A Simple Guide to the Different Types of Yoga
If you are only just learning about Yoga, it is very possible that you didn’t realise that there are so many types!
When most people think of Yoga, they think of people bending into all sorts of obscure positions on a yoga mat. Whilst this is an accurate observation, it is only one of the many types of Yoga that you can learn and practice.
There is so much more to Yoga than just gaining in flexibility. In fact, flexibility is one of the smallest gains you stand to benefit from regularly practicing this ancient art.
Yoga has many life enhancing benefits, mainly because it treats the whole person - mind, body and spirit. Yoga has the ability to bring peace of mind, heal the brain, train the body and connect you to your soul.
The original philosophies of Yoga all have a different focus, goal or purpose.
Some people may only practice one type of Yoga, whilst others practice more than one. What most people don’t realise is that Yoga is an endless journey. A timeless journey of learning, discovery, healing and ultimately, awakening!
The main types of Yoga
There are many different types of Yoga available to practice and access, basically a type to suit everyone. The modern world has branched out from each original Yoga scripture. Now the world embraces different styles of Yoga that have a more physical focus. Hot yoga being a prime example.
However, according to Hindu philosophy there are six original Yoga texts (or scriptures). Here, we look at the 6 original types of Yoga and what their ultimate goal or purpose is.
The main types of Yoga are:
Each form of Yoga involves a number of disciplines, both inward and outward. Each type of Yoga has a slightly different penultimate goal.
Whilst the goals may vary for each type of Yoga, they are all designed to treat the mind, body and the spirit, bringing them into unison and harmony. This is achieved through uniting the ‘whole being’ (whole person) with the earth and divine spirit.
Those that practice Yoga and its principles are seen to be “united as one” amongst fellow Yogis.
The main types of Yoga and their purpose
Each different type of Yoga has a slightly different goal and each goal will reveal different truths about yourself that you are currently unaware of.
Yoga has the ability to be a very challenging practice when you fully engage. In meeting these challenges and in overcoming them, the opportunities for personal growth are endless.
As with many things in life, with Yoga, what you put in you will receive. This is why it is helpful to ask yourself, “What do I wish to gain, or receive, from practising Yoga?”.
All types of Yoga offer the very appealing reward of “inner peace”, something that is still elusive to many of us in the modern world. During recovery from addiction, we come to appreciate and seek peace of mind more and more, as we feel its anchoring properties.
Addiction recovery is a timeless path of self-discovery, learning and growth. Coming into recovery we find we are reborn, and find we have so much to learn about ourselves and the world around us. This is where learning Yoga can be an invaluable skill to add to our recovery toolbox.
The purpose of Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga is a type of Yoga for the body
Hatha is the only original type of Yoga that is physical in nature. The aim of Hatha yoga is to achieve peace of mind and body through practising Asanas (poses) and Pranayama (breathing techniques).
Other forms of Yoga incorporate asanas taken from Hatha Yoga scriptures. Hatha Yoga’s main purpose is to relieve spiritual, mental, emotional and physical pain.
Hatha Yoga knows how difficult it is to still the mind with the mind. Hence, why peace of mind is achieved through Hatha Yoga’s asanas (poses) and breathing techniques. Hatha Yoga can also incorporate mudras (hand gestures), meditation, visualisation and mantras (chanting).
Hatha Yoga is the most common form of Yoga that is practised today, and as such, is very accessible. It appeals to beginners and advanced students alike.
The purpose of Raja Yoga
Raja Yoga is a Type of Yoga for the mind.
Raja Yoga enables its students to take back control of their own minds. This is achieved through following a set of disciplines and principles (limbs). Raja Yoga is considered the highest form of Yoga, with Raja translating to “King” or “Royal”.
Those that follow Raja Yoga are considered to be on a “Royal Path”. Raja Yoga’s ultimate purpose is to unite the trained mind with the divine and through this, experience true spiritual liberation and awakening.
Raja Yoga students consider themselves “Heros of mind-training”. The eight limbs that Raja Yoga incorporates is a systematic path to achieving enlightenment.
In addition to following the eight limbs of Yoga, a practitioner must also follow moral and social observances in their pursuit of complete spiritual freedom.
Raja Yoga incorporates mainly breathing techniques, Raja meditation and asanas. However, the emphasis is on the mind, the asanas are to strengthen the body in preparation for receiving enlightenment and in following the train of thought, “healthy body, healthy mind”.
The purpose of Karma Yoga
Karma Yoga is the Yoga of action
In Karma Yoga, inner peace is achieved through selfless acts and deeds of goodwill. A person that follows Karma Yoga believes that the ultimate goal in life is to do good and act in a way that is pleasing to their divine God, even when no one is looking.
Karma Yoga students believe their good karma will be rewarded by a desired rebirth in the afterlife. The disciplines that accompany Karma Yoga mean that a person practising has to try and do their best in everything that they do and that they must have no motive and the right attitude in order for an act to count as good Karma.
Karma Yoga is one of the types of yoga whereby a person's actions in this life affect their quality of life in the next. A Karma Yogi's actions and intentions are considered their prayer as an offering to the divine.
The purpose of Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of love and devotion.
Those that follow Bhakti yoga, express their devotion to the divine through prayer, rituals and chanting in pursuit of achieving the ultimate love and devotion of their God.
The path of Bhakti yoga is not an easy one. Bhakti is one of the types of yoga that requires the complete sacrifice of self to a God with no reservations or holding back.
