The Four Paths of Yoga


The term Yoga was derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “to join”, “to integrate” or “to unite”. The goal of Yoga is to reach a union of mind and body and it is believed to have been put to use for more than 25,000 years.

Yoga, as we know it today, dates back to ancient times in India. It is hard to specifically pinpoint the time in history when it truly originated since different versions are being passed on from one group to another. Figures of how long it has been around have relied upon the expertise of the historians who interpreted the sacred carvings found in the Indus Valley Civilization. The actual carving is in the form of a rock seal which contains an image sitting cross-legged, as if meditating.

This seal, which was coined Shiva Pashupati, was discovered by a British archaeologist, Sir John Hubert Marshall. With this discovery, archaeological evidence started shedding light to support the belief that the practice of yoga began 5,000 years ago.

Another expert, David Frawley, who is a Vedic scholar, claims that yoga dates back to the earliest Hindu writing, called Rig Veda, which was believed to have been written between 1500 and 1200 BC. Rig Veda is considered the oldest religious text in the world and it contains rituals, ceremonies and sacrifices. Vedic Yoga is the first known yoga practiced by ancient people. Its purpose was to connect the people to the spirit world.

There are four basic paths of Yoga existing from Bhagavad Gita, “Song of God”, which is an ancient, sacred text that some consider a practical, self-contained guide to life. These types of yoga are Bhakti Yoga, Dhyana Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga.

Bhakti is a Sanskrit word meaning “devotion” and this form of yoga is based on the spiritual practice of developing a loving devotion to a higher power, such as God. Bhakti Yoga focuses on reducing selfishness and removing jealousy, hatred, lust, anger, pride and arrogance. From there, practitioners strive to fill themselves with joy, happiness, peace, and knowledge. Through this their concerns and anxieties vanish whereupon they attain everlasting peace.

Dhyana is the Sanskrit word for “meditation” and the focus is to calm or silence the restless mind and allow the practitioner to look into their inner consciousness without distractions from the outside world. Dhyana Yoga involves concentration upon a point of focus with the intention of knowing the truth about it. The meditation techniques learned give the practitioner a glimpse of their inner life and connects them with their true nature.

Jnana is a Sanskrit word meaning “knowledge” and is frequently interpreted to mean “knowledge of the true self”. Jnana Yoga is based on the study of philosophy and meditation as a means to unify the body and mind in order to achieve enlightenment. In this method, the body and mind must be purified for a person to totally experience the joy of liberating the soul and connecting with the real self.

Karma is derived from the Sanskrit word meaning “to do” and in its simplest sense Karma means “action”. Karma Yoga’s focus is on adherence to duty and emphasizes selfless action and service with pure intention devoid of selfish motive. Many believe that Mahatma Gandhi was a Karma Yoga practitioner. Practitioners of this yoga method strive to do things to the best of their ability, without causing harm to others and attachment to the outcomes of their actions.

Bhagavad Gita is one of history’s most compelling and profound manuscripts and while there are many interpretations, each of these Yoga paths all strive towards the same goal of self-improvement, mastery of and gradual purification of body and mind leading to a state of self-realized enlightenment.

Rachel Tuller is a busy mother, sales executive, an accomplished speaker, freelance writer, health enthusiast, and a lifelong student of personal development. You can enjoy other articles about yoga at []

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