RÁJA YÔGA, THE MENTAL YÔGA
This Yôga possesses a larger number of mental techniques than other modalities of Yôga.
Rája means royal (of the kings). It consists of four parts or angas: pratyáhára (abstraction of the senses); dháraná (mental concentration); dhyána (meditation) and samádhi (hyperconsciousness). Later, around three centuries before Christ, four more angas were added as an introduction (yama, niyama, ásana, and pránáyáma) with which it was then codified as Ashtánga Yôga or Classic Yôga. Look later in this section for an explanation as to why these two modalities today are presented as if they were two different ones.
BHAKTI YÔGA, THE DEVOTIONAL YÔGA
The tone set for this Yôga is of devotion, almost religious. It uses more mantras and pújá than other modalities of Yôga.
Bhakti means devotion. Devotional Yôga is not necessarily spiritualist. In its pre-classic origins, its foundations were naturalist and in the region in which it flourished no evidence of the existence of religious institutions have been found. It consists of worshipping the forces of Nature: the sun, the moon, the trees, the rivers, etc.
KARMA YÔGA, THE YÔGA OF ACTION
This Yôga teaches how to act in life and in the world so as to be in accordance with the law of karma.
Karma means action. It is a Yôga that induces action. Its medieval branch came to have a connotation of the Vêdánta philosophy, something that conferred to it an air of “uninterested action” when, as a matter of fact, the idea is to drive to action, to work, to accomplishment. For sure, such a dynamic in principle does not envision personal benefits, pay-offs or recognition.
JÑANA YÔGA, THE YÔGA OF SELF-KNOWLEDGE
More emphasis is placed on the search for self-knowledge through meditation than in other modalities of Yôga.
Jñána means knowledge. The method of this particular modality consists of meditating on the response that your psyche elaborates for the question “Who am I?” until there is no other element left that can be separated from the Self and analyzed. At this point, the practitioner will have encountered the Monad, or the Self.
LAYÁ YÔGA, THE YÔGA OF PARANORMALITIES
This Yôga develops paranormal powers through corporal techniques, breathing, mantras, etc.
Layá means dissolution. The intention of this kind of Yôga is to develop the personality, or in other words, eliminate the barrier that exists between the ego and the Self. As the Self or Monad is understood to be the Absolute in itself, inhabiting each living being, by dissolving the barrier of the personam all of its power and knowledge flows directly to the consciousness of the practitioner.
MANTRA YÔGA, THE YÔGA OF THE DOMINION OF SOUNDS AND ULTRA SOUNDS
As the name indicates, an emphasis is given to mantras in this modality of Yôga.
Mantra means vocalization. This branch of Yôga aims to reach its goal through the resonance that is transmitted to the centers of energy within the body itself, conducting them to a full awakening. As a result, consciousness is raised and the practitioner reaches samádhi.
TANTRA YÔGA, THE YÔGA OF SENSORIALITY
This Yôga uses sexuality as the leverage for interior evolution.
Tantra means, among other things, the correct way to do any thing, authority, prosperity or stringing (of a musical instrument). The way to achieve interior perfection and evolution is through pleasure. It teaches how to relate to yourself, other human beings, animals, plants, the environment, the Universe, etc. It also addresses everything that refers to sensoriality and sexuality. It aims to reach its goal through the reinforcement and channeling of the libido. Tantra Yôga emphasizes work on the kundalini, however, there is also another modality, which we describe later, that is specialized in awakening this colossal force: Kundaliní Yôga.
SWÁSTHYA YÔGA, THE ANCIENT YÔGA, CONTAINS IN ITSELF ALL OF THOSE DESCRIBED ABOVE
This Yôga is the systematization of the very trunk of Pre-Classic Yôga, from which all others were born.
SwáSthya means self-sufficiency, health, sound state, comfort and satisfaction. It is based in the most ancient roots (Tantra-Sámkhya) and because of this it is so complete, since it possesses the germ of what, centuries later, gave birth to the eight most ancient branches of Yôga (Ásana Yôga, Rája Yôga, Bhakti Yôga, Karma Yôga, Jñána Yôga, Layá Yôga, Mantra Yôga and Tantra Yôga). Its practice consists of eight groups of techniques: mudrá (gestural language), pújá (syntony with the archetype), mantra (vocalization of sounds and ultra sounds), pránáyáma (respiratory exercises), kriyá (purification of the mucous membranes), ásana (organic technique) yôganidrá (relaxation technique) and samyama (concentration, meditation and other deeper techniques). It is the systematization of Dakshinacharatántrika-Niríshwarasámkhkya Yôga, an integrated proto-Yôga of Dravidic origins, which are more than 5,000 years old.
SUDDHA RÁJA YÔGA, A VARIETY OF MEDIEVAL RÁJA YÔGA, HEAVILY MYSTICAL
It is a branch of Rája Yôga and uses mantras and rituals.
Suddha means pure, implying that it intends to be the purest version of Rája Yôga, which is not true since Rája Yôga comes from the Sámkhya lineage and Suddha Rája is founded in the opposite, Vêdánta. It consists of mantras and meditation.
KUNDALINÍ YÔGA, THE YÔGA OF POWER
This is a branch that specializes in the awakening of the latent energies in the central nervous system. It works with visualizations, mantras, respiratory exercises, contractions of the plexus and glands, etc.
