The Library

Yoga Yoga




Traditionally we have been offered four principal pathways in yoga as are described in the ancient texts.  The four paths are :- Hatha yoga, Jnana yoga, Karma yoga and Raja yoga. .  Here I am ignoring the twentieth and twentyfirst centuries` desire to give any teaching style a copyrighted name, especially that of the specific teacher. 


Hatha yoga is generally regarded as the physical approach, concentrating on exercises to give good physical health and well being.  Here we may focus on the asanas of yoga, but also of any other fitness regime designed to give bodily strength, suppleness or stamina.


Jnana yoga is the yoga of study and learning; the yoga of wisdom.  Study may be through the reading of religious texts, watching programmes on TV or DVD which make us think about a higher dimension of life and existence.


Karma yoga might be thought of as ethical yoga.  It brings to the forefront the concept of the law of karma: cause and effect, and its place in our own evolution through the many life times we pass through.  In our present life it might be related to our relationships with other people, but also with the world around us, the environment and the planet on which we live.  We may practise karma yoga as we help those around us, by charitable work or in other ways where we give of ourself rather than being the taker.


Raja yoga is sometimes thought of as the yoga of meditation with an implied lack of physical involvement.  It is the natural inclination of those who may not be `sporty` or `bookish`.


We must remember the aim of yoga – that of union.  Union with our self needs to be physical, mental and spiritual.  Union with the world around us demands an awareness of what is happening around us, and our impact on the world and the people we come into contact with.  Union with our soul or spirit gives us that realisation of God  which is the ultimate aim of all yoga.  It can be seen that the total sense of union can only be brought about by acknowledging all these aspects of our life.


When we begin to apply what we need to achieve Union we realise that the physical body as the vehicle for the mind and body, needs to be fit and strong and hence we practise hatha yoga.  As we examine our lifestyle and how we live in the world, Karma yoga will become a natural  aspect of our living.  Making the step from the physical to the mental/spiritual is not as difficult as we might imagine.  Reading, listening to enlightened teachers, reflecting on our own lives and our values becomes quite natural as we become conscious of the scope of our lives.  For some people, and for all of us eventually, the desire to still and quieten the mind, and to open our minds up to the limitless sense of infinity, and to God is the final acceptance of yoga within our self.


Ultimately all yoga, if it includes all these aspects is just yoga – union.


Derek Osborn                                      20061