The four main paths of yoga are:
Raja Yoga: (Hatha Yoga is a part of this) Characterized by the 8 limbs of yoga. Generally encompasses the practice of asanas (postures) with meditation to help the person become well-rounded, healthy, and to live and easeful and peaceful life. This is the yoga of Patanjali and includes hatha yoga, which is the usual form found outside of India.
Hatha Yoga means literally “sun and moon” yoga, and is directed toward the balancing of the mind, body, and spirit (outward and inward). This is the type of yoga that I practice and teach.
Jnana Yoga: The path of knowledge and intellect. This is the yoga of philosophy as a method for gaining true knowledge of what is.
Bhakti Yoga: The path of Religious dedication to ones own God. Total love and devotion are seen as the easiest path and the one to help reach true meaning in one’s life.
Karma Yoga: The path of selfless service. The giving and dedication of all ones actions to the benefit of others also means refraining from trying to be the beneficiary of ones own efforts. Allowing others to receive the fruits of ones actions.
There are other paths of yoga, but the scope of what those entail is too wide for me to share on this blog.
I suppose the most important thing to understand from this short study is that if you are taking a hatha yoga or most other types of yoga classes in the West, or outside of India, you most likely are engaging in the non-religious practices of the first four branches of raja yoga . You will likely be asked to move into postures that are designed to bring immense benefit to the body physically. At the same time you will be taught techniques that allow you to release tension in the mind and body.
Moving into the other paths of yoga (jnana, bhakti, karma) will not likely be a part of the yoga classes you encounter unless you seek out teachers who specifically practice them.
Tomorrow we look more closely at the elements of creating a home hatha yoga practice which is sure to help develop a sense of ease and connection between the mind, body and spirit. Feel free to submit questions for me to address in the comments section or via email.