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Different Types Of Yoga

Bhakti Yoga / Karma Yoga / Jnana Yoga / Raja Yoga / Japa Yoga / Hatha Yoga

One man will say God is called Siva, another man will say God is called Krishna, a third man will say He is called Christ, a fourth will say Father, a fifth will say Allah. Each will come forward with a different name and form… but all say there is only one God and that God is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. He is everywhere. If God is everywhere, how can He have one form or one name? All these names and forms are His. In the real sense, God is formless, nameless, abstract, absolute, One.

— Words; Swami Satchidananda

Due to the nature of our minds, of our whole constitution, the majority of human beings cannot become deeply and lovingly attached to a formless, nameless, abstract Being, however much we can intellectually rationalize. For this reason Bhakti Yoga has more adherents than any other — it is the most versatile Yoga. To be a Bhakta, all that is required is love — nothing more. And what’s more, you needn’t love any one particular form, but you can love them all. The true Bhakta sees One in all names and forms; it is only the unripened ones who must condemn all other forms but their form.

Even so, the Bhakta usually chooses one particular aspect of Deity which he likes best (for many, this is based upon the family and their tutelary Deity), and sticks to it: Sri Rama-Krishna, the great master of the last century, used to say, “Don’t dig a lot of wells; dig one well until you reach water; the water is everywhere, and any one spot is as good as another.” Of course, once you’ve reached water, you can dig anywhere you choose, which is what Ramakrishna would do. He, though born a Hindu, practiced in a framework of a number of other religions, one at a time, to see if they were valid systems. Within the form of each one he entered Samadhi, the highest super-conscious state.

It is this Samadhi, which literally means absorption, which the Bhakti Yoga culminates in. There are different stages, however, in the gradual ascension to that spiritual peak. They are called Bhavas, which are like attitudes or emotional moods. The five Bhavas are:

1. Santa Bhava — the attitude of peaceful adoration

2. Dasya Bhava — the attitude of servant towards master

3. Sakhya Bhava — the attitude of a friend

4. Vatsalya Bhava — the attitude of a parent to the child

5. Madhurya Bhava — the attitude of the lover towards the beloved

It sometimes happens, as in the case of Ramakrishna, that the Bhakta doesn’t want to give up the form; he becomes so attached to the beautiful image of the Divine before his eyes that he can’t let go in order to enter Nirvakalpa Samadhi (total and complete absorption). In Sri Ramakrishna’s own words, “I want to eat sugar; I don’t want to be sugar.”

The last thread of attachment is a hard one to break, but Tota Puri, a guru of the non-dualistic school, succeeded in this fina1 breaking with dualism. He told Ramakrishna to relinquish the form of Kali (the Goddess to whom Ramakrishna had surrendered) and enter into Samadhi without form. Hard as he tried, there was no way that Ramakrishna could do this. He wept, “I can’t give her up!” Frustrated, Tota Purl picked a piece of glass from the ground and drove it between the eyebrows of Sri Ramakrishna. “Concentrate on that, Ramakrishna. Think of nothing else.” And Tota Purl got up and left, returning only three days later. To his astonishment, Ramakrishna was still seated in the lotus posture, his attention completely removed from the surroundings. He was not even breathing. After considerable effort, Tota managed to awaken Ramakrishna back to dualistic consciousness, wherein he could again perceive the world. Tota Purl exclaimed, “It took me years of intensive meditations to finally enter the Nirvakalpa Samadhi, and here you have entered it upon your first try!” Ramakrishna smiled and returned to that state of Bliss, wherein he remained for another forty days.

The Bhakta, in his daily life, tries to constantly remember the object of his affection. He might surround himself with pictures and sayings of different saints and sages. He repeats the Name of his Deity, called a mantram. He does kirtan, or singing and chanting the various names of God. He offers all his work, all his food, all his joys and sorrows back to the Source. The path of Bhakti is a never-ceasing prayer to the Lord, turning all activities, even the most mundane, into praise of the Creator.