Bhakti Yoga is one of the three classic paths to enlightenment, as laid out by Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. The other two paths to enlightenment are Jnana Yoga (the path of knowledge) and Karma Yoga (the path of action).
In Bhakti Yoga the student gives their full focus and attention to the divine. Their mind, emotions, senses and actions are all centred around connecting with their divine God in order to merge into a reality of divine ‘oneness’ and love.
The purpose of Jnana Yoga
Jnana Yoga is the Yoga of knowledge
Jnana Yoga is the yoga of knowledge. The spiritual path of Jnana Yoga is one of self-knowledge and self-realisation. Through practising meditation and reflection, asking questions such as “Who am I?” and “What am I? “, the Jnana yogi student experiences true freedom and peace of mind through knowing their true nature and true purpose.
The Jnana Yogi student is usually guided by a Guru (a Hindu spiritual teacher) and believes that this complete self awareness and realisation serves both in life, and, in the after life. The philosophies of Jana are scriptured within ancient Hindu texts such the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. The Bhagavad Gita is one of the original Hindu scriptures, often referred to as a “Song of the Gods”
The Purpose of Tantra Yoga
Tantra Yoga is the Yoga of wholeness with oneself
When we think of Tantra - we often associate it with sex and the Kama Sutra, however, this is actually only a small part of Tantra Yoga.
Tantra Yoga's true purpose is one of spiritual liberation through connecting with your own energy to go deeper within, and ultimately to experience total bliss, liberation and enlightenment.
Over the years, because of the misinterpretation often associated with Tantra Yoga, many of the original Hindu texts were lost and some of its practices were not written.
The meaning of Tantra has changed with the times. When used in original Yoga texts, Tantra meant “weave or loom '', later, the word Tantra was translated to “technique, device or method”.
Tantra Yoga uses the body as a tool to connect fully with oneself and the cosmos. Its techniques are applied to all areas of the Tantra Yogis’ life - their work, their home life, their duties, their spirituality, and yes, their sex life!
Tantra Yoga incorporates different techniques that are familiar with other types of yoga, such as pranayama (breathing), meditation, mantras (chanting) visualisation, asanas (poses) and mudras (hand gestures). These practices are used primarily to build and cultivate Kundalini energy. This energy then opens up the Chakras, eventually spilling out from the crown Chakra. When this happens the Tantra Yoga practitioner reaches bliss and enlightenment, feeling at one with their true selves and the universe.
Other types of yoga
Over the years the main branches of Yoga have introduced more styles and variations. All forms of Yoga are interconnected and follow the same basic principles and moral code.
You may or may not be familiar with other types of Yoga, which have been cultivated to appeal to a wider selection of people.
Other types of Yoga include:
- Ashtanga Yoga
- Bikram Yoga
- Anusara Yoga
- Iyengar Yoga
- Sivananda Yoga
Exploring the World of Yoga
With so many different variations of Yoga available, if this is a practice that interests you, there is bound to be a style that suits you.
When exploring the world of Yoga it is good to ask questions and to ask yourself what it is you hope to gain from practising Yoga. Answering this can help steer you towards the right type or types of Yoga to try.
Ultimately, Yoga is about uniting the mind, body and spirit, bringing peace and harmony within, so that this is then reflected in your experience of life.
Yoga is a very powerful spiritual practice which treats the whole person and has the ability to completely transform your mindset and outlook and relieve all types of physical, emotional and mental pain.
The four paths of Yoga to spiritual enlightenment
Originally, three Yoga scriptures were written to attain spiritual enlightenment, before a fourth being added - Raja Yoga.
The four pillars or paths to spiritual enlightenment are:
- Jnana Yoga (Yoga of knowledge or wisdom)
- Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of divine devotion and love)
- Karma Yoga (Yoga of selfless action)
- Raja Yoga (Yoga of meditation and the mind)
According to Hindu scriptures, each of these yoga paths, when followed comprehensively and practised wholeheartedly, leads to enlightenment.
Each of Yoga's four pillars to enlightenment has a set of disciplines, principles, philosophies and practices that are adhered to.
To achieve enlightenment is to truly know oneself, and one's purpose, be pure of heart, selfless in action, clean of mind, and as a result merge with the divine. Thus achieving the ultimate in inner peace and a foundation that is utterly unshakable by the world, its people and its calamities.
The best type of Yoga for addiction
This is a hard one to define as everyone is different. However, research strongly suggests that Raja Yoga is the best type of Yoga for sustaining a happy, peaceful and purposeful recovery from addiction.
For a person just starting to explore the world of Yoga, Raja Yoga is a type of Yoga that initially may not appear attractive. You can learn yoga along with our qualified instructor within our Wellness hub, which offers many proven holistic ways of improving your well-being.
Due to the many disciplines involved, Raja Yoga can be intimidating, to a beginner especially. It is therefore important to find a type of Yoga that you enjoy. If you do not enjoy it, it is highly likely you will not be consistent with practising it.
To gain the numerous benefits that different types of Yoga have to offer a person, the most important thing is to find a style of Yoga that you connect with. One that holds your interest, engages you, and that you wish to explore. It is always helpful to remember that Yoga, regardless of type, is a peaceful, kind and loving practice. Consistently practising any type of Yoga will be extremely rewarding to the mind, body and spirit.
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- Tantra yoga: The most misunderstood path of yoga
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- The practice of yoga https://www.yogabasics.com/practice/
- The philosophy of Yoga https://www.yogabasics.com/learn/philosophy-of-yoga/