For many practitioners, the ultimate goal of yoga is to achieve happiness and bliss. To do this, we must first overcome the five causes of suffering. According to the school of Hindu philosophy, Vedanta, these are not knowing who we are, attachment, aversion, identifying with the ego, and fear of death. Yoga philosophy teaches us that after correcting the first cause, not knowing who we are, the others will cease to concern us. Thankfully, we can achieve this through the four paths of yoga. Although the paths don’t focus on physical postures, they can still be incorporated into your existing yoga routine. At the end of your practice, remain on your yoga mat for a few minutes and take time to reflect and evaluate. In this article, we explore the 4 paths of yoga in more detail.
Bhakti is known as the path of love and devotion. The style is based upon the belief ‘Love is God, God is Love’. When translated from Sanskrit, the word Bhakti means blissful, selfless, and overwhelming love of God. The meaning of the word ‘God’ is personal for each practitioner. Often, the term refers to a God or Goddess such as Ganesha, Krishna, or Sita; however, Bhakti can also focus on the deep bonds between family and friends.
As a path, Bhakti focusses on devotion and adoration for the Divine. The name is believed to originate from the word ‘Bhaj’, which means ‘to participate or partake’. With this in mind, practitioners partake in the Divine through surrender, service, worship, and sacrifice. The ultimate goal of the practice is to become one with the Divine, which practitioners can achieve through regular practice. Over time, the style can remove feelings of jealousy, hatred, anger, and arrogance. Instead, these feelings are replaced with joy, ecstasy, bliss, peace, and wisdom.
To be a Bhakti yogi, the first thing to do is ask yourself what you want to achieve. Once you have a clear idea, it’s time to put your plan into action by using the steps below.
Karma yoga is the path of action. During the practice, you will learn how to perform an action without becoming attached to the outcome. With this in mind, the practice is known as the path of selfless service. The ultimate goal of Karma is to detach from your ego and see every action as an offering to the divine.
During Karma yoga, practitioners are encouraged to give selflessly for the benefit of others. Instead of focussing on themselves, they must base their actions on the happiness of others. Over time, this selfless process can help to purify the mind. It’s important to note that selfless acts must not be used for selfish reasons. For instance, we may help a stranger to gain praise or recognition. In this case, the act would not be considered selfless as we are completing it to make ourselves feel good. To be truly selfless, we must help others without expecting anything in return.
In Karma yoga, the ultimate goal is to be selfless. To achieve this, we must follow the steps below.
Jnana is the path of knowledge and wisdom. With Jnana, practitioners can reach enlightenment through the process of reason. Ultimately, this path teaches us to distinguish the real from the not real and connect with the higher self.
Focussing on self-realisation, Jnana teaches us to look beyond ourselves and realise we are one with the divine. As the process uses reflection and self-questioning to help us connect with our inner-selves, this path requires a huge amount of patience, strength, and will.
Through Jnana, we can use self-questioning to connect with our inner-selves. To achieve this, it’s important to follow the steps below.
Raja is the path of meditation, mantras, and breathing techniques. Often referred to as the ‘Royal Path’, Raja helps us to control the territory or our mind, just as a king would control his kingdom. It is often believed that our perception of the Divine is obscured by the disturbances of the mind. Thankfully, Raja can be used to overcome this. Once we find our perfect balance, our body and mind will become pure and the soul can shine through.
As Raja can be practised by anybody, it is one of the most favoured paths by Westerners. Unlike the other styles, it requires no belief or particular faith to be practised.
Raja yoga uses various techniques to bring control to our lives. When used correctly, the practice can help us to purify the body and mind for a happier, healthier lifestyle. To use Raja, try to follow the steps below.
To achieve happiness, we must first learn who we are. Once this has been achieved, we are free to take control of our lives and rid the mind of stress, worries, and negative thoughts. If you are struggling to find the right mindset, try dedicating a space to your practice. If you’ve got the space, fill a spare room with cushions, cosy blankets, and scented candles. If you’re still finding it tricky, try picking up a mindfulness tool to set the mood.