He (the Bhakta) does not like to have complete absorption or merging in the Lord. He wants to remain separate in front of Him and taste the divine honey of Love. The absorption in the Lord comes to him temporarily in the intensity of his love though he does not like it. He is God-like in the beginning. Eventually he attains Oneness.

Spiritual Experiences Swami Sivananda

Bhakti Yoga / Karma Yoga / Jnana Yoga / Raja Yoga / Japa Yoga / Hatha Yoga

The definition of Yoga is perfection in action. Whatever you do — your thoughts, words, and deeds — let there be perfection. What is a perfect act? One that brings some benefit to somebody and no harm to anybody.

The reward of service is the joy of having served. When you have that joy, the mind is always calm and serene.

— Words; Swami Satchidananda

Verily none can ever remain for even a moment without performing action; for everyone is made to act helplessly indeed by the qualities born of Nature. He who, restraining the organs of action, sits thinking of the sense-objects in mind, he of deluded understanding is called a hypocrite.

Do thou perform thy bounden duty, for action is superior to inaction and even the maintenance of the body would not be possible for thee by inaction.

— “The Yoga of Action”; Bhagavad Gita; Lord Krishna

In whatever company he finds himself while performing the duties of life, the wise man yet watches the movements of the mind. It should not be engaged in the cares of the world, nor employed in thoughts relating to the things of this life. The mind must not be allowed to roam over the extensive field of outer enjoyments, nor to dwell on the objects of the senses.

Let it rest in the Buddha {the discriminative faculty) alone, and taste no joy except of self-delight. The wise man remains wholly centered in himself, and his even-mindedness is comparable to the steadiness of a Himalayan peak, immovable at all times and seasons. This state of mind comes to maturity in the course of time, having been acquired by constant practice of Yoga and the service of a Teacher.

— Yoga Vashishta

By performing action — even the simplest action — without attachment to the result of that action, one is practicing the path called Karma Yoga. Karma, though having many connotations, literally means action. An important point here is that this does not mean just the external or physical action, It implies mental action, or the thought, “I am doing this”, “I am weeding the garden”, “I am studying pretty hard”. Merely sitting in a corner does not mean the end of action. Listen to the thoughts in that head! They are buzzing like bees. Ceaseless, unstoppable, relentless activity, It is this mental activity that is real activity. The physical is merely the manifestation of that thought-power.

However, as we are not yet able to silence the inner voice, the mental monologue, there has been found a wonderful device for occupying the whole person. Karma Yoga. We have to do so many things anyway, why not make it Yoga? A way to transcend the physical plane while working with great dedication upon the physical plane. Karma Yoga is ideal for most everyone today as we are all involved in entering a life of service in one form or another. After taking up Karma Yoga, there is no drastic change. At least on the external side. The activity is still performed though it might be done more carefully and with greater joy. The great change is internal. No longer is there any attachment, no worry, no care, the smallest work or the greatest work, all are equal to the Karma Yogi. He doesn’t take the credit for he knows that it is precisely from that identification with the fruit that the unhappiness comes, the disappointment. Swami Satchidananda says, “Make no appointments; get no dis-appointments”. By this he is not saying — You don’t need to make an appointment with the eye doctor; you can just go in any old time; he’ll fix you up. The appointments Swamiji is speaking of are not made on the physical plane but at a point inside that attaches the physical body to the Real Self, the True Self. That point is the little dot upon the small i, as Swamiji would say. The small i signifies the ego. “Get rid of that point, and you have left only the Big I”, he says. The Big I is that Self, that inner Guide.

