The 4 Paths of Yoga—Choosing your Practice

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The whole of yoga is comprised of 4 paths of yoga. Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga are the four traditional paths or schools of yoga. Some yogis, especially in Western civilizations, may work exclusively on one particular path. While focusing your time and effort on only one path of yoga is efficient, you may be missing out on the benefits and rewards of the other paths of yoga.

However, most teachers will focus on all 4 of these essential yoga areas. This allows you to fully experience the mental, spiritual, and physical rewards yoga offers. One thing is for sure—you don’t want to be missing out on your yoga practice while you go through a stressful situation or health crisis. A good practical approach to yoga is to start out by focusing on the specific yoga areas that help you the best, but then move on to more holistic approaches later on.

For some people, this is an extremely effective strategy. Others may find it less useful, though, because of the possibility for self-fulfilling prophecies. 

Jnana Yoga is concerned with your path to wisdom, knowledge, and contemplation. You may have to practice both the path and the practice at the same time. But if you’re using jnana, you better understand both. Otherwise, you’ll end up with bad decisions and a poor relationship with the universe when you leave the practice. It also means you’ll work a lot harder than you need to master the practice. You’ll start thinking in a very specific way, and when you get to a higher level, it won’t be possible to do the same for your everyday life as you normally do it. 

Your goal is to get to jnana and leave the practice. If you start with the wrong ideas, you’re not going to be able to succeed. Instead, you’ll continue to have to work hard at your practice, and you’ll have a hard time getting the things you want out of it.

Bhakti Yoga helps you attain true love, compassion, devotion, and the whole human emotional experience. Bhakti Yoga is a style of meditation and exercise that is used to bring awareness, love, love to all the beings who are in need of you to be their loving partner, caretaker, and healer. The main focus of the meditation is the experience of being loved by these beings, and this feeling can never be given in any other way. It’s a beautiful and uplifting technique which has been shown to be very effective in bringing balance and peace throughout the body and mind. 

Why is Bhakti Yoga better than a class of meditation? The idea of meditation as just a way to get some restorative feelings when feeling down or angry or bored or depressed is not helping. 

Karma Yoga is associated with mindfulness and service to others. It is also the practice of helping us work with the emotions and stress that we experience while we practice yoga.  Karma yoga teaches that a yogi should act without attachment to the rewards of action and should act according to his or her dharma. Karma yoga is known as the yoga of action and is considered to be able to purify one’s mind. Your karma is a path towards self-development and fulfillment of dreams. As your karma progresses, you begin to feel an overwhelming urge towards what you believe is the truth and that which is pleasing to your higher nature. 

Raja Yoga emphasizes meditation, transcending mental thinking, and is more of a “whole yoga” approach. This type of practice emphasizes balance, awareness, and inner calmness. It doesn’t have to be monotonous. Some of the benefits include improved concentration, relaxation, and stress reduction.

Each person will have an inclination toward one particular yoga path. This is because your experiences, heredity, and surroundings have created a particular way of viewing the world in your mind. 

You are strongly urged to spend time on each yoga path.This helps you understand yoga as a state of being and consciousness, rather than an exercise class where you mindlessly go from one physical pose to the next. The path you are on (the path of self-actualization and self-realization) is like a ladder of evolution, where the descent is towards a higher plane of being, and there is a greater chance of finding your true nature. After all, yoga is composed of meditation, breath control, and physical postures. Journey down all four yoga paths, and this Hindu spiritual discipline can deliver a true consciousness that simple exercise never will.

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