There are many different yoga practices and the choice depends on the level of training and on the intentions of an individual.
Karma Yoga – the practice of labor without seeking the profit, for the good of living beings, retraction of the results of one’s doings, bringing up the generosity, the readiness to give a hand and the non-attachment to material objects. This practice is considered to purify our negative karma and what is more important for the yoga practitioners – it develops the non-attachment which would prevent us later on from being trapped by the negative tendencies of the mind – greediness, egoism, laziness etc.
Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of love and devotion to a Deity and to the Guru. The bhakta involved in an emotional ecstasy of devotion turns away from his ego spiritually joining his Deity. The Bhakti Yoga is considered to be a quick way to the realization – provided the total commitment, - but it suites mostly to the people with a certain type of character (emotional, disposed to ecstatic feelings). Practically it’s realized through the adoration rituals, spiritual chants, mantras.
Jnana Yoga – the practice of studying and comprehention of the sacral texts – the Vedas, the Upanishads and other spiritual doctrines, received from the Guru. The matter is not in a simple intellectual accumulating and systematization of knowledge, that is particular for the Western science, but in coming to the essence as a result of meditating on the text or on the teaching heard, i.e. the practitioner passes from reflections to an intuitional flash.
Kundalini Yoga (the practice of awakening of the divine energy Kundalini, which is potentially present in everyone) Kriya Yoga (kriya – the practice of purifying, that may be the yoga techniques on the physical epuration or the mind cleansing through the mantras and the meditation), Nada Yoga (the yoga of sound vibrations – the meditative music and chants), Yantra Yoga (the contemplation of certain geometrical images - yantras, that draws into the meditative state of consciousness).
Raja Yoga – the practice of self-realization based on working with consciousness and with the internal energy. If we examine the meaning of this word combination, it is evident that raja yoga means the royal communion. The realization of Raja Yoga state is the aim of all the yoga practice. More particularly it’s a system of spiritual exercises related with the internal visualizing of the energy channels and chakras, with reading mantras and similar mystical practices. In reality these things are to be received only personally from the expert, who belongs to a traditional succession of teachers. Only the one who completed successfully this implementation phase and obtained the confirmation from his teachers, can teach it the others. Parampara (the succession of teachers) is the basis of Eastern spiritual systems. This means the transfer of knowledge from guru to disciple – verbally and non-verbally. Simply speaking guru doesn’t limit only to teaching the student but gives him the energy. This is why the so called “direct transfer” is very important – it preserves the succession of knowledge and power from guru to disciple.
Hatha Yoga. Literally the word “hatha” means power, fury, violence, necessity, effort. Also symbolizes: ha = the Sun, tha = the Moon; the balance or the union of the Sun and the Moon, of activeness and relaxation. Hatha Yoga is working with the consciousness by means of the body; that’s why people practicing the hatha yoga are healthy physically and quite adequate up to the last days of their life provided the correct practice, of course. It allows to control all the actions and manifestations, from the bodily to the full control of consciousness. It is the improvement and preparation of the body and mind for the activity in every necessary regime, that make the practice of Hatha Yoga so required to “reach the top of raja yoga”.
The difference between Hatha Yoga and gymnastics is that hatha yoga although being the work on the physical body is oriented on the consciousness. There is a conception of internal work. In addition it consists in a certain orientation of the attention during the practice and rejuvenating impact on all the ligaments and groups of muscles of the body elaborated through the centuries by experts from generation to generation. This is the main and principle difference of Hatha Yoga from sports.
(the article contains the materials of the lectures of Ashan Sajan Gurukkal, Kochin, Kerala; Mircea Eliade "Yoga: Immortality and Freedom")
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