Branches of Yoga
Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. Ancient vedic scriptures point
towards nine different ways to perform bhakti yoga, any one of which
can lead to enlightenment. It is said that Bhakti yoga is the fastest
and surest path to enlightenment.
Within the Satyananda Tradition, Hatha Yoga comprises the six
Shatkarmas or cleansing practices ie Neti, Dhauti, Nauli, Basti,
Kapalbhati and Trataka. In other yoga traditions Hatha Yoga has its
emphasis on the physical practices or asana.
Jnana yoga is the yoga of self-inquiry and asking the question ‘who or
what am I, what is my essential nature’. This knowledge is sought via
the practices of meditative contemplation not at an intellectual level
but opening up the path to intuitive awareness. The ‘real self’ can
only be accessed through self-awareness not through machinations of the
Karma yoga is the yoga of action with no attachment to the outcome ie
taking action in whatever form with equanimity or evenness of mind
(balance ). The practice of selfless service (seva) is a form of karma
yoga which is done without any expectation of either the result or any
reward from the action.
Kriya means action or movement so Kriya yoga is a series of practices of Kundalini Yoga which when practised diligently can cause rapid change to the body and mind bringing about significant expansion of awareness. These practices are usually taught in an ashram (retreat) environment under the guidance of an experienced yoga practitioner.
Kundalini yoga is the yogic science of awakening the latent energy lying dormant in Mooladhara, the chakra or psychic centre residing at the base of the trunk. Kundalini yoga uses a range of techniques involving kriyas, meditation and purification of the chakras to unite the Kundalini (female aspect of energy or Shakti) at Mooladhara with the Shiva (male aspect of energy) at Sahasrara just above the crown of the head to achieve a powerful expansion of awareness in the practitioner.
Mantra is usually defined as sound vibration and therefore mantra yoga
is the practice of using mantra to get in touch with one’s inner self.
Within the yoga tradition, chanting of mantra is an ancient practice
using Sanskrit as the language. The rich repertoire of sounds in the
Sanskrit alphabet vibrate in the body-mind complex bringing about
changes to its physical mental and psychic aspects. For example Om the
universal mantra is chanted at the beginning and end of each class.
Nada yoga is the knowledge of sound and the way it affects the human body and psyche. Adept practitioners are able to access a wide range of frequencies and use sound as the medium to expand awareness of consciousness.
Raja yoga is the ‘king’ of yoga and is the system of the eight limbs of yoga described in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. The eight limbs are as follows:
Yama – a code of practice generally described as interaction with others
Niyama – a code of practice for the individual
Asana – physical postures for the purpose of making the body steady for meditation
Pranayama – often referred to as breathing practices but more correctly related to expansion of prana or the body’s life force
Pratyahara – withdrawal from the sensory perceptions
Dharana – concentration practices
Dhyana – the state of meditation
Samadhi – realisation or enlightenment
Swara yoga is yoga of the breath and is the systematic study of the
flow of breath in the nostrils in relation to the phases of the stars
and planets, to the time of day and to the actions that the individual
is currently undertaking. By observing the breath the practitioner is
able to make decisions about how, when and where to act at a physical,
mental, psychic and spiritual level. It is a very ancient knowledge
previously known only to a few select adepts.
Tantra is the philosophy and series of practices that utilise this existence and all its parts as the vehicle for self-realisation. The term tantra is often referred to in relation to sexual practices which is a gross distortion of this broad and profoundly deep philosophy.