This is Part II of the invitation to Living a Yoga Lifestyle. In this article we concentrate on sharing what is referred to as the Paths of Yoga. In particular I will be sharing the 6 Paths of Yoga that comprise the teaching of Integral Yoga.
Let me outline in this navigation menu for this article the various sections so that you might navigate through the 6 Paths of Yoga that are shared here as an invitation to personal integration and belonging.
Outline for 6 Paths of Yoga
Please note that in Classical Yoga numbers 1 and 6 are not considered paths. Hatha Yoga is considered to be part of Raja Yoga.
In the Yoga tradition there are four paths. These are the paths to the top of the mountain that will suit different personalities. These four paths are: –
- Karma Yoga – The Path of Action.
- Bhakti Yoga – The Path of Devotion
- Jnana Yoga – The Path of the Intellect
- Raja Yoga – The Royal Path.
Raja Yoga includes the practice of Hatha Yoga which is what most people in the West understand by the word Yoga. They equate Yoga with the practice of various physical postures called asanas. This practice of Hatha Yoga is not necessarily done with the conscious intention of union (yoga) or liberation from the limitation of the personal self.
As the invitation from Yoga Journey for Life is a way of integration, I recommend that you explore the practice of Integral Yoga. The word ‘integral’ means ‘One.’ It is to the mind of this writer the proper focus of the practice called Yoga. This incorporates the traditional four paths together with additional practices.
The goal of Integral Yoga, and the birth right of every individual, is to realize the spiritual unity behind all the diversities in the entire creation and to live harmoniously as members of one universal family. ~ Sri Swami Satchidananda
Integral Yoga – 6 Paths to Integration
Integral Yoga is the name given to the practice of Yoga as instructed by Swami Sachedina Sarswati. This is a synthesis of six branches of classical Yoga philosophy and practice that include: –
- Hatha Yoga.
- Karma Yoga
- Jnana Yoga
- Bhakti Yoga
- Raja Yoga
- Japa Yoga
Within this program of practice are practices of moral and ethical precepts that include: –
- Spiritual study
This may seem at first quite a lot but over time with practice this becomes your primary way of being in the world.
While living Yoga as a journey for life the emphasis of one path over another is likely to change. In my younger days my primary path combination was that of Hatha Yoga with Jnana Yoga.
Now that I am younger still my primary focus is on a combination of paths and practices that include Bhakti Yoga, Japa Yoga and Raja Yoga.
There is no right path for you but if your focus is on feeling and relationship then you are probably more suited to the practice of Bhakti yoga.
Please note that this recommendation for practicing Integral Yoga does not indicate that I am in any way connected to the Integral Yoga Institutes and Centres. I recommend following the teachings of the Buddha and Christ but am not affiliated to any organization or church.
Also, be aware that while the phrase ‘Integral Yoga’ is trademarked there is another teaching related to Integral Yoga. This other Integral Yoga is called supra mental yoga. It is based on the yoga philosophy and practice of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother (Mirra Alfassa). This to the mind of the writer might best suit someone who favours a philosophical and intellectual approach to the journey of union.
So to give you an overview of the paths of yoga included in the program as instructed by Swami Satchidanada Sarswati I share these briefly. These will be explored in greater detail in articles related to the category Yoga Paths as from May 2019. I have included these paths in no order of importance other than to say that Hatha Yoga is were most people will begin the journey of living a yoga lifestyle.
Hatha Yoga is what you are taught in most yoga classes either offline or online. Hatha Yoga is considered to be part of the Path of Raja Yoga – The Royal Path. The intention of practicing Hatha Yoga is to prepare the body for the revelation of the Divine through using postures and breathing to still the mind. This is the intention as stated in the Psalms that instructs: –
Be still and KNOW that I AM – Psalms
Many people, even most people, never move beyond the basic practice of postures (asanas) and related breath control. The intention remains simply to be fit and healthy rather than commit to the integration of the personal with the Universal as taught in the program of Integral Yoga.
The Path of Karma Yoga
Most of us in the West are people of activity. We do everything. Our focus is on getting things done and on achieving. Even the metaphysical Law of Attraction, as made popular in the worldwide bestseller book by Ronda Byrne called The Secret is, for the most part, taught as a way to get what you want rather than learning how to feel in alignment with who you are created to BE.
Karma Yoga overcomes this focus on never ending wanting focused on lack. It is the practice of focusing your actions and dedicating such action to the purpose of Divine intention. It is really the practice of, “They Will be Done.”
In this way the sense of the separate personal self, “Me, myself, I” is offered up in service to Love’s Purpose. Action, then becomes Love in Action. As a result you do not accumulate what is termed Karma – the fruits of the action because in a real sense you are not doing it but allowing the action to be done through you.
In the Taoist teachings this is called “Wu Wei” being “action through non-action.”
The Sage is occupied with the unspoken and acts without effort. Teaching without verbosity, producing without possessing, creating without regard to result, claiming nothing, the Sage has nothing to lose.
The Path of Bhakti Yoga
This is essentially the yoga of devotion. Traditionally Bhakti is considered to be “Love of God” which then places it in the realm of religion.