In other words, it is our mistaken identity with this ego, who we call “Kathy”, “Bill”, etc., which creates all the problems. In Karma Yoga we do work merely for the work’s sake without getting our little egos tangled up in it. You know from experience how the simplest task when handled by two or more people can get like a hornet’s nest just because there is too much of the ego hanging around. It isn’t required that there even be more than one person to have that ego-idea prosper thrive, I am drawing a picture. At first it is going without any thought, without any conception. It starts growing into a beautiful form with mountains and trees and Yogis sitting in full lotus, and I start thinking, “Wow, this is pretty nice. I’m doing a really fine piece of artwork here. I should probably send it to the gallery or maybe into a magazine. It would probably sell for quite a lot of money…” From that point on, if continued from that plane of consciousness, there would be a far greater proportion of inner disturbance and pain than there would be of joy. That joy which was lucid during the first stages of the creative act becomes forgotten, or rather, it is vaguely remembered as something which can be attained if, in this case, the drawing sells. That joy and peace become identified with the selling of a physical object, and what really brought the joy, i.e., the calm and undisturbed mind, is forgotten.

There are two methods for practicing Karma Yoga, depending on the individual’s tendencies. They are with the mode of either 1) Bhakti Yoga, or 2) Jnana Yoga. Action done in the mode of Bhakti, or love, is the surrendering of the fruits to the Lord or to whatever the individual conceives of as God. This is the way for people with an emotional temperament. All the saints who worked for the upliftment of humanity were Karma Yogis of this type. It is also accepting anything which comes your way as though it were coming directly from God Himself. This accounts for the endless contentment which these souls radiate, for they are forever living in the state of communion with their God. They are employing the Dasya Bhava, or the attitude of servant towards the master.

For those people of a more intellectual bent, the Jnana Marga, or Path of Knowledge, in Karma Yoga is preferable. Rather than devoting the fruits of action to God or an incarnation of God, the Jnani works with the feeling – “I am not working. Nature works. I am only the Silent Witness (Sakshi) of this work. The work does not bind me. I am free.” With such an attitude, every work is found to be interesting, as it is seen only as the play of Maya (illusion) and seen as though it were a movie. The “he” is not the worker, What works is the body (the organs of action) and the mind-ego. Not the True Self. The Bhagavad Gita describes it thus:

This body, O Arjuna, is called the field; he who knows it is called the knower of the field by the sages… the great elements (earth, air, fire, water, and ether), egoism, intellect and also the Unmanifested Nature, the ten senses (organs of action and the senses) and one (the mind, whose function is thinking, and doubting), and the five objects of the senses (taste, sound, touch, form or colour and smell), desire, hatred, pleasure, pain, the body, intelligence, fortitude–the field has thus been briefly described with its modifications.

— Lord Krishna, from the 13th Discourse, “The Yoga of the Distinction Between the Field and the Knower of the Field”, in the Bhagavad Gita.

Our minds easily soak up all this data Lord Krishna so kindly provides until we realize that all of this is “Field”; all of this has nothing whatsoever to do with the Self, the Knower of the Field. To practice Karma Yoga with the attitude of the Jnani requires a sharp and subtle intellect — to discriminate between all the manifold appearances of not-Self and Self. An incredibly difficult task, to rely totally on this power of intellect; but for those who can practice it, the reward is by far the greatest possible. This is also called the Direct Path.

As a Karma Yogi, however, mere intellectual assent to all of these facts is not enough. The knowledge must be put to the test in the midst of the confusion of life. While performing all things, the Yogi is not identified with the action. He can, therefore, never be plunged in sorrow for he has, in fact, gained immortality. Since he no longer identifies with his physical frame, he is not going to pass away with it but remains forever in the realm of infinite peace. This is what is called Jivanmukti, Moksha, Liberation, or Self-Realization. It is the final goal of all life-to re-attain that Oneness, total and complete. To do this, it is not necessary to cease action; in fact, as Krishna has already said, to do so is impossible. As someone else once said, we are built for action. It is only the understanding which is lacking in us, the understanding that comes from first understanding ourselves.

