What is Yoga and What Are Different Types of Yoga

What is Yoga

There are large number of people who didn’t know much more about the Yoga and these people try to find the Yoga definition and types of Yoga. If you are also one of them who want to know – WHAT IS YOGA, then this is the right place for you.

See, the word of Yoga originates from the word “yuj” which means “to combine” “to join” or “to integrate into one”. Now, this integration can be taken to mean :

  1. Integration of the soul with the Almighty;
  2. Integration of physical, mental, intellectual and spiritual aspects of the human personality ;
  3. Integration of the person and the society

Our ancient holy-men agree on presence of one common element i.e. the sense of consciousness in both static and non-static (both living and nonliving). This element of consciousness is present in whole of the universe and is flowing continuously. In fact, the whole universe has originated from the flow of this element of consciousness. A person doing yogic exercises, connects his own consciousness with that of the universe. With this, the energy of his body and soul multiplies manifolds. This process can be understood well with the following example:

Imagine that a Pitcher is flowing in the ocean. The pitcher is half-full of water. Now, the water in the pitcher is separate and quite different from the Water in the ocean. Any activity in the ocean will have its effect on the pitcher, but not on the Water inside the Pitcher and the water of the ocean outside the pitcher will become one. Now, any movement in the water of the ocean will have effect on the water of the pitcher and vice versa.

Similar is the situation of the creature of this world vis-à-vis this universe. If you take the creature (e.g. a human being) to be the pitcher, then his state of consciousness can be taken as the water inside the pitcher. Again, if you take the universe as the ocean then its enormous consciousness can be taken as the water of the ocean. Now, by applying the example in the preceding paragraph, you will be able to understand the whole yogic process.

According to the great sage Patanjali, Yoga is detachment of the mind from running after material things and acquiring a peaceful state of heavenly bliss. According to Gita skillful doing of anything is Yoga. In other word, whatever is done with the application of both the mind and the body , is Yoga. We may be students or businessmen, men or women, working women or a housewives – everyone is busy with one type of work (Karma) or the other. This work is done with hands and with application of mind or by speaking out and the person always has an eye on the fruits of this labour., i.e the reward that the person will get as a result of all his activities. Yoga tells us that we must do our work so skillfully and live our life so appropriately that fruit of our work should be the natural outcome of our efforts, as if it is bound to result by the efforts.

Types of Yoga

Types of Yoga

There are number of paths, leading to one common objective. The rivers flow in the east, the west, the north and the south directions and have different names initially. However, all of them merge with the ocean and lose their own identity. They surrender themselves completely to the ocean. The same thing applies to Yoga also. Yoga may adopt any path. Initially all these paths will appear to be different but the objective of all these paths is to give a correct direction to the mind, to correct the thought pattern, to direct the mind to the soul and to provide eternal peace. Yoga has different types, we mentioned below all the different types of yoga :-

  1. Yoga Through Persistence (Hatha Yoga)
  2. Yoga Through Action (Karma Yoga)
  3. Yoga Through Devotion (Bhakti Yoga)
  4. Yoga Through Philosophy (Gyana Yoga)
  5. Yoga Through Science (Raja Yoga)
  6. Yoga Through Serpentine Energy Centre (Kundalini Yoga)
  7. Yoga Through Chanting Holy Words (Mantra Yoga)

Out of the above types of Yoga, you may choose particular type. Whatever type you choose, you will have to work your way according to the rules of the type chosen. The path is full of obstacles. You will definitely face difficulties but you will be able to achieve your goal if you pay no attention to the difficulties. The individuals, who are emotional by nature, can choose the path of Bhakti Yoga. Those of us, who are restless by nature and remain busy doing one thing or the other all the time, may choose Karma Yoga. Those of us, who are always deep in thoughts and are always concerned with what is happening with them, may choose the path of Raja Yoga. Those of us who are never willing to agree to what has been written in holy epics or what the others say and give recognition to their own experiences only, should choose Gyan Yoga. Those of us who want development of body and mind, should choose Hatha Yoga. Diligent and devoted efforts are absolutely necessary for reaching the desired goal through these paths.

Yoga Through Persistence (Hatha Yoga)

Although literal meaning of Hatha Yoga is forcing oneself, however, this is not its actual meaning. Hatha Yoga does not mean obstinacy or stubbornness. Patanjali, the great sage, has defined it as the control over deficiencies of the mind. He also says that a good posture (Asana) is a position in which a person can remain for a long time at his pleasure. If you force yourself, you will receive sorrow and not pleasure. Therefore, ‘Hatha’ never means being obstinate or persistent. In Hatha, the letters “ha” mean the Moon and the letters “tha” mean the Sun. Thus, the word Hatha means meeting of the Sun and the Moon. Right nostril i.e. “tha” is the way of the Sun. Left nostril i.e. ‘ha’ is the way of the Moon.

