If you have begun to look at yoga, you can easily find many different styles and paths of yoga. With all of the new vocabulary and so many different ways that people teach it, you may find it a little confusing to look through at first. How can you determine your own personal style/path and how you want to work with yoga to find the balance, ease, and structure that best suits you?
This week I will be sharing a variety of yoga paths. You may have heard of Hatha Yoga, Integral Yoga, Astanga Yoga, Hot Yoga (Bikram), Jivamukti Yoga, or Vinyasa Flow, etc… these are types of yoga which offer a variety of classes that you can take at yoga studios and gyms. This is not what I am talking about this week. A lot of that information is available elsewhere online and you will likely want to look up those you already have access to on your own, since this varies widely from town to town.
Did you know that there are a variety of paths in yoga, that you can use as a way to focus your own studies, movement, or general effort?
Not all yoga is movement. Not all movement is yoga.
In America, most people tend to experience yoga as a specific way to practice movements and bring the mind into harmony with those movements. This practice is called asana (poses or postures) and is one of the 8 limbs of astanga (meaning 8-limbed) yoga or Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga is “the king yoga” or then full service practice. It involves these 8 limbs:
1. Yama – Abstaining (from harm, stealing, grasping, etc…)
2. Niyama – Observances (personal care, to help others – purity, contentment, self study, etc…)
3. Asana – Physical Postures
4. Pranayama – Breathing to support mind/body/spirit connection
5. Pratyahara – Sense withdrawal
6. Dharana- Concentration
7. Dhyana – Deep Meditation
8. Samadhi – Deep Contemplation (complete absorption)
These 8 limbs of raja yoga create a complete system for what Swami Satchidananda called “the path of concentration and meditation.” It is meant to “unlock the key to health, happiness, peace, and joy. “
The last several weeks I have been covering the basics of yama and niyama, for those interested, in this blog. You can see a wide variety of ways to engage yourself by clicking on the links to the right of this article.
The majority of classes in the United States provide basic education in asana and some pranayama. In my classes, I am sure to teach the yama and niyama as well. For those keen on moving into the last four areas of this form of yoga, speaking to your teacher (or calling me) is best. More advanced classes may teach these methods of working with meditation, but it is appropriate to let the teacher know you are interested in these forms.
Be sure to check back the rest of this week as we look into other paths of yoga. You may find that you prefer to work creatively, through devotion at your church or synagogue, perhaps you like to study and prefer the reading of books. You’ll be interested to find that yoga offers paths suited to your own type of mind and the way that you work in this world. However, you will also discover that the path you think is for you may not be the one that is most productive. I will be offering a quiz to allow you to find what path of yoga may suit you best. Be sure to link up with me during the upcoming free consultations, too, to get a more personalized introduction and assessment.