Here at Yoga Journey for Life you are invited to become devoted to the Divine potential within you. Bhakti is a longing that one has for what the Sufi’s (mystical branch of Islam) call the Beloved.
Much of the poetry of the Islamic mystic poet Jellaladin Rumi is Bhakti poetry.
I share with you one of my most favourite YouTube videos which I love. It has such beautiful words of devotion, images and music. This I hope gives you a feel for what such devotion might invite.
Traditional Bhakti Yoga includes the practices of: –
- Kirtan – Devotional Singing
- Puja – Worship.
I love the practice of Bhakti Yoga. There is nothing quite like it when you are gathered with a large (or even small) group of people singing Kirtan. However, a word of warning. In my personal experience there are Bhakti devotional cults who will draw you into their orbit and you may well find that you become a brain washed devotee.
This being drawn into cults, organisations and following gurus is a real challenge. I have been there and worn the t shirt. There is a lot to be said for belonging to a group of like-minded people but very often our need to belong is about our need to overcome the orphan archetype. We will sacrifice the freedom of our soul in order that we do not feel abandoned.
The Path of Jnana Yoga
This is the path of wisdom. It is the path of study.
This, together with Hatha Yoga, is how I started on the Yoga Journey. I was in love with philosophy but not the intellectual stuff they teach in Universities. I was in love with the teaching coming from the Universe.
This involves the development of what is termed “witness consciousness.”
This moves the practitioner beyond identity with the body, mind and emotions. This is self-observation and the practice of detachment and surrender. Detachment does not mean that you detach from feelings as many have understood and practiced to their detriment.
Detachment is detachment from emotional reactivity. You also become more discerning and less distracted. Feelings become refined.
The Path of Raja Yoga
Raja Yoga is the path of meditation and contemplation. It is often referred to as “Classical Yoga.” Raja Yoga was compiled by the Sage Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.
Metaphorically speaking this yoga invites you to claim your inner King/Queen. You learn to rule as the Essential Self and claim your true sovereignty.
There are eight stages related to the practice of Raga Yoga which are called ‘limbs.’
The 8 Limbs of Yoga
YAMA – Restraints, moral disciplines or moral vows
NIYAMA – Positive duties or observances
ASANA – Posture
PRANAYAMA – Breathing techniques
PRATYAHARA – Sense withdrawal
DHARANA – Focused concentration
DHYANA – Meditative absorption
SAMADHI – Bliss or enlightenment
Another name for Japa Yoga is Mantra Yoga. The spiritual teacher Wayne Dyer spoke highly of the practice of Japa Yoga in his book entitled Getting in the Gap: Making Conscious Contact with God Through Meditation. However, I have not practiced this technique and so I cannot speak about its effectiveness.
I do, however, have friends who have been chanting mantras for more than thirty years and it seems not to have brought them any real sense of personal integration. Chanting mantras is, to the mind of this writer, one of the most effective ways to engage with the practice of spiritual bypassing. This is were you practice various spiritual techniques in order to avoid feeling pain and especially emotional and psychological pain.
Let me share with you a sample of what Kirtan sounds like for those of you who are unfamiliar with it.
Do not be put off by the Sanskrit Language. Many Kirtan songs as simply a couple of lines long. I share this one because it brings in a line from a Western rock anthem that declares, “I want to KNOW what Love is.”
This longing to KNOW what Love is is at the heart of Bhakti Yoga -the Yoga of Devotion.
I love chanting mantras by myself and in groups. There is nothing quite like it. However, I do not claim that by itself it will radically change your experience of life even though I have been assured that it will.
However, your journey is your journey. As my beloved Rumi so wisely declares: –
It’s your road, and yours alone.
others may walk it with you,
but no one can walk it for you.
Summary of The 6 Paths of Yoga
So this, I hope, gives you some ideas as regards the different paths that are available to you on this Yoga Journey for Life.
There are other paths that are not considered classical. Such a path is the path of Tantric Yoga. In the West this is considered to do with the practice of sex but it has more to do with the worship of the Divine Feminine and exploring how to embody that energy within yourself.
Now having explored the Paths of Yoga the next part of the journey is to explore the steps you will take on this journey into the light of your astonishing Being. The steps refer to styles and types of yoga practice available that form the foundation for integration of the personal self with the universal Self
Yoga is the union of the self with the Self through the self – Patanjali
When Yoga was first introduced to the West there was only the practice of Hatha Yoga available.
At the time of my living in Northern Ireland it was declared by the unenlightened and self-declared Reverend Ian Paisley as, “The work of the Devil.” For a long time I used to have to listen to his rantings when he had a Mission tent in the field behind our house.
Now there are many more versions of Hatha Yoga to suit different personalities. Each has at their core the practice of Hatha Yoga.
I will be sharing more details as regards the various styles and types of yoga available as from May 2019. To assist you in navigating this article I list below the menu of the different paths.
Outline for 6 Paths of Yoga
I hope that you will be encouraged to commit to integrating the personal that you think you are with the Universal that is the REALITY of who you truly are.
This is the real purpose of Yoga which means “union.” In this way you will KNOW that, “I am blessed and can bless” W. B. Yeats (Vacillation IV). Let it be so for you. Let it be so for all.