Systems of Yoga

There are many different paths of yoga all leading to the same goal, like many rivers all leading to the ocean. In Bihar Yoga, there is exposure to all of the main systems of yoga as a means of developing the whole personality.

The main systems of yoga are defined below. The following information is taken directly from the web site of the Bihar School of Yoga, India, home of Bihar Yoga.

Hatha Yoga

The Hatha Yoga system includes asana along with the six shatkarmas (physical and mental detox techniques), mudras and bandhas (psycho-physiological energy release techniques) and pranic awakening practices. Fine tuning of the human personality at increasingly subtle levels leads to higher states of awareness and meditation.

The term Hatha Yoga has been commonly used to describe the practice of asana (postures). The syllable ha denotes the pranic (vital) force governing the physical body and tha denotes the chitta (mental) force thus making Hatha Yoga a catalyst to an awakening of the two energies that govern our lives. More correctly the techniques described in Hatha Yoga harmonise and purify the body systems and focus the mind in preparation for more advanced chakra and kundalini practices.

Hatha Yoga has been described in several classic texts, notably Hatha Yoga Pradipika and Gherand Samhita.

“Yoga is inaction in action and action in inaction; where inaction represents the non-dual state of consciousness and action is the dual state of consciousness” - Dr Uma Krishnamurthi

Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga usually refers to the system of yoga that is described in the Yoga Sutras of Sage Patanjali. In this ancient text Sage Patanjali describes eight stages of yoga which are known collectively as Raja Yoga.

Raja Yoga is a comprehensive yoga system which deals with the refinement of human behaviour and personality through the practice of the yamas (restraint) and niyamas (disciplines); attainment of physical health and vitality through asanas (postures) and pranayamas (pranic breathing techniques); management of mental and emotional conflicts and development of awareness and concentration through pratyahara (sensory withdrawal) and dharana (concentration); and developing the creative aspect of consciousness for transcendental awareness through dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (absorption in the universal identity).

A detailed description of the above mentioned yoga system has been given in Four Chapters on Freedom

Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is the process of converting intellectual knowledge into practical wisdom. It is a discovery of human dharma in relation to nature and the universe. Jnana Yoga is described by tradition as a means to obtain the highest meditative state and inner knowledge.

Jnana literally means 'knowledge', but in the context of yoga it means the process of meditative awareness which leads to illuminative wisdom. It is not a method by which we try to find rational answers to eternal questions, rather it is a part of meditation leading to self-enquiry and self-realisation.

Some of the components of Jnana Yoga are: (1) not believing but realising, (2) self-awareness leading to self-analysis, (3) experiencing knowledge, (4) realising the personal nature, (5) developing intuitive wisdom, (6) experiencing inner unity.

Classical books on this subject are Yoga Darshan, Yoga Sadhana Panorama series, Prashnopanishad, Nirvanopanishad and others.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga is the path of channeling the emotions and feelings to realise the transcendental and divine nature inherent in every human being. Many people describe this as the yoga of devotion and give it a religious bent, however, it is through Bhakti Yoga that it becomes possible to experience the unity of all life.

The stages of Bhakti Yoga can be classified as follows: (1) meditation, to realise and channel emotional energy, (2) mantras and kirtans, to open the heart, (3) identification with the source of inspiration and life, God, (4) experiencing transcendental human qualities in daily life.

The validity and depth of Bhakti Yoga can only be understood by realising the experiences of union that masters have had over the course of their lives. The Bhakti Yoga Sagar series describes this process of the human journey towards divinity in a clear and concise form.

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is the yoga of action. It is the easiest way to bring yogic awareness into your daily living. Karma yoga is preformed with awareness, efficiency, excellence, equanimity, enjoyment and a sense of selfless involvement in all activity.

Karma Yoga is a system which develops immunity to the reactive and negative components of an action. This awareness of action leads to a greater ability to manage mental associations in the form of desires, ambitions, ego and other personality complexes.

The aim of Karma Yoga is to gain freedom from the bondage of karma which restricts and inhibits dynamic, creative and constructive expression in life. In the Bhagavad Gita Sri Krishna has emphasised the need for action as a means to become truly human and attain divine grace.

Karma Yoga is a sadhana and not a practice. The state of Karma Yoga can be attained through seva (selfless involvement in all activities), the spirit of which can be imbibed under the guidance of a competent master.

The concepts of Karma Yoga, as a means to enhance human spirituality, have been described in Karma Sannyasa Eighteen Yogas of the Gita, the Teachings series by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, and the Yoga Sadhana Panorama series.