Yoga has vastly emerged into the western side of the world. The ancient practice has been proven by modern day science to provide multitudes of benefits for our body and mind. A lot of us who are brand new to the practice may ponder which yogic path is for me? The beauty of it is that there is no single path that works for everybody; there are many styles one may undergo.
Here are 10 types of yoga and a brief introduction on each one to help you decide your path:
1. Hatha Yoga: Self-Realization through Physical Practice, Breathe Techniques, and Healthy Habits• A lot of yoga today is derived from Hatha yoga. This style is centered on physical poses and stretching the body. Directed towards health-minded people, the history of Hatha displays a connection between body, mind, and spirit through the wisdom of posture, diet, anatomy, and energy. Hatha yoga is about bodily mastery. It’s great for people new to the practice of yoga.
2. Raja Yoga: The Royal Path of Unity• Raja yoga is also known as Ashtanga Yoga or “the eight-fold path.” This yoga is centered more on mental mastery through practices of meditation and concentration. Raja yoga does not require an unquestioned faith but rather a scientific discipline through healthy examination.
3. Jnana Yoga: Yoga of True Knowledge• Jnana literally means wisdom or discernment in Sanskrit. Therefore Jnana yoga is the path of wisdom. This path is geared towards intellectuals and logical minded folk. It focuses on using the mind to transcend the mind. Through steady effort, Jnana yoga helps the yogi discern pure awareness between objects of awareness.
4. Kriya Yoga: Purification Yoga• Kriya yoga is what I consider the yoga diet. It uses techniques for increasing internal purity on the physical level. Kriya yoga cleanses one’s body of toxins both physically and mentally through practices of Dhauti (literally means “to wash”), Basti or Vasti, Nauli, Trataka, Khapalabhati, and the more well-known practice of using a Neti pot.
5. Mantra/Japa Yoga: Self-Realization Through Repetition of Sound Vibrations• Mantra aka Japa yoga is achieved through focus on sound and voice. This is an incredible practice for singers or anyone that has troubles focusing on a single object during meditation. Through the repetition of mantras such as “so hum” (I am that) one can bring clarity and peace to their mind. Mala beads are often used in this practice as a tool to stay the course of the mantra.
6. Yantra Yoga: The Yoga of Mystical Diagram• In Sanskrit, yantra means “support” and “instrument”. A yantra serves as a geometric design used as an efficient tool for contemplation, concentration, and mediation. Mandalas are often used for this practice. These beautiful pieces of art signify our grand connection which can give us balanced energy and spiritual development.
7. Laya Yoya: Yoga of Absorption• Laya means “dissolution”. This form of yoga is intended to rid us of all the impressions we have accumulated throughout our lifetime. Through this liberation, we become free from all obstacles and limitations. The goal of laya yoga is to attain supreme consciousness through breath control to prevent fluctuations of the mind.
8. Kundalini Yoga: Awakening the Mysterious Energy• Kundalini is a Sanskrit word for “coil”. Every human has this Kundalini within them that when not activated, remains dormant in the perineum. The process of awakening the Kundalini takes much practice. Some people spend decades trying to awaken it. Once awakened, the Kundalini rises through the chakras to cleanse, open and develop them one by one. Once all the lower chakras are developed, the Kundalini will reach the crown chakra in which it is said one has attained the highest spiritual achievement.
9. Bhakti Yoga: Self-Realization through Devotion• Bhakti yoga is the path of self-surrendering, devoting, and dedicating ourselves to attaining the ultimate reality. It emphasizes giving love and devotion towards God. This type of yoga is for those on religious paths, however Bhakti yoga is not a religion in itself. It practices to Co-exist. There is no guideline other than what one chooses to participate in that gives them their connection and understanding of God.
10. Karma Yoga: The Path of Selfless Action/Service• Karma yoga stands for the yoga of action. This path teaches us to live successfully in the world by doing our own duties in life skillfully, selflessly, and with dedication towards humanity. It is a surrender to the flow of naturally occurring experiences in our life that call us to act selflessly without any attachment or egoism involved. To become a participant in the cosmic activity of nature without expectations of fruits from the labor.
There are numerous paths a yogi can embark on to achieve whatever it is they are longing for. While there are all these different paths, they all intertwine together as does everything in the universe we live in. Yoga means union; if every human being had some sort of yogic practice, the illusion of separation could be ceased. Imagine a world like that.