Varieties of Yoga
Yoga has its origins in the human experience. These techniques for living a healthy, happy, and spiritually aware
life have developed through thousands of years and across many civilizations. The human sciences of yoga are
said to have been first systematized and used in their evolved forms over 40,000 years ago. They were openly
taught and integrated into daily living. These systems were not a mystical activity. The work of the early yogis
was based upon tangible observations of energy and the effects of different activities and attitudes on the
balance of those energies in the individual.
All forms of yoga focus on stimulating and regulating the human energy that is the very essence of
consciousness. This energy is called the Kundalini. As it originally evolved, each student of yoga worked on all
aspects of himself. He exercised the physical, disciplined the mental, analyzed and discussed the world
intellectually, etc. Yoga was holistic, permeating every level of human existence. With the passage of time, the
techniques became diluted and divided. As individuals catered to their different needs and personalities, they
chose to emphasize and practice separate components of the total yogic system. Some preferred just exercise,
ignoring mantra; some did mantra and meditation without breath control. Over time this led to the ultimate
recognition of 22 different schools of yoga. Of this original division of 22, fewer than a dozen schools
of yoga are widely practised today, of which the most known are the following ones:
The Bhagavad Gita, one of the central scriptures of the vedic high culture of India based on the
Vedas, the Upanishads, on Brahmanism and on Yoga, calls Karma Yoga, Bhakti
Yoga, and Gyan Yoga the "Tri-Marga" or Threefold Path.
Karma Yoga: Freedom in Action
Karma Yoga is action in service to the boundless will of the soul. Each action becomes a Dharma, a
joyful duty. It is selfless action with no thought of reward.
Bhakti Yoga: Transcending Self through Love
Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion, commitment, total and complete surrender to the love of the Divine as
Gyan (Jnana) Yoga: See with the Eyes of Wisdom
Gyan means knowledge, or more specifically, the experienced knowledge inside oneself. Gyan Yoga,
also known as Jnana Yoga, is the path of intellectual discrimination, knowing clearly without the
subconscious clouding the clarity. It is the path of the intellectual and intuitive realization of the Divine in
which one sees God in everything.
Hatha Yoga: Cultivating the Body
Hatha Yoga is the most popular and widely-practised form of yoga in the West. It concentrates on
perfecting the physical body in order to affect the mind and consciousness. It utilizes 84 postures
(Asanas), 24 Mudras (energy seals), and three Maha-Mudras, along with breath control. Hatha
Yoga can be understood as a science where the sun and moon energy are directly united to raise the
Kundalini. Hatha Yoga requires many years of practice under a knowledgeable teacher to reach perfection,
and it emphasizes flexibility and patience.
Raj Yoga: Achieving Spiritual Regality
Raj Yoga, the Royal Path, is referred to as the Yoga of Meditation. It is a science whose
philosophy includes the path of Ashtanga Yoga (the Eightfold Path), expounded by Patanjali. Raja
Yoga involves the study of the psychic centers, and the development of the will and mental faculties as carriers
of the great spiritual energy. It can also be called "royal mastery of yogic virtues and values". Traditionally,
this path called for a concentrated, monastic type of life, and needed years to reach perfection.
Mantra Yoga & Laya Yoga: Transcending through Sound
Mantra Yoga uses sound as a vehicle of transcendence. The goal of Laya Yoga is to merge finite
consciousness with Infinite consciousness. With Laya and Mantra Yoga the mind is expanded through rhythm,
breath, sound and mantra.
Kriya Yoga: Bringing Action to Fulfillment
Kriya Yoga is the discipline to bring actions to a fulfillment and completion within the self. In the
Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali it is mentioned as the combined practice of cleansing exercises (Tapas), deep
study (Svadhyaya), and devotional conscious worship of the Supreme One in all (Ishvara-Pranidhana).