By Clyde Granger
What are the main Indian Yogas? The styles other than Hatha are mainly meditative and more directly aimed at Yoga as end-goal and union. Most people, outside of India, see practitioners on Yoga mats practicing movements or postures and think that is the sum total of our practice. Unconsciously, many practitioners say “Yoga,” but are referring to asana practice. To be completely honest, I love asana practice, but it is not the complete Hatha experience. Therefore, below is a brief introduction to the main Indian Yogas.
Jnana Yoga: Union by knowledge; this is the path of spiritual wisdom and knowledge, in which the intellect penetrates the veils of ignorance that prevent man from seeing his True Self (Atman). The disciplines of this path are those of study and meditation. To some degree Vedanta Yoga and Jnana are one in the same.
Bhakti Yoga: Union by love and devotion; the favorite Yoga of Indian masses. This is Yoga of strongly-focused love, devotion and worship, at its finest in love of the One. Its disciplines are those of rites and the singing of songs of praise.
Karma Yoga: Union by action and service; this is the path of selfless action and service, without pursuing the fruits of action. To give or help someone without expectation or reward is an exceptional quality. When you think about it, Karma Yoga is a rarity, because so many people help with an expectation of payment or reward.
Mantra Yoga: Union by voice and sound; the practice of Mantra Yoga influences consciousness through repeating certain syllables, words or phrases. A form of Mantra Yoga is the Transcendental Meditation, which is widely practiced in the West. Rhytmic repetition of mantras is called japa. The most highly-regarded mantras are ‘Om’ and ‘Om Mane Padme Hum’.
Yantra Yoga: Union by vision and form; Yantra Yoga employs sight and form. The visualization may be with the inner eye. A yantra is a design with power to influence consciousness; it can be an objective picture, an inner visualization, or the design of a temple.
Laya and Kundalini Yoga: Union by arousal of latent psychic nerve-force. These combine many of the techniques of Hatha Yoga, especially prolonged breath suspension and a stable posture, with intense meditative concentration, so as to awaken the psychic nerve-force latent in the body, symbolized as serpent power (Kundalini), which is coiled below the base of the spine. The force is taken up the spine, passing through several power centers (chakras), until it reaches a chakra in the crown of the head, when intuitive enlightenment (Samadhi) is triggered. The disciplines are severe, best practiced with a teacher.
Tantra or Tantric Yoga: Union by harnessing sexual energy; ‘tantric’ is applied to distinguish physiological systems. The control of the sexual energies has a prominent part, and the union of male and female has a ritualistic role. Tantric Yoga of all the yogas guards its teachings and techniques most closely.
Hatha Yoga: Union by bodily mastery (principally of breath); central to all Hatha Yoga disciplines is the regulation of breath, the harmonizing of its positive (sun) and negative (moon) or male and female currents. Hatha Yoga is the most widely practiced in the West, and its best-known feature is posturing. Hatha has practical benefits to the health of the nervous system, glands, and vital organs. It’s a purifying preparation for Raja Yoga, which is work upon consciousness itself. Hatha Yoga is the most practical of yogas, works upon the body, purifying it, and through the body upon the mind. It’s the Yoga of physical well-being.
Raja Yoga: Union by mental mastery; Raja Yoga is considered royal because the Yogi who practices this yoga thereby becomes ruler over his mind. Raja Yoga works upon the mind, refining and perfecting it, and through the mind upon the body. It’s the Yoga of consciousness, the highest form of Yoga.
One article, video, paragraph, or sentence cannot do justice to describing the main Indian Yogas. You can read about them or watch them, but like many other valuable activities, these styles are to be experience. Afterward, you will find that your experience differs with every other practitioner, because you are unique. This is why it is good to have a guide, teacher, or guru.
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