The moon controls the mental activities. The Sun controls physical activities. Both nostrils have mind and insight. If breathing through the right nostril is excessive, then the person is physically active and is concerned with material things. Therefore, to strike an appropriate balance between the physical and mental state, there should be equal breathing through both the nostrils. In other words, one should breathe through the right nostril for twelve hours daily, breathing for the other twelve hours should be done through the left nostril. Only then a person can remain balanced. This exactly is what is the objective of the Hatha Yoga. When breathing through both the nostrils is for the equal period of time, then the state of meditation is reached.

Physical activities performed during Hatha Yoga are known as postures (asanas). Breathing exercise (pranayams)are also a part of Hatha Yoga. There are certain physical bodily positions which directly affect our micro body. The blocks (Bandhas*) are like a lock. Through these stoppages, power is decentralized in the body. These also come under Hatha Yoga.

Yoga Through Action (Karma Yoga)

This Yoga is the fountain of work, effort and labour. As stated in Yoga Vashishtha (a Yoga text), when anyone does some work without thinking that “I am the person who is doing this work” or when a person expends some labour bearing in mind that doing labour is an automatic and natural activity, then this is Karma Yoga.

Selfless work, without expecting fruits of the work, is true Karma Yoga. Ordinarily, this is a very difficult thing to do. Whatever we do, we do so with an eye on its result. Therefore, we have a selfish interest in all our activities. Anyone, who does some work with disinterestedness and complete detachment to its result, is a true Karma yogi.

Yoga Through Devotion (Bhakti Yoga)

A person with emotional inclination can easily adopt this type of Yoga. Devotion, be it towards the God, towards any great man or towards the teacher (guru), its essence is the same. The medium to express the devotion can be different. A number of persons are devotional by nature, that is why they visit the temples, mosques or churches according to their own religion and worship their deities. Even the devotion should be done with concentration.

Yoga Through Philosophy (Gyana Yoga)

This type of Yoga is concerned with wisdom, the thing which educated persons call philosophy’. Concentration is required for its success also. The concentration should be for the search of knowledge. Its search begins with an intitial sentences : “Who am I” and then a person is fully devoted in search of essence of self-knowledge. Anyone who acquires self-knowledge, cannot describe it because it can only be expressed in words. Ordinarily, we can say that Yoga learner should be quiet and concentrated , so that with the concentration of mind, he can think about himself. As the concentration increases, so will he progress on the path of Gyan Yoga.

Yoga Through Science (Raja Yoga)

Raja Yoga is a subject of self-test. It involves seeing the different levels of consciousness and go to the depths of seeing oneself. Patanjali, the great sage, has described eight parts of Yoga, which are the paths to insight into oneself i.e. yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharna, dhyana and samadhi. These have been described in detail in succeeding paragraphs of this book.

Yoga Through Serpentine Energy Centre* (Kundalini Yoga)

The Serpentine Energy Centre {Kundalini) is one of the energy centers (chakras*) which are also known as plexus. These energy centers concern our spinal cord, which is the center of life power and which manages and controls the entire body. Thus, these different energy centers relate to our consciousness and astral tubes (nadis) and the entire body (In yogic theory, there are 72000 nadis or subtle tubes in body. They are equal to the acupuncture meridians.). Various types of energy centers have been described in Yoga, which can be awakened through practice. This awakening of energy centers results in mental concentration in human beings.

Yoga Through Chanting the Holy Words (Mantra Yoga)

It has been scientifically proven that even spoken words have power. To illustrate, if you say harsh words to someone, you become angry yourself. Similarly, when you say soothing words to someone, you feel happy yourself. Activities of the mind can be plotted on paper with the help of electronic machines. It has been scientifically established that there are certain words which produce ‘alpha waves’. Frequency of these waves is from 8 to 13 cycles per second. This frequency can be reached only when the person has full concentration of mind. The words which produce this type of frequency, are called mantras (the holy words). Thus, chanting of holy words also has power, which has effect on your mind and body. That is why this type of Yoga is called Yoga through recitation of holy words (mantra). (Note# : Mantra is a mystical syllable, word, or phrase used to focus mind during meditation. This can be repeated mentally or out loud. Om is the best known mantra, according to Hindu mythology).

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