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The Four Paths Of Yoga
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There are four paths of Yoga described in vedas. Bhagavad Gita also talks about these four paths for liberation and freedom. These four paths are:
1. Karma Yoga: - Karma yoga is not an exchange of duty or selfless service. For each role in our life (wife, daughter, sisters, colleague, teachers etc.), we have corresponding duties to fulfill we should perform each of our duties to the best of our abilities without expecting any appreciation or extra reward. It is also important that we introspect to determine what our duties are in life and in any situation we should think about the best way to fulfill that duty. In yoga, the hierarchy of duties is
1. Duty towards yourself.
2. Duty towards family (parents, partner, children), this includes earning a livelihood)
3. Duty towards society- By acting out of duty , rather than out of likes and dislikes and out of expectations for returns ( monetary), appreciation , status, etc.) Our ego gets reduced and ego is our biggest hurdle on the path of self development.
2. Bhakti Yoga: - This is a path of devotion to something higher than yourself (a master, a duty, an idea, etc.) to which you completely surrender yourself. By accepting that there is someone/something superior to you, you recognize that you have a long way to go, which helps to reduces your ego. Bhakti Yoga entails the process of connecting to the divine, which can include mantras and chanting (which opens the heart and helps let go of preconceived ideas) as living in accordance with the laws of god devotional prayers and practices, etc.
3. Gyan Yoga (Jnana Yoga): - In this path we acquire knowledge from a variety of different, credible sources and then put it in practice. It can be done through reading, classes, lectures, seeking the company of wise peoples etc. We use our intellect (i.e. power to analyze) to grow. Knowledge improves our awareness, while more sources create greater clarity. However, if we are not ready, we won’t be able to distinguish between true and untrue. It is recommended that we get a complete overview of true philosophical knowledge not just bits and pieces) before taking a decision about how to understand true vs. untrue and what to put into practice.
4. Raja Yoga: - Literally this means Yoga of the king (with the king being the mind). This type of yoga is about controlling the mind to get from stage 0 to 7, (i.e. taming the king) Raj Yoga is like an umbrella with many practices included under it.
Its major practice is HATHA YOGA (balancing sun and moon energy in the body or forcefully using body to control the mind) Hatha Yoga is compressed of 5 practices:
1. Asanas (steady, comfortable posture)
2. Pranayama (regulation/ control/manipulation of vital energy)
3. Bandhas (locks, tightening of certain body parts to control as channelize energy)
4. Mudras (gestures that manipulate energies related to 5 elements)
5. Kriyas (actions for cleansing of bodily toxins so energy can flow better)
These paths can be practiced separately or altogether. All of these paths lead to same goal that is liberation of mind and freedom from attachment, ego and senses.
About the Author:
Yogi Omkar has studied these four paths of yoga at yoga teacher training in India at Arhanta Yoga Ashram. These Yoga teacher training courses in India teach classical yogic philosophies and yogic practices of Hatha yoga asana and meditation. For more information on yoga in India visit us.
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