Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Pathways of Yoga

Yoga means union. It is the rejoining of our whole self in the present moment; mind and body with Spirit. Yoga is a state of wholeness or absorption, one-pointed attention in the present moment.
There are many ways to experience that absorption or wholeness. Traditionally in Yoga, it is divided into four pathways. The fifth is a relatively modern path of practice.

Raja Yoga: the scientific path, the path of systematic practices leading to Realization. This includes hatha yoga, nada yoga (absorption in inner sounds), and Patanjanli's Yoga sutras.
examples: this is the main form of Yoga taught in studios and yoga centers in the West.
ways to practice: regularly attend Yoga classes or practice yoga asanas, pranayama and meditation on your own. Start with a couple sessions each week and steadily increase to an hour each day. Regularly read and study the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. A good version is The Essential Yoga Sutra by Gesshe Michael Roach and Christie McNally.

Bhakti Yoga: the ecstatic path of Love and devotion. You love until the difference between you and the Beloved dissolves.
examples: Rumi was the ultimate lover of the Beloved. Loving devotion and communion with nature as the creation of the Creator is a form of Bhakti. Seeing the sacredness in all life and everywhere in every moment is a way of Bhakti.
The way very devoted Christians practice, with absolute love and adoration for the Divine in the form of Jesus Christ, could be described as Bhakti Yoga. Sufism is also very much a Bhakti way of life. Islam and Judaism, with the vow of remembrance have a strong level of Bhakti-like devotion, especially zikr and the practice of prayers throughout the day in Islam.
ways to practice: practice remembrance of God, also called mindfulness, in each moment.
Commune with nature, protect and respect the environment. Remember that nature is a pure manifestation from the Source of life. Through loving, respecting and connecting deeply with the creation, we show our love and reverence to the Creator. We celebrate the art and Artist at once.
Writing poems, singing devotional songs or chanting mantras help to build and express your love.
Be kind, compassionate, loving and helpful to all beings. Love is the way of life.
Serve and see others as emmanations of the Emmanence. See all of life and how it unfolds as purposeful, and as being placed perfectly for our spiritual evolution. Surrender to the truths that are revealed, accept everything as part of the path, especially the challenges that arise. Follow the heart-compass at all times, never bow to popular culture or peer pressure.
Become Divine Love in everyway possible.
Karma Yoga: selflessly serving all beings like you are serving the Divine, because you understand that that is what you are in fact doing.
examples: Mahatma Gandhi-ji was a karma Yogi. So was Mother Teresa.
way to practice: volunteering regularly, at home or abroad, serving others with no sense of loftiness or attachment to receiving thanks from others. Serve because it fulfils your inner being. Serve with all your heart, never feeling "better than" those you serve.
Help others in more unglorious ways, by holding doors, smiling to neighbors, listening when someone, even a stranger, needs to talk. Do things without recognition, do them anonymously whenever possible. Other ideas for service are doing yardwork or shopping for an elderly homebound neighbor, drop gifts of second-hand clothes off where they can be used, knit scarves for the homeless, donate food to the soup kitchen or animal food to the animal shelter. Rise to every occaision to alleviate the suffering of others, big or small, human or animal or even plant. Respect all life as a manifestation of the Divine.
Treat all as guests, and treat all guests as if they are the embodiment of the Divine Consciousness. Help others in any way possible, not looking for thanks or rewards. Do everything you can to free others of their suffering, with whole-hearted devotion.

Jnana Yoga: the path of study and deep meditation to transcend the egoic mind and reach enlightenment.
exampes: the Buddha, the Buddhist path is a way of Jnana. The teachings of Eckhart Tolle are in line with the Jnana Yoga path.
ways to practice: regularly study the scriptures and words of wise, accomplished beings. Spend time with a sangha, at a church, monastery or ashram. Meditate an hour each morning and each night. Seek out the company of others on the path or spend much of your time alone in practice as possible.

Integral Yoga: is a path blending all of these ways of Realization.
Examples: the Engaged Buddhism of Thich Nhat Hahn really integrates service, loving appreciation and devotion to practice. Swami Sivananda and his disciples taught Integral Yoga as the surest path to Realization.
Ways to practice: find a natural balance of practices that can be integrated into your way of life. Live your Yoga. Don't compromise your most basic values of non-harm, kindness, service and compassion.

No comments:

Post a Comment