Since human beings began practicing yoga thousands of years ago, the symbol of a tree has often been linked with the discipline – and for good reason! Yoga has a multitude of branches when it comes to how you choose to practice and all of them are based on the same philosophy, or trunk, of spirituality. Hatha yoga is the one most well known to Westerners – the physical act of practicing poses. Here are a few other paths that you may choose to combine with your personal yoga practice.
In raja yoga, the main goal is a calm and spiritual, meditative state. There are eight principles that are followed strictly and in order in raja yoga and, though important, physical movement or poses is not the focus. The eight principles or stages are:
* Ethical standards or ‘yama’
* Self-discipline or ‘niyama’
* Posture or ‘asana’
* Breath control or ‘pranayama’
* Sensory withdrawal or ‘pratyahara’
* Concentration or ‘dharana’
* Meditation or ‘dhyana’
* Liberation or ‘samadhi’
The focus of karma yoga is on service and treatment of others. The basic idea is that our experiences today are a direct result of our past actions. Therefore, everything that those who practice karma yoga do today is in an effort to create a better future for themselves and those around them. They do this by eliminating the motivations of pessimism and egotism. This means living for others instead of ourselves.
Those who practice jnana yoga are most concerned with the development of the mind. They are scholars interested in the philosophy behind yoga and they their yoga practice focuses on studying and understanding ancient and traditional texts. This is thought to be one of the most intense yoga disciplines as the learning is intense and difficult.
Unlike branches on a tree, the paths of yoga often intersect and overlap. Though it is difficult to hang from two or three tree branches at once, it is not difficult at all to practice more than one path of yoga. Try them all if you like and choose the ones that most appeal to you.