Four Paths of Yoga
There are four main paths of Yoga - Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Each is suited to a different temperament or approach to life. All the paths lead ultimately to the same destination - to union with Brahman or God - and the lessons of each of them need to be integrated if true wisdom is to be attained.
Swami Sivananda recognised that every Yogi, or human being for that matter, possesses and identifies with each of these elements: Intellect, heart, body and mind. He therefore advocated everyone to practice certain techniques from each path. This came to be known as the Yoga of Synthesis. He also taught that in accordance with individual temperament and taste one can emphasize the practice of certain Yogas over others.
1. Karma Yoga - Yoga of Action
Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Action. It is the path chosen primarily by those of an outgoing nature and purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions and offering them up to God, you learn to sublimate the ego. read more
2. Bhakti Yoga - Yoga of Devotion
This path appeals particularly to those of an emotional and devotional nature. The Bhakti Yogi is motivated chiefly by the power of love and sees God as the embodiment of love. read more
3. Raja Yoga - Yoga of Mental Control
Often called the "royal road" it offers a comprehensive method for turning our mental and physical energy into spiritual energy. Raja Yoga is also called Ashtanga Yoga referring to the eight limbs leading to absolute mental control. The chief practice of Raja Yoga is meditation. It also includes all other methods which helps one to control body, energy, senses and mind. read more
4. Jnana Yoga - Yoga of Wisdom
This is the most difficult path, requiring tremendous strength of will and intellect. Taking the philosophy of Vedanta the Jnana Yogi uses his mind to inquire into its own nature. We perceive the space inside and outside a glass as different, just as we see ourselves as separate from God. Jnana Yoga leads the devotee to experience his unity with God directly by breaking the glass, dissolving the veils of ignorance. read more
Five Points of Yoga
Swami Vishnudevananda condensed Yoga's teachings into five main points, as a simple introduction for westerners into the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of the yoga liifestyle.
These Five Points of Yoga are the fundamental teachings of the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers and Ashrams around the world.
1. Proper Exercise (asana)
The Yogic physical exercises are called asanas, a term which means steady pose. This is because the Yoga Asana (or posture) is meant to be held for some time. However this is quite an advanced practice. Initially, our concern is simply to... read more
2. Proper Breathing (pranayama)
Yoga teaches us how to use the lungs to their maximum capacity and how to control the breath. Proper breathing should be deep, slow and rhythmical. This increases vitality and mental clarity.
Most people use only a fraction of their lung capacity for breathing. read more
3. Proper Relaxation (savasana)
When the body and the mind are constantly overworked, the natural efficiency to perform work diminishes. Modern social life, food and work make it difficult for people to relax. Many of us have even forgotten that rest and relaxation are a natural way to recharge our body and mind. read more
4. Proper Diet (vegetarian)
Besides being responsible for building our physical body, the foods we eat profoundly affect our mind. For maximum body-mind efficiency and complete spiritual awareness, Yoga advocates a lacto-vegetarian diet. This is an integral part of the Yogic lifestyle.
The yogic diet is a vegetarian one, consisting of pure, simple, natural foods which are easily digested and promote health. read more
5. Positive Thinking & Meditation (vedanta & dhyana)
If "we become what we think" we should always endeavour to entertain positive and creative thoughts as these will contribute to vibrant health and a peaceful, joyful mind. A positive outlook on life can be developed by learning and practicing the teachings of the philosophy of Vedanta. The mind will be brought under perfect control by regular practice of meditation. read more