Now there are a milion types of yoga and teachers are creating their own methods and styles. But for the previous thousands of years, there were 4 main types of yoga: Karma, Bhakti, Jnana, and Raja.
- Karma Yoga: Karma means action in Sanskrit. Karma yoga is the yoga of perfection of action, the yoga Krishna tells Arjuna about in the Bhagavad Gita. To perfect an action is to renounce the fruits of it and to do it selflessly, without attachment to the results. This is the yoga of selfless service.
- Bhakti Yoga: Bhakti means devotion. Bhakta yogis cultivate a separation between themselves and God and then call out to God, making their lives a devoted, conscious offering. Bhaktas love chanting and singing the name of God. All of my favorite Kirtan Wallas, like Krishna Das, Shyamdas, and Jai Uttal are Bhaktas.
- Jnana Yoga: Jnana means intellect. Jnana yogis seek to answer the question “Who Am I?” through the process of, “Neti, Neti (Not this, Not this)”, essentially going through a process of intellectual elimination to arrive at the truth.
- Raja Yoga: Raja means King. Raja yoga is the yoga of the mind, of studying the mind and learning to master it. Raja Yoga is what Patanjali codified in the Yoga Sutra, it is the Ashtanga (8-limbed) Path which culminates in samadhi.
Which type of yoga reaches out to you? You don’t have to choose. Integral Yoga, a term coined by Swami Satchitananda, refers to yoga that contains elements of all 4 of these types. Jivamukti is a method of integral yoga, as are many other new schools of yoga. Just something to think about...