The 6 Branches of Yoga

The 6 celebrities of a yoga education

Yoga was likened to as a tree with a living trunk, roots, branches, flowers and fruit in ancient times. In addition to its most famous branch - Hatha yoga - yoga consists of six major branches including Bhakti, Jnana, Karma, Raja and Tantra forms of yoga.

Hatha Yoga, the most well-known branch of yoga, is known as the yoga of physical processes. It incorporates breathing techniques, physical poses and meditation. It is used for bringing the spiritual elements of the mind into the body in order to achieve perfect health. Hatha Yoga attempts to purify the nervous system and strengthen the body.

Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion and heart. Yogis who practice this branch of yoga express and develop tolerance, acceptance and love for all living things. The life and work of the famous saint Mother Teresa symbolizes the combination of the Bhakti and Karma Yoga paths with their devotional aspects and selfless service.

Jnana Yoga is considered the yoga of the mind, because it deals with wisdom and knowledge. Jnana yoga's path teaches the "knowledge of true self," in other words it teaches one to obtain intuitive knowledge from their soul. The Jnana Yoga approach is thought to be the most difficult and the most direct at the same time, because it involves serious study and will appeal to those who are more rationally inclined. Jnana yogis try to exceed limitations by bonding intellect and sapience (which is the ability to apply knowledge, common sense and insight). Ramana Maharshi and Shankara are two of the best known exponents of this yoga branch.

Karma Yoga teaches that your present experience is directly affected by your past actions. It's the path of self-transcending achievement and the path of service. Performing a selfless service is the gist of Karma Yoga. Its practices are meant to change your actions, for example acting on good thoughts, good expressions and good manners will transform you into a selfless soul.

Raja Yoga teaches natural meditation. Raja consists of a very precise system that attempts to gain control of the physical body, energy, senses and mind. This yoga teaches students to control their thought waves by turning their mental and physical energy into spiritual energy by uniting with the Ego (or their higher self). This is done through exercise, breathing and meditation.

Tantra Yoga is perhaps the most misinterpreted path of all the yoga branches. Its rituals teach students to expand their awareness in everything they do, not only sexuality. A Tantra yoga practitioner's character must consist of humility, purity, courage, devotion, dispassion, faithfulness, truthfulness, non-covetousness, cosmic love and dedication to his guru.

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