Four, seven, six, eight. Depending on where you look, or who you ask in the West, you will probably get a different answer to the question: How many types or paths of Yoga are there?
For the sake of my next few blogs, we are settling on four paths. Why four? The Vedas, the most ancient scriptures of India, tell us there are four. The four paths are:
Karma Yoga – the yoga of action and selfless service
Rāja Yoga – the yoga of meditation
Jñāna Yoga – the yoga of will and intellect
Bhakti Yoga – the yoga of devotion
Let's start with the word Yoga. Yoga literally means union, originating from its Sanskrit root "yuj," meaning to join together. That union occurs when you experience everything as one in your consciousness: body, mind, soul, and spirit. In Yoga, the basis of the teachings is that our real nature is divine. The ancient teachings recognize that each person has a different personality. Because of those differences within each of us, the Vedas offer four Paths of Yoga, or sets of spiritual practices, to help us reach this goal - realizing that our true nature is divine.
When I reflect on #KarmaYoga, I see it as having a focus on doing things for the greater good of all living things. Karma Yoga is the Yoga of action. We like to use the word Karma in western societies when we talk about someone getting what's coming to them. That definition is truly of form of cultural appropriation. It's certainly a corruption of what the word originally meant, and still means in it's original form.
In reality, Karma Yoga is performing actions and deeds without attachment to the outcome. Some characteristics of Karmic Yogis:
Doing something for someone, not seeking acknowledgement
Providing a service, but not expecting payment
Having a kind, compassionate, loving nature, regardless of who or what
Celebrates others accomplishments and happiness of others
Does not find joy in the failures of others
Practices patience and tolerance
Approaches all activities of living with a "do no harm" attitude
If we seek to practice Karma Yoga, this happens when we no longer associate or identify with our ego (self-importance). Everything we say or do is no longer about elevating ourself, instead, is seen as an offering or devotion to the Divine.
As we embark on exploring the different paths of yoga, they may seem different. The reality is that they share a common goal: bringing us to a place of union with beautiful Divine that resides within each of us. Let us celebrate and enjoy our journey!