Bhakti Yoga / Karma Yoga / Jnana Yoga / Raja Yoga / Japa Yoga / Hatha Yoga

In one word… you are divine. ‘Thou Art That.’ This is the essence of Vedanta. After all its ramifications and intellectual gymnastics, you know the human soul to be pure and omniscient; you see that superstitions as birth and death are entire nonsense when spoken of in connection with the soul. The soul was never born and will never die, and all these ideas that we are going to die and are afraid to die are mere superstitions. And all such ideas as that we can do this, or cannot do that, are superstitions. We can do everything… All the powers in the universe are already Ours. It is we who have put our hands before our eyes and cry that it is dark. Know that there is no darkness around you. Take your hands away and there is the Light which was from the beginning. Darkness never existed; weakness never existed. Vedanta recognizes no sin; it recognizes only error. And the greatest error, it says, is to think that you are weak, that you are a sinner, a miserable creature… instead of telling men that they are sinners, Vedanta takes the opposite position and says, ‘You are pure and perfect, and what you call sin does not belong to you.

— Jnana Yoga; Swami Vivekananda

The most difficult of all the Yoga paths, Jnana Yoga, is suitable for people who possess an analytical mind and a reflective temperament. It is the direct method for Self-Realization, and it involves from the very beginning the cessation of the idea — I am the body, I am the mind. The practitioner must keep a constant vigilance over the mind, as its habit by nature is to wander into the clutch of identification.

The turbulent senses, 0 Arjuna, do violently carry away the mind of a wise man though he be striving to control them. Having restrained them all, he should sit steadfast, intent of Me; his wisdom is steady whose senses are under control.

— Bhagavad Gita, 2.60-61 Lord Krishna

Of course, the root cause of the identification lies not in the senses nor even in the desire. The primal cause of this identification with body and mind is the thought, ‘I’. ‘I’ precedes any other idea, and Jnana Yoga is the process of discovering that original ‘I’, the source of this whole universe.

The process in itself is quite simple. It is called the Neti-Neti method which means, not this – not this. The Self cannot be anything we perceive with our senses nor any conception in our minds, and can, therefore, be reached by negating everything else. This is a systematic intellectual process, removed from any emotional activity.

Ramana Maharshi, one of the foremost sages of our time, conveyed most of his teaching in silence. As he was an enlightened being, his presence alone was sufficient to cause the dawning of understanding within many of his disciples. Here is a conversation from a being who was immersed in his own essential nature as Sat-chid-ananda, or Existence-Knowledge-Bliss Absolute.

Devotee: How can I attain Self-realization?

Maharshi: Realization is nothing to be gained afresh; it is already there. All that is necessary is to get rid of the thought, ‘I have not realized’ Stillness or Peace is Realization. There is no moment when the Self is not. So long as there is doubt or the feeling of non-Realization, the attempt should be made to rid oneself of these thoughts. They are due to the identification of the Self with the not-Self. When the not-Self disappears, the Self alone remains.

Devotee: How shall I reach the Self?

Maharshi: There is no reaching the Self. If Self were to be reached, it would mean that the Self is not here and now but that it is yet to be obtained. What is got afresh will also be lost. So it will be impermanent. What is not permanent is not worth striving for. So I say the Self is not reached. You are the Self; you are already That.

The fact is, you are ignorant of your blissful state. Ignorance intervenes and draws a veil over the pure Self which is Bliss. Attempts are directed only to remove this veil of ignorance which is merely wrong knowledge. The wrong knowledge is the false identification of the self with the body, mind, etc. This false identification must go, and then the Self alone remains.

Therefore, Realization is for everyone; Realization makes no difference between aspirants. This very doubt whether you can realize, and the notion, ‘I-have-not-realized’ are themselves the obstacles. Be free from these obstacles also.

— from Ramana Maharshi Arthur Osborne

Sri Shankaracharya, the greatest exponent of Advaita Vedanta Philosophy (the school