The Four Paths of Classical Yoga

19 Nov

All the classical yoga traditions lead us towards the spiritual growth and enlightenment. Raja Yoga is the most widely known today, and it relates to the control of the mind and body through meditation, breathing and physical work. There is also the Karma Yoga, which is the yoga of action, through which work is done selfless, and overcoming the ego. Bhakti yoga is attractive to people devotional and mystical, it is the way of love and includes rituals, ceremonies and songs. Finally there is Jnana yoga, the path of knowledge or wisdom, which is the intellectual study of the texts. But there is another one! Hatha yoga, the most popular Yoga tradition. But some expert do not want to include this one to the list of Classical Yoga.

In his text the Yoga Sutras, considered central yogic literature, Patanjali describes eight steps related to yoga: This set is also called Ashtanga Yoga and formed the basis for the series of asanas that are the Ashtanga Yoga today. The eight steps are: the yamas (moral restraints, such as non-violence, truth in word, deed and thought, not stealing, moderation and non-possessiveness) the niyamas (purity, contentment, austerity, study of sacred texts, and the constant awareness of divinity), asanas (postures), pranayama (proper breathing), pratyahara (the gathering of the senses), dharana (concentration for meditation), dhyana (meditation and contemplation), and samadhi (superconsciousness).

Asanas are the foundation of Hatha Yoga. Asanas are postures that should be comfortable and stable, so that a position is perfect when you get to it without hesitation and discomfort and are easy to maintain. The positions have a medicinal purpose, then heal and maintain optimum performance in internal organs and metabolism, and also strengthen the body, make you more slender, flexible and healthy.

Breathing is our primary source of life. Why not put more attention? The Pranayama (in English) is the science of breath, or vital energy. With proper breathing, we can oxygenate our cells, eliminate waste, and be filled with energy. Breathing is connected with the mind: when we control the breath, the mind becomes quiet also.

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