Understanding the Classical Schools of Yoga- Jnana, Raja, Karma and Bhakti Yoga

By on March 19, 2016

It is commonly mistaken that yoga is the union of the body and mind, but in truth yoga is actually the union of the soul and the Supreme Soul. The practice of yoga is not merely an act of maintaining health and fitness- it goes beyond the physical aspect. It is the unadulterated path to achieve liberation and pure bliss.

Before yoga became a sensation in the west as a health and fitness regimen, there are four classical schools of yoga that started it all. Understanding these four approaches of yoga will help you understand the practice deeper. These paths of yoga are correlated with each other. They work together and they serve as the pillar of yoga practice. A yoga practitioner can focus on just one of them, but it is most appropriate to blend all the other types of yoga.

Jnana Yoga
The word Jnana is a Sanskrit word that means wisdom, and Jnana yoga is described as the path to achieve wisdom. A Jnani meditates to achieve enlightenment and self-realization. During meditation the Jnani clears his mind and puts aside all things that are inside his mind, including his thoughts and emotions. This path focuses on knowing the Absolute Truth, the truth that is unchanging and constant, and is not influenced by “Maya” or illusion. The first step to understanding this truth is knowing your identity, essence, purpose and position.

Raja Yoga
Raja yoga means royal union. This yoga practice is also called as Ashtanga yoga which is comprised of eight stages. The ultimate goal of this practice is to achieve liberation and self- realization. A yogi who practices Raja yoga, focuses his mind, heart and entire being to the Lord. The eight limbs of Raja yoga are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. In this age, the practice of Astanga yoga, which is performing deep meditation with no disturbances, is not that easy. There are lots of distractions around, this is why practitioners of this yoga tend to stay in the mountains and secluded areas where there are less distractions.

Karma Yoga
Karma is derived from the Sanskrit word “kri” which means, “to perform”. This path of yoga is the practice that deals with discipline in action and it is based on the teachings of the Bhagavad- Gita.  A  karmi  aims  to  achieve  the  ultimate  goal  of  yoga  through  his  actions.  To  achieve liberation from the wheel of birth and death (reincarnation) one should surrender all is actions to the Supreme Personality. Just like Arjuna as described in the Bhagavad-Gita, he surrendered completely to the Lord before he continued in the battle of Kurukshetra.

Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti means love and Bhakti yoga means cultivation of love for God. This involves developing your personal relationship with God. This practice is considered as the easiest way to achieve the ultimate goal of yoga, which is union with God. This is recommended in this age, as it does not require extensive meditation and yogic practices. The philosophy of this yoga practice is stated in different Sanskrit scriptures – Puranas, Bhagavad-Gita and the Bhagavata Purana.

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