work, lifestyle and behavior principles, and physical exercise. The history of yoga is vast and complex
There are many areas of yoga. Most popular: Hatha yoga. Each approach has its own characteristics and you can choose the way you like. Any of the areas of yoga revitalizes, rejuvenates and enhances the quality of life, so you can’t go wrong with one. Especially because you can always change your choice.
Six Branches of Yoga
Yoga was likened to as a tree with a living trunk, roots, branches, flowers and fruit in ancient times. In addition to its most famous branch – Hatha yoga – yoga consists of six major branches including:
- Tantra forms of yoga.
One translation of the word “yoga” is “union.” Each branch with its unique characteristics and function represents a particular approach to life and also seeks to achieve union in some form or another:
- body, mind and spirit
- earthly and divine
- even oneness with all.
Some people may find one particular branch more inviting than another. However, it is important to note that involvement in one of these paths does not preclude activity in any of the others, and in fact you’ll find many paths naturally overlapping.
Hatha Yoga is the path of physical Yoga or Yoga of postures is the most popular branch of Yoga. Ha pertains to the sun and tha means moon. Hatha Yoga considered the body as the vehicle for the soul. This branch of Yoga uses physical poses or Asana, Breathing Techniques or Pranayama, and Meditation to achieve better health, as well as spirituality. There are many styles within this path:
- Jiva Mukti to name a few.
If what you want is a peaceful mind and a healthy body to go along with it, Hatha Yoga may just be the path for you.
Bhakti Yoga or Yoga of Devotion
Bhakti Yoga is the path most followed in India. This is the path of the heart and devotion. Yogis who practice this branch of yoga express and develop tolerance, acceptance and love for all living things. Bhaki Yoga teaches a person to have a devotion to God and all things through devotion to life and love.
Raja Yoga or Yoga of Self-Control
Raja means “royal”. This path is considered to be the King of Yoga and this may be due to the fact that most of its practitioners are members of religious and spiritual orders. Raja Yoga is the path of Yoga that focuses on meditation and contemplation. Raja Yoga is based on the teachings of the Eight Limbs of Yoga found in the Yoga sutras. A Raja Yogi sees the self as central, and as such, respect to oneself and for all creation are vital to this path. This Yoga path teaches deep self respect through self mastery.
Raja consists of a very precise system that attempts to gain control of the physical body, energy, senses and mind. This yoga teaches students to control their thought waves by turning their mental and physical energy into spiritual energy by uniting with the Ego (or their higher self). This is done through exercise, breathing and meditation.
If you wish to learn discipline, then Raja Yoga would perfectly suit that need.
Jnana Yoga is considered the yoga of the mind, because it deals with wisdom and knowledge. It focuses on man’s intelligence. They try to surpass limitations by unifying intellect and wisdom. Jnana Yoga tries to obtain existence beyond doctrine and ideological controversies by accepting all other philosophies and religion. It also uses an open, rational and curious mind in studying the spirit.
Karma Yoga or Yoga of Service
Karma Yoga teaches that your present experience is directly affected by your past actions. So by doing selfless service now, you are choosing a future that is free from negativity and selfishness. Karma Yoga is it refers to the energy of action. This path requires you to be selfless. Performing a selfless service is the essence of Karma Yoga or consciously choosing a future that is free from negativity and selfishness knowing that your life is a consequence of your past actions. Karma Yoga practices try to change your action towards the good – good words, good thoughts, good deeds, in order to change your soul. By being selfless, you change your consciousness which leads to a change in your destiny.
Tantra Yoga or Yoga of Rituals
Perhaps the most misunderstood of all the paths, Tantra Yoga is about using rituals to experience what is sacred. Some may think of Tantra Yoga as sorcery, witchcraft, magic spell or some mysterious formula. Most people perceive Tantra Yoga as sexual. All of these perceptions are far from truth. Tantra is the knowledge concerning Tattva (Truth or Brahman) and Mantra (mystic syllables). Although sex is a part of it, sex is not the whole of it since this path aims to find what is sacred in everything we do. Tantra Yogis must possess certain qualities like purity, humility, devotion, dedication to his Guru, cosmic love, and truthfulness among other things.
Anyone can practice Yoga. You don’t need any special equipment, clothing, or lessons; all you need is the will to pursue a healthier and happier lifestyle. The Yoga postures and asanas exercise every part of your body. The stretching involved helps in toning your muscles and joints, including your spine and your entire skeletal system. Yoga not only facilitates in improving your body but also aids in keeping your glands, nerves and your other internal organs in radiant health. By releasing physical and mental tension, you will liberate vast resources of energy. The yogic breathing exercises known as pranayama revitalize the body and help control the mind, leaving you calm and refreshed; combine this with the practice of positive thinking and Meditation, and the result will be increased clarity, mental power and concentration.