The word yoga first appeared in the oldest sacred texts, the Rig Veda( one of the oldest Veda) and is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yug’ which means ‘to unite or integrate’. Yoga is all about uniting body, mind and spirit.

There are many paths to divine and so there are many types of yoga.

Four main paths of yoga

1. Karma Yoga – Path of Action

It is a service that you do selflessly and enjoy while doing it without worrying about the consequences. We learn kindness and forgiveness in this process of serving people knowing the fact of gaining nothing but filling your heart with love and letting go of our ego.

Karma yoga is the spiritual practice of “selfless action performed for the benefit of others”.  It is the path to reach moksh through work.

– Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita

Some of the great people who have chosen this path are Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Swami Vivekananda.

2. Bhakti Yoga – Path of Devotion

The term Bhakti originates from the Sanskrit word “Bhag” which means love, faith, devotion and attachment.

It focuses on devoting yourself to worship of the divine through singing, dancing , chanting, and celebrating. It is selfless love that you feel when you are devoted to god , to your parent or nation. It is always something higher. It takes our mind, emotion and heart to get back to the soul and unite as one. It’s the universal love that is making us feel the sense of gratitude of what we have received from the moment of birth to death.

Four types of men begin to render devotional service unto me (God) — the distressed, the inquisitive, the seeker of material wealth, and the one who has already realized knowledge of the Absolute

– Bhagwat Gita

3. Jnana Yoga – Path of Knowledge and Wisdom

The term Jnana means knowledge in Sanskrit. It’s a path which encourages people to study observation and personal spiritual experience, intuition, self realization , service to God, and ancient scriptures such as The Upanishad.

Steps that will help to know when the knowledge you have acquired is transferred into your experience –

  • Sharvana – To read and study the Upanishads and achieve a deep understanding of the concepts of Atman and Brahman.
  • Madana – Thinking and apply it in your life.
  • Ninidhyasana – Through focus and repeating Sharvana and Madana you can achieve wisdom.

Jnana Yoga, or the science of the Self, is not a subject that can be understood and realized through mere intellectual study, reasoning, discussion or arguments. It is the most difficult of all sciences.

– Swami Sivananda

4. Raja Yoga –

In Sanskrit, raja means ‘king” or ‘royal,” referring to the status of Raja yoga as a “royal path”’ or principal form of yoga.

Raja yoga involves an individuals physical, mental and spiritual state and enables practitioners to achieve balance and harmony on all of these levels.

Raja Yoga is the yoga of mind and body and focuses on cultivating self discipline. It is also known as Ashtanga Yoga (Eight steps of yoga)

The eight limbs of Raja yoga are :

  • Yama – Self-control
  • Asana – Yoga postures.
  • Niyamas – Discipline
  • Pranayama – Breathing techniques as a means of controlling prana.
  • Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses.
  • Dharana – Concentration.
  • Dhyana – Meditation.
  • Samadhi – Enlightenment or bliss.