People have used yoga techniques for more than 2,000 years. Over these centuries, yoga has developed into a system of widely varied practices, much like an ancient tree with many branches.
Each branch of yoga was developed to serve specific human needs. As a general rule, though, they all serve one primary purpose: to bring into equilibrium the human mind and body.
Let’s take a closer look at 5 of those branches of yoga.
If enhanced well-being is your goal, you should consider the practice of hatha yoga. In addition to meditation, which is a common technique in4 all yoga branches, hatha yoga teaches a series of postures (known in yoga terminology as asanas) and breathing exercises (called pranayamas). Hatha yoga is considered to be one of the primary antecedents of modern physical therapy.
Another popular branch is karma yoga, which operates under the principle that everything that happens to us in our life is a direct consequence of our past actions. As a result, karma yoga encourages practitioners to eliminate negativity and selfishness from their current lives, to avoid having to deal with future consequences. Karma yoga is practiced throughout one’s day, including at work. Activities undertaken with the goal of helping other people, such as volunteering at a soup kitchen, are associated with the karma yoga path.
A branch of yoga that places an even greater emphasis on meditation is raja yoga. Known also under the name of classical yoga, raja is a more advanced discipline. Practitioners usually start with hatha yoga in order to prepare the body for this advanced training. Studies have shown that people attracted by this form of yoga are generally more introspective and more drawn to profound meditation. Various religious groups devote themselves to this yoga path, which is similar to a monastic or contemplative lifestyle.
This branch of yoga is directed mainly to scholars. It involves the development of the intellect through the study of the yoga tradition, scripts and texts. It is also known to be the yoga of the heart and wisdom. Although it is described as the most difficult of all yoga practices, jnana yoga is also considered 1 of the most direct and rewarding paths.
Bhakti yoga promotes the ideal of devotion. The principal message of this yoga path is the presence of something divine in every form of creation. Hence, it is important to tolerate, accept and respect any form of life with which we come into contact.
These are only a few of the numerous yoga branches and paths. Whatever your needs, you can find a suitable yoga practice and, through it, find equilibrium and inner peace.