In Western cultures, many still think of physical exercise when they hear the word Yoga. These exercises are typically pictured as hyper-flexible people adopting odd looking poses, which no ‘normal’ individual could hope to emulate.
In the bigger picture, Yoga is a form of spiritual discipline. Where these physical exercises (asanas) come in, are as a means to strengthen the body so someone can sit for longer periods of time in meditation without injuring themselves.
Now, depending on how pedantic you want to be, there are a number of ways of classifying the different styles of yoga. But in broad terms there are four main categories, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga and Jnana Yoga, each of which is designed to be of benefit to different personality types. In this context and in simple terms, Karma equates to action, Bhakti to love, Raja to royal and Jana to wisdom.
Karma Yoga is the way of selfless service. Bhakti Yoga for a person of with a devotional temperament. Raja Yoga is for those with mystic inclinations. And Jnana Yoga is intended for a person with rational and enquiring philosophical personality.
Yoga aims to develop a relationship with our source, whether you chose to call this source God, Supreme Consciousness, Lord etc. So whatever your personality type and starting point, the aim and the intended end result is the same.
© David R. Durham
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