Paths of Yoga

In the West, the word "yoga" is associated with exercise. The literal meaning of the word is "joining" or "uniting." It defines the journey of the individual on the path to becoming part of a whole -

In the West, the word "yoga" is associated with exercise. The literal meaning of the word is "joining" or "uniting." It defines the journey of the individual on the path to becoming part of a whole — being spirit, the divine or pure consciousness ... or whatever definition resonates with each person.

In this and a followup article I'll outline the "paths" and "limbs" of yoga as defined by Sage Patanjali. Here I focus on the four paths, each of which can lead one to enlightenment:

Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of Knowledge This is the deep inquiry into the self. Its practice is generally in the form of deep meditation, in which an answer to a question is sought and the truth is discerned. Complete renunciation of the world and materialism makes this path difficult for most.

Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of Devotion This path calls the individual to devote their lives to the god of choice. Devotional practices such as chanting, singing of devotional songs and rituals make up the diverse practices. It requires purity and self-sacrifice but is thought to be the best path to healing of the heart.

Karma Yoga: The Yoga of Service A two-part path, with the first being prayers for self-purification and upliftment of the world and the second in service to other human beings. Mother Teresa is an example of a person who used Karma Yoga as her path to enlightenment. It's said that all yoga begins in Karma Yoga.

Kriya Yoga: The Yoga of Techniques This is the path most familiar to the West, involving the use of the breath (pranayama), sound (mantra) and movement (asanas). The purpose of these techniques is to prepare the body for deep meditation, thereby leading to more knowledge and devotion. ©

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