The Eight Main Branches of Yoga

Yoga may seem like it’s a bunch of people stretching, perhaps in a hot room that makes them sweat. So is it only stretching? Is it weight loss, or a set of relaxation techniques? It is much more then these few things. Many people have the misunderstanding that מורת יוגה is only this or that, but in reality it’s many different techniques that attempt to pull the mind and the body together in unity.

If you look at the tradition of Yoga, you will see more than a dozen different areas with many sub areas below each area. It’s easier if you picture it as a huge tree that has eight main branches. Each big branch is unique and has its own qualities, but is also part of the main tree. With so many different areas, you are guaranteed to find on that suits your personality, lifestyle and goals. We’re going to talk about the most popular branch of Yoga, Hatha. We will not make the same mistake a lot of people make, reducing Yoga to a set of fitness training exercises. We also talk about the meditation and spiritual aspects.

Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of devotion
Bhakti Yoga is a belief of a supreme being that transcends their lives. People that follow the belief believe that they can merge with this supreme being by showing devotion. Bhakti Yoga includes making offerings, singing hymns of praise and keeping your mind on the divine, supreme being.

Hatha Yoga: The Yoga of physical discipline
Hatha Yoga help’s to purify and prepare the body for enlightenment. All the areas of Yoga seek reach enlightenment, but this area does it by focusing on the body instead of the mind or emotions.

Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of wisdom
Jnana Yoga is the teaching of nondualism, which is the belief that reality is singular and that your understanding of certain objects and things is a misconception. Once you reach enlightenment, everything becomes one and you become one with the immortal spirit.

Karma Yoga: The Yoga of self-transcending action
Karma Yoga teaches followers to act unselfishly, without attachment to any objects and to act with integrity. The teachers of Karma Yoga believe that anything you say or do has consequences which you must take full responsibility for.

Mantra Yoga: The Yoga of potent sound
Mantra Yoga uses a certain sound to harmonize the body and focus your mind. This can work with a single word, a syllable or a phrase. By humming this “mantra”, you bring together your body and mind to form one entity.

Raja Yoga: The Royal Yoga
Raja Yoga is a tradition approach to enlightenment. It has eight limbs, including moral discipline, self-restraint, posture, breath control, sensory inhibition, concentration, meditation and ecstasy.

Tantra Yoga: The Yoga of continuity
Tantra Yoga is one of the most misunderstood branches of Yoga. People think that it only has to do with sex and different sexual positions. In reality, it’s actually about rituals and visualizations of different deities.

Guru Yoga: The Yoga of dedication to a master
Guru Yoga is very rare in the west. The goal of Guru Yoga is to become one with your master. Your master, or the teacher has assumedly already reached enlightenment and your goal is to meditate on your guru until you merge with them.

The different types of Yoga may sound confusing, but they all boil down to exercises and techniques that you can use day to day to improve your physical and mental health.

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