Yoga has been practiced for over two thousand years, so it’s inevitable that over such a long period of time variations and divergences have occurred. Nowadays there are many different yoga practices and branches available to choose from. Each one serves a different need or purpose, but they all tend to have one main purpose – to harmonize and identify the equilibrium between body and mind. Let’s take a look at some of the more common branches of yoga.
One of the main aims of hatha yoga is to increase your state of well being. It’s considered to be a primary form of modern physical therapy. It teaches meditation, which has consistent with across all branches of yoga. Hatha yoga also focuses on teaching a series of important postures, referred to in yoga terminology as asanas, and practicing breathing exercises, called pranayamas.
You’ve probably come across the word karma before, and know that it is a principle that states that everything that happens to us in our current existence is directly caused by our previous actions. Because of this, one of the main purposes of karma yoga is teaching practitioners how to eliminate all the selfishness and negativity from their current life, so that they won’t have to deal with the consequences in the future. Karma is something that should be practiced every day, whether at work or home, and there are many activities you can participate in that have the goal of helping other people and so fit well with the karma yoga journey.
The focus of raja yoga is meditation, and it is often referred to as classical yoga. This is quite a complex method of yoga training, and it’s quite common for practitioners to start with hatha yoga, to prepare the body, before moving on to the more advanced training in raja yoga. Most of the people who are attracted to raja yoga are quite introspective, and interested in learning profound meditation. There are a number of religious groups that devote themselves to this yoga path, as it is closely aligned to a monastic or contemplative lifestyle.
This branch of yoga is mostly of interest to scholars, as it focuses on the development of the intellect by studying traditional yoga scripts and texts. It’s generally considered to be the yoga of the heart and wisdom. It’s often described as being the most difficult of all yoga practices, but in some ways jnana yoga is one of the more challenging and direct paths.
This is another popular form of yoga, and it promotes and sustains the idea of devotion. Bhakti yoga is dedicated to the belief that any form of creation has something divine about it. So a respect, acceptance and tolerance of all forms of life is an important element of every interaction throughout life.
These are only some of the main branches of yoga; there are certainly many, many more that you can follow. The good thing is that with so many variations of yoga, it’s possible to find a yoga practice that will closely align with your own goals and needs, and help you to find inner peace and equilibrium.