There are four main types of yoga: Raja, Jnana, Bhakti, and Karma. Raja is the Foundation, Jnana is the Middle Way, Bhakti is the Path of Devotion, and Karma is the Result.
Though these four are the most common forms of yoga practiced around the world, there are many limbs to the yoga tree. For simplicity’s sake, we’re just going to focus on the top 4 that most yogas love and newbies learn. So, what are the 4 types of yoga?
First… let’s get a little clearer.
What is the purpose of the 4 yogas?
Yoga means union. A union of the spirit, mind, and body. The goal is to open your life forces and then direct them inward unlocking happiness without and within.
Yoga helps one alleviate suffering. Suffering from not knowing themselves, being attached to things that don’t matter, avoiding things that may or may not be real, a growing ego, or the fear of the ultimate ending… death.
By practicing yoga, you can find solutions to these aspects of life that create suffering in all of humanity.
You can take action, think consciously, care or do nothing. To act on your worldly desires is karma yoga while to think and learn beyond that is Jnana yoga. When you let go of the ego, it’s bhakti yoga (living a life with love). But if you do absolutely nothing at all, it’s called samadhi—the final step of raja yoga and the goal of all Yoga.
1. Bhakti Yoga
This is the yoga of devotion. Giving yourself to that of the Divine or pure love.
Bhakti is the feeling of unconditional love that leads to the elimination of jealousy, hatred, lust, anger, egoism, pride, and arrogance. These emotions are replaced with qualities such as joy, divine ecstasy, and bliss. One song lyric that demonstrates this very concept was by Fleetwood Mac; “Drowning in a sea of love Where everyone would love to drown.”
- Bhakti is one of the easiest paths, followed by meditation.
- Bhakti does not require extensive yogic practices.
- Bhakti can be practiced by anyone, regardless of their mental or physical abilities, and is said to be easy because it removes feelings such as greed, hatred, and envy.
- The idea of Bhakti Yoga is to find the fine thread of love in your heart, which is the essence of your Soul.
- The thread of love connects our hearts with the Divine and can never be broken, no matter what we do or where we go.
- Bhakti Yoga is a practice that focuses on the idea of being intoxicated with Divine Love.
- Bhakti Yoga is related to Vedanta, which puts emphasis on “the Divine Self within each person”
2. Karma Yoga
This is the yoga of action. Giving of service to others without any thought or expectation of payment or reward. Selfless giving that destroys the ego.
This indicates that your goal in life is to have a pure heart. Once you let go of negative qualities such as hate or jealousy it leaves room for generosity, kindness, and tolerance.
Making our hearts pure makes it possible for us to recognize we are love. We have the potential within us to experience true unconditional love, which always feels like a blessing. This doesn’t mean we will no longer suffer; it means we will suffer less when things don’t go our own way. The world is a better place because of us: War can end if everyone is connected by a sense of inner peace, such as emptying one’s heart of egoism, hatred, jealousy, and selfishness among other negative thoughts.
- Karma Yoga is one of the many paths to enlightenment.
- Karma Yoga is not about achieving perfection in action, but rather purifying your heart so egoism and negative qualities vanish, creating space for humility and love.
- Karma Yoga is the path of selfless action and service to God.
- All actions are seen as offerings to God, without any outcome expectation or desire.
- When true union with one’s karma is achieved the mind has no more outcome desires because it simply becomes its Karma
- Karma yoga is a therapeutic treatment that can reduce anxiety and apprehension.
- Karma is to make us realize our true selves.
- If karma is attached to the outcome desired of work, it binds us to this materialistic world.
- Karma Yoga encourages people to be good and kind in the world, with the goal of gaining spiritual knowledge through selfless actions.
3. Jnana (Gyana) Yoga
This is the yoga of knowledge. Utilizing a philosophical approach to life and learning.
A jnana yogi uses the mind to examine his or her own nature. He continuously observes his earthly affairs through right inquiry, asking himself questions to gain self-analysis about what he may have missed, and rectify where necessary.
In the journey of spiritual awakening, the literal meaning of enlightenment or Samadhi is to become one with your higher power. This requires great strength of character, willpower, and open-mindedness to let go of the ego.
- Gyana Yoga is the path of knowledge or wisdom.
- The Upanishads call it the “razor’s edge,” where the ego is always trying to knock us off.
- Gyana Yoga is the study of the ancient texts and teachings of the Great Masters.
- Gyana Yoga can be described as a path of knowledge about the self, with an ultimate goal of self-realization.
- To practice Jnana Yoga, one must possess curiosity and intellect.
- Patience is needed for a proper understanding of the path.
- A Jnana yogi follows the steps outlined in ancient scriptures to process information.
- You consider things that directly or indirectly come from your own five senses to be true.
- You consider cause and effect as a sign of truth, which also indicates direct perception as true information.
- When you observe a collection of true facts, such as when Proven Facts are proven, it is more likely to be considered truthful information
- The goal of Jnana Yoga is to enlighten the practitioner.
- Jnana Yoga can help you grow in a very short time.
4. Raja Yoga
This is the yoga of mind control. Also called the “Royal Path”, referring to a King (your consciousness) lording over his kingdom, your subconscious and physical body.
In the practice of raja yoga, a person’s mind is trained through deep meditative practice in order to bring about a balance between the body and its senses on one side, and the brain on the other. This process brings about a change of lifestyle and eventually removes obstacles that have built up over time. With practice, these obstacles are turned into spiritual energy.
Meditation is the path of stillness. A meditative state mesmerizes the mind and body so that it can focus on one clear single point free from clutter and other distractions. Mantras are sound vibrations that give you direct access to your Higher Self, allowing you to become one with All That Is. Many consider Raja Yoga as one of the most complex types of yoga there is. Upon receiving this level of training, a person unlocks their shadow side – otherwise known as the Dark Night Of The Soul – which occurs when one realizes how disconnected they have become from themselves, their past incarnations or other living beings around them in the world and ultimately comes face to face with their own mortality.
- Raja Yoga is the “Royal Path” of meditation.
- The basic theme of Raja Yoga is that your perception of the Divine Self is obscured by the disturbances of the mind and body.
- Westerners gravitate towards Raja Yoga because it requires no belief or particular faith to practice, making it a popular path for those who are non-religious
- Raja Yoga is a style of yoga, which influences the practice of many styles of yoga.
- Raja Yoga has a focus on your state of mind and mental control.
- Raja yoga is a combination of three aspects of yoga – physical, mental, and spiritual.
- Raja yoga includes 8 styles that are described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra as 8 limbs
Uniting the four types of yoga
Even though these four paths seem different, they all lead to the same Union. Sure, we may be drawn to one path more than the others but they complement each other and work well together as a team of complementary forces to help us reach blissful enlightenment.
All yoga is essentially energy, so why not use it? For transformation to happen, energy has to be transformed. Yoga is simply the science of aligning these three dimensions. Yoga helps people to relax, focus and be present in their lives.
Yoga isn’t just about stretching; it also includes a peaceful mind, healthy body, and energetic spirit in alignment with each other