Yoga Is More Than Poses

Everyone can do yoga because it is more than poses. The word is Sanskrit meaning union, join, or connect. It is a science that joins mind, body, and spirit through four distinct paths — jhana, bhakti, karma, and raja. 

Within each path are activities that allows us to connect the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual aspects of our lives. That, in itself, brings us closer to our soul, strengthens our connection to the Universe (or God/Source/Divine/One), and allows us to understand our life purpose on a deeper level.

Below is how the paths look individually.

Jhana — Path of Knowledge 
Study of philosophical, spiritual, or texts that are the foundations of life, but also questioning what is studied. One way of testing the knowledge is through applying it to everyday life.

Bhakti — Path of Devotion 
Seeing the soul in everyone and everything and treating them all as the Divine. When we say, “Namaste,” it means the Divine in me sees the Divine in you. Another way of devotion is celebrating through poetry, songs, dance, or chants, which is also called kirtan.

Karma — Path of Selfless Service
This can be reduced to volunteerism, but involves taking action without expectations, being compassionate towards all beings, and fighting for what is right.

Raja — Path of Oneness
The most common path, especially amongst Westerners, is raja, or the Royal Path. It is primarily known for the physical postures (asana). There are eight limbs that consists of lifestyle choices, breathing techniques, and meditation that leads practitioners to samadhi, or oneness with the Divine. 

  1. Yama (ethics)
    • Ahimsa (non-violence, or no harm)
    • Satya (truthfulness)
    • Asteya (non-stealing)
    • Bramacharya (right use of energy)
    • Aparigraha (letting go, non-attachment, or non-greediness)
  2. Niyamas (self control)
    • Saucha (cleanliness)
    • Santosha (contentment)
    • Tapas (discipline)
    • Svadhyaya (self-study or reflection)
    • Ishvarapranidaha (surrender to God)
  3. Asana (physical postures)
  4. Pranayama (breathing techniques)
  5. Pratyahara (sensory withdrawal, i.e., eliminate external distractions)
  6. Dharana (focus)
  7. Dhyana (concentration)
  8. Samadhi (oneness)

All paths lead to the same center, but it is good to mix them for balance. An integration could appear as living a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, doing daily Hatha yoga (pranayama, asana, and meditation), being kind to everyone, singing and dancing, and studying a text that speaks to the heart. In this manner, yoga is for everyone.