Kundaliní means that which has the appearance of a serpent. It is a type of Yôga that envisions the awakening of the energy that has its name (kundaliní). This energy is that which is situated in the perineum and has a direct relation to sexuality. Its awakening and ascension, by way of the spinal medulla to the brain, produces a constellation of paranormalities culminating in a state of expanded consciousness that is denominated samádhi, which is the goal of Yôga. Actually, all authentic types of Yôga and not only this one work on awakening the kundaliní, according to Dr. Sivánanda in his book Kundaliní Yôga (pg. 70).
SIDDHA YÔGA, THE YÔGA OF THE CULT TO THE PERSONALITY OF THE GURU
This Yôga is of a Tantric origin and uses a great amount of meditation and mantras.
Siddha means the perfect, or that which possesses the siddhis (paranormal powers). By its name, one may perceive a relation between it and Kundaliní Yôga, but there are very few similarities between the two. It uses many mantras, pújá and meditation, but its actual base is the reverence to the personality of the guru.
KRIYÁ YÔGA, THE YÔGA THAT CONSISTS OF SELF-OVERCOMING, SELF-STUDY AND SELF-SURRENDER
The true Kriyá Yôga consists of three subdivisions of anga niyama, which are ethical norms.
Kriyá means activity. This type of Yôga was very wide-spread in the United States in the 50s and maintains a rich following even today. It consists of three niyamas (ethical norms): tapas (self-overcoming); swadhyáya (self-study) and íshwara pranidhana (self-surrender). It is mentioned is cited in the Yôga Sútra, a book from the 3rd century B.C. The best book on the subject is Tantra Yôga, Náda Yôga and Kriyá Yôga by Sivánanda, Editorial Kier, Buenos Aires. This is the only work that openly teaches Kriyá Yôga, without making a mystery of it.
INTEGRAL YÔGA, THE YÔGA THAT INTEGRATES ITSELF INTO DAY-TO-DAY ACTIVITIES
This is a contemporary modality that proposes to incorporate Yôga in daily life.
It is called Integral Yôga not for being the most integral, as its name may suggest. It is named as such because its objective is to integrate itself in the professional, cultural and artistic life of the practitioner. It was created by Sri Aurobindo, who defended that “Yôga ceases to appear to be something mystical and abnormal that has no relation to the common process of terrestrial energy.”
CLASSIC YÔGA, AN ARID AND HARD YÔGA WITH SEXUAL RESTRICTIONS AND OTHER RESTRICTIONS
This kind of Yôga is patriarchal and restrictive. It uses eight angas: yama, niyama, ásana, pránáyáma, pratyáhára, dháraná, dhyána and samádhi. Many people use the name Classic Yôga, but teach another thing.
Classic Yôga – or Ashtánga Yôga – is not the most ancient Yôga or the most complete Yôga, as it is said by many to be. The most ancient and complete is Pre-Classic Yôga. Classic Yôga has a strong name, but its practice is unviable for the modern man due to the slowness with which its steps are taken. The practice is so restrictive and arid that no one would pay to receive this type of learning. This is why what you see in the Occident are schools that exploit the name of Classic Yôga, but in practice actually teach Hatha Yôga. Classic Yôga is made up of eight parts or angas: yama, niyama, ásana, pránáyáma, pratyáhára, dháraná, dhyána and samádhi. The best book on this is the Yôga Sútra of Pátañjali.
ASHTÁNGA YÔGA, THE SAME AS CLASSIC YÔGA
Even though it is the same as Classic Yôga, what you will find in the United States is simply a fictitious name for what is really Professor Iyengar’s Hatha Yôga, only lightly modified.
HATHA YÔGA, THE PHYSICAL YÔGA
This is a modality that consists of corporal techniques, respiratory exercises and relaxation.
Hatha means force, violence and not the poetic ‘Sun-Moon’, as some books declare. Consult the Sanskrit-English Dictionary by Sir Monier-Williams for confirmation. It is a medieval branch, founded in the 11th century after Christ, therefore, it is considered a modern Yôga, which came about 4,000 years after the origination of primitive Yôga! It is made up of the four initial angas of Ashtánga Yôga (yama, niyama, ásana and pránáyáma), however, in gyms, the first two are not taught and therefore, the practice is restricted to the anga ásana (corporal techniques) and the anga pránáyáma (respiratory exercises). Other techniques can be aggregated, such as bandhas, mudrás and kriyás, but are not required. Meditation is not a part of this Yôga and it should not be included in a practice of Hatha. It has been the most popular Yôga in the Occident. In Brazil, today, it is widely supplanted by SwáSthya Yôga.
IYENGAR YÔGA, A VERSION OF HATHA YÔGA
This Yôga is an extremely vigorous interpretation of Hatha Yôga. This name is inadequate, since B.K.S. Iyengar is the name of a professor of Hatha Yôga. This kind of Yôga is actually a very vigorous interpretation of Hatha Yôga.
POWER YÔGA, A VARIETY OF IYENGAR YÔGA
Again, this is merely another type of Hatha Yôga.Power Yôga is a method that is minimally expressive. It is in fact a fantasy name for a type of simplified Hatha Yôga practiced in the United States, which is demonstrated by the very character of its hybrid English-Sanskrit name. There is no reason to use a term in English. If there were reason, it would then be permissible to name other methods in English such as “Water Yôga” or “Health Yôga” and so on, not only in English, but in any language! Perplexity is what we feel when we observe that the press ceases to mention other types of Yôga that are much better and more authentic in order to give space to a Yôga that has its name in English, simply because it comes from the United States and not from India.
Article writen by Marcello Oliveira, Instructor of SwáSthya, The Ancient Yôga and member of The International University of Yôga.