The word “yoga” encompasses much more than physical exercises. In The Yoga Sutras, Patanjali tells us that yoga means “stopping the fluctuations of the mind-stuff” (YS 1:2). All the practices and paths of yoga help bring us to this place where we experience yoga (“union”) of our lower self with our Higher Self.
A main reason I chose to complete my advanced yoga teacher training with Integral Yoga is the fact that they teach and incorporate the six major paths (or branches) of yoga as recognized in India. When we consciously work to bring all of these paths into our daily lives in some way – to balance them in a way that works for us as individuals – we become healthier in mind, body, and spirit.
The six paths are:
Balance and control of the mind through ethical practices, concentration and meditation. Also sometimes known as the “eight-limbed path” or ashtanga (not to be confused with a style of hatha yoga known as ashtanga).
Focus on the physical aspects of yoga through asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), mudras, kriyas, yogic diet, and deep relaxation. Hatha is one of the eight limbs mentioned above under Raja.
The path of action and selfless service. Serving without attachment to the fruits (or results) of the action. All of our work and daily activities become part of our yoga practice.
The intellectual approach. Through the knowledge of what really exists, that is, what is not changeable, one who engages in the “Path of Wisdom” realizes Oneness with the entire Universe.
The path of devotion by constant love, thought, and service of the Divine. This can be practiced by everyone regardless of religious or spiritual affiliation. All that is needed is faith and constant remembrance of God or Higher Consciousness.
Japa means repetition of a mantra – a sound structure of one or more syllables which represents a particular aspect of the Divine Vibration. (An example is OM Shanti [“OM peace”] or “peace be with us.”) A mala (a string of prayer beads) can be used to count the repetitions of the mantra.
I encourage you to learn more about these paths of yoga, to explore them and their usefulness in your own life. More info can be found here. Please contact me if you would like personalized guidance on how to practice in your own life.