Just as there are several different mountain paths that you can take to get to the top, there are several different paths to yoga. Different people have different aptitudes, and therefore the same route cannot be applied to all.
A highly emotional person will be drawn towards Bhakti Yoga, an intellectual person may be drawn to Jnana Yoga. Different personality types will be predisposed to one type of yoga, but man is a synthesis of different attributes. Therefore, he can weave the other strands of yoga into his life for a more complete experience.
The different paths are:
Jnana Yoga – Paramahamsa Swami Satyanandaji has said “Jnana is the inherent quality of every being. You don’t get knowledge from outside.” The knowledge is present in everyone – all we need to do is to unfold that knowledge from within. Literally, Jnana means intellect. It can come from the knowledge of the scriptures, but ultimately, it is the knowledge of the Self – the fact that “I am that.” This path is for those who are pre disposed towards intellectual endeavor.While one may have information through the intellect, it is the experience of the Self which is Jnana Yoga.
Bhakti Yoga – About this path, Paramahamsa Swami Satyanandaji said “Bhakti is a force that will influence our civilisation, culture and relationships in the new millennium.” Literally translated Bhakti is devotion. In this path, there is an intense concentration on the object of devotion. If there is a feeling of Bhakti towards that object or form, then concentration becomes easier. This can lead to transcendental experience. Bhakti must be felt, known and experienced.
Hatha Yoga – this is the path that most popular are familiar with. Hatha Yoga deals with the physical body, so it is easy to identify with any transformation that happens through Asanas and Pranayamas. Hatha Yoga aims at harmonizing the vital force (Ha – represented by the sun) and the mental force (Tha – represented by the moon) within our bodies leading to a state of perfect balance and harmony.
Kriya Yoga – refers to a set of practices that are done to purify the six main chakras in the body and the energy pathways that run alongside them – the Ida and the Pingala Nadis – so that they are balanced. Once this happens, the Kundalini shakti rises through the Sushumna nadi which runs along the pathway between the Ida and Pingala.
Karma Yoga – On the topic of Karma Yoga, Paramahamsa Swami Niranjananandaji has said “the purpose of service is self purification. If you can be without desires, and live and work in this world, you are a Karma Yogi”. Karma Yoga is a process by which we can develop immunity to the fluctuations of the mind, by performing actions with awareness. The ability to do a task as best as one can, without thought for reward or recognition and with detachment – is the spirit of Karma yoga.
Raja Yoga – follows the path of meditation. But as Paramahamsa Swami Satyanandaji said, “Meditation is not a practice, it is a result.” It is the outcome to make make the mind one pointed and concentrated, so that you can stop thinking about the past, worrying about the future and concentrate instead on living in the present.
These paths are not mutually exclusive, understanding of one can lead to another, or intensify the experience.