Yoga was often referred to as a tree in ancient times, a living thing with roots, a trunk, branches, blooms, and fruit. Hatha yoga is one of six types of yoga, the others being raja, karma, bhakti, jnana, and tantra yoga. Each branch, with its distinct traits and functions, reflects a distinct way of life. Hatha yoga is the first stage of training for teachers who want to work with students' bodies rather than just their minds.
The word "yoga" comes from the Sanskrit words yuj, which means "union" or "joining," and ajaya, which means "to conquer." Thus, yoga refers to the process of achieving union with oneself through meditation.
Yoga is widely practiced in India and some other countries around the world. It has also become popular among people who want to lose weight or build strength and flexibility. There are many forms of yoga. Here we will discuss only hatha yoga, which is the most popular form of yoga practice today.
Hatha yoga is the traditional yoga practice that involves physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), concentration techniques (dharana), meditation (dhyana), and spirituality (ishta-devotion). Asanas improve our body's alignment and prevent us from falling over, while pranayama strengthens our lungs and improves our breathing. Meditation helps us focus on our thoughts and stay calm under pressure, while devotion brings out our inner spirituality.
Yoga is one of Hinduism's six traditional philosophical traditions. In Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, there are several yoga schools, practices, and purposes. In the Western culture, the term "yoga" frequently refers to a modern form of hatha yoga and yoga as exercise, which consists mostly of postures or asanas. However, the origin of the word "yoga" does not refer to physical exercises but to an ancient Indian philosophy of self-knowledge.
In India, today's definition of yoga has evolved over time through discussion and interpretation between various schools of thought. Although it shares some similarities with certain aspects of these schools, such as meditation and ethical behavior, in general, yoga can be considered unique to each school or teacher.
Hinduism's version of yoga is based on the teachings of the ancient rishis (poets) and sages. These teachers developed their own approaches to yoga, some focusing on meditation techniques, while others focused more on asana (posture). But whatever technique they used, they all had one goal: to help people understand themselves and their relationship to the universe.
In recent years, many popular writers have drawn parallels between Hindu beliefs and practices and contemporary psychology. This connection was first made clear in the West through the works of two pioneers in this field, Drs. William James and John Dewey. They observed that much of what is taught in modern psychology is also found in ancient Indian texts on self-knowledge.
Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Jnana Yoga are the four primary streams of yoga. These four pathways are analogous to tree branches or river streams. They all come from the same location and end up in the same place. They are, in essence, all the same. The difference is only in their intensity.
Karma Yoga is the mildest form of practice. It involves maintaining a certain level of awareness and developing some degree of self-control by not acting on our impulses.
Bhakti Yoga is the next level in intensity. Here, we use our insight into reality and our love for God to feel passionate about practicing yoga. We give up material desires for others' pleasure so they will love us back. This type of practice leads to spiritual enlightenment.
Raja Yoga is the third level in intensity. It includes physical postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation (dhyana). In addition, Raja Yoga requires that we follow a strict diet and schedule (routine) so that we have enough energy to maintain these practices.
Jnana Yoga is the most intense form of practice. It is the only way to reach immortality and liberate ourselves from death. With jnana, or knowledge, yoga practitioners realize that everything is an illusion created by the mind.
They all lead to the same goal but travel different paths to get there.
In karma yoga, or action-based yoga, one engages in activities meant to improve oneself and/or others. One may act to benefit other people through charity or spiritual practice. The aim is to increase good actions while decreasing bad actions with no specific goal beyond personal development.
Bhakti yoga, or love-based yoga, involves seeking enlightenment through devotion and prayer. One focuses on a deity or deities and develops an emotional bond with them. This form of yoga is common among followers of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Raja yoga, or royal yoga, is a system of mental discipline that aims to achieve samadhi, or single-pointedness of mind. It includes practices such as meditation and mantra chanting that allow one to become more aware of the mind and its tendencies.
Jnana yoga, or knowledge-based yoga, is the path of self-inquiry that leads to enlightenment. One uses critical thinking to question existing beliefs about the world and oneself and seeks answers through research and introspection instead of reliance on others.