(Last Updated on : 22/07/2010)
While the ultimate goal of yoga is to unify body, mind and soul, there are different ways to achieve this aim. These various ways constitute the different types of yoga. Yoga is broadly divided into eight types, namely Bhakti Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Karma Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Bahiranga Yoga and Swara Yoga. Most of these kinds had been practiced in India since ages unknown. Certain factors, like, origin, history, style, technique and significance, differentiate one branch of yoga from the other. Through the development of one`s body, mind and psychic potencies, these ultimately lead to physical strength and further on to spiritual consciousness. Hence the final aim of all kinds of yoga is primarily the same: salvation. Most of the types of yoga also involve the usage of different poses or yoga asanas, meditation and breathing exercises or Pranayamas.
One of the ancient branch of yoga is the Bhakti Yoga. As his apparent from its name, this type of yoga stresses on `bhakti` or love and devotion to the Almighty. Bhakti Yoga has its roots in the Bhagawad Gita
. The individual performing this type of Yoga purely concentrates on the existence of Almighty. The practitioner learns to show love, compassion to the creatures co-existing with him/her, apart from intensely worshipping the Lord. Bhakti Yoga can be practiced in a number of ways, like praising the God by singing, reading religious books, chanting slogans, listening to prayers and by watching religious movies. There are nine forms of Bhakti yoga, namely Sravana (hearing about God); Archana (worship of God); Kirtana (singing of the glory of God); Sakhya (cultivation of the friend-Bhava); Smarana (remembering God`s name and presence); Vandana (prostration); Padasevana (service of God): Dasya (cultivating the Bhava of a servant); and Atmanivedana (surrender of the self).
The first written reference to Bahiranga yoga can be found in Sadhana Pada
, the second chapter of Maharishi Patanjali`s Yoga Sutras. Also known as Ashtanga Yoga or eight-limbed Yoga or Raja Yoga, this type of yoga aids an individual in alleviating himself or herself from the emotional and mental conflicts. It also helps a person to co-exist peacefully with other creatures and the environment. The eight limbs or elements that comprise Bahiranga yoga
(principles or moral code); Dharana (concentration on objects); Pranayama (yoga breathing); Niyama (personal disciplines); Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses); yoga asana
(postures); Dhyana (meditation); and Samadhi (salvation). This type of yoga is perfect for those who are yet to develop spiritually.
Karma in Sanskrit means action. This, too, is an ancient type of yoga that has been derived from the teachings of Lord Krishna
compiled in Bhagawad Gita. Karma yoga, thus, emphasises on unselfish services. "Karmanye Badhikarosthe Maa Foleshu Kodachano, Maa Karmofolohetu Bhurmate, Sangohosto Kormoni" forms the crux of this form of yoga. Technique like Karma Yoga helps in reducing Ahamkara. It purifies one`s heart, and helps to attain the knowledge of one`s own self. The aim of a Karma Yogic (one, who performs Karma Yoga) is to practice his duty without expecting any rewards in return.
Practice of Kundalini Yoga leads an individual to enlightenment. Known as one of the spiritual sciences, this kind of yoga awakens the Kundalini, the central point of prana (life force. The concept of Kundalini has been an integral part of ancient Hindu philosophy. Kundalini Yoga aims at attracting the untapped energy or the Kundalini that remains coiled at the base of the spine, by using a set of technique that uses the individual`s mind, senses and body. Apart from the physical postures or the Asanas, the person performs meditation, chants mantras and awakens each of the seven chakras of the body. The Asanas are coordinated with the hold of breath control.
it was during 15th century that Hatha Yoga was founded by Yogi Swatmarama. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika mentions this type of yoga in details. This type of Yoga is all about the combination of two extremes, namely `ha` (the Sun, regarded as the positive current) and `tha` (the Moon, regarded as the negative current). This type of Yoga involves the presentation of physical postures, namely asanas, breathing exercises or Pranayamas, meditation, mudras and purification procedures known as `Shatkriyas` Thus Hatha yoga purifies the body and prepares an individual for the meditation. The final aim of Hatha Yoga is to achieve salvation through Samadhi. In several ways, Hatha Yoga is similar to Ashtanga yoga
Jnana (Gnana) yoga is another type of yoga in India that has been mentioned in Bhagawad Gita. Krishna emphasised the significance of jnana or knowledge stating that it enables an individual to comprehend his own self and his activities. However it was developed to its present form by Adi Shankara. Jnana Yoga, thus, is the Yoga of true knowledge and aims to detach the person from all the temporal things of the life.
The person practicing it attains tranquility, control over his/her mind, sense, faith, ability for concentration and the endurance to withstand the play of opposites by Mother Nature. By practicing Jnana Yoga, the individual can also exercise self control and remains focused in his work.
Mantra Yoga, as the name suggests, makes use of mantras to attain a peace of mind and increase the concentration power. It has its roots in the Vedas. The mantras are chanted by the individual in a thoughtful and intense way, in order to attain certain goals. Mantra Yoga helps to remove a number of disorders, including emotional ailments and the problems of anxiety, stress and tension. It enhances the persons self-confidence and has a positive impact on the psychology of an individual. AUM, the mystical syllable, is recommended in Mantra yoga to bring about a change of consciousness. Besides this Mantra yoga is also an integral element in Tantra.
Dating back to the Vedic period
Swara Yoga refers to the control of the life force through breathing. Shiva Svarodaya, an ancient Indian manuscript mentions this type of yoga. Swara Yoga is derived from the word Swara in Sanskrit that means sound or musical note; it also means the incessant flow of air through one nostril. It is said that by practicing Swara yoga an individual can find out about the consequence of his or her actions.
Another form of yoga is the Kriya yoga. Though relatively a newer concept, it is said that Kriya yoga has been mentioned in Gita. However, it was Lahiri Mahasaya who taught the technique of Kriya yoga. The different types of yoga, thus, can be helpful for different people as every individual differs from the other and so does his temperament and need. Thus, each type of Yoga practice can provide an answer to the practitioner`s questions and relieve his mind and soul from such unanswered queries.