The word “yoga” means “union”. Yoga is a form of exercise based on the belief that the body and breath are intimately connected with the mind. By controlling the breath and holding the body in steady poses or “asanas”, yoga creates harmony. Yoga practice consists of five key elements: proper breathing, proper exercise, proper relaxation, proper diet, and positive thinking and meditation. The exercises, or asanas, are designed to ease tense muscles, to tone up the internal organs, and to improve the flexibility of the body’s joints and ligaments.
Traditionally, there are four paths of yoga. Although each of them is a complete discipline in itself, it is best not to follow one path exclusively. Combining the four practices helps the emotional, intellectual, and physical aspects of your life to develop in harmony.
The four paths of yoga
Of the four yoga paths, in Western society the most well-known and widely practiced – the physical and mind-focusing path – of Hatha and Raja Yoga, which includes postures and breathing exercises.
HATHA AND RAJA YOGA
This is the yogic path of body and mind control. It is best known for its practical aspects, particularly its asanas (postures) and pranayama (breathing exercises). This path teaches ways of controlling the body and mind, including silent meditation, and its practices gradually transform the energy of the body and mind into spiritual energy. This path suits people who are looking for inner and outer transformation
This is the yogic path of action and you practice it when you act selflessly, without thinking about success reward. This path is valued for purifying the heart and reducing the influence of the ego on your words, actions, and interaction with others. Practicing Karma Yoga is the best way to prepare yourself for silent meditation. It suits people with an active, outgoing temperament.
This is the yogic path of devotion. It involves prayer, worship, and ritual, including chanting and singing devotional songs, and those who practice it eventually come to experience God or a Supreme Consciousness as the embodiment of love. This yogic path has general appeal for people who are emotional by nature.
This is the yogic path of wisdom or knowledge, and it involves studying philosophy of Vedanta – one of the six classical Indian philosophies. It teaches ways to examine the self and analyse human nature. The goal of this form of yoga is to recognize the Supreme Self in yourself and in all beings. This path is best suited to intellectual people, and is considered by many to be the most challenging path.
Source: ‘Yoga, your home practice companion”
by Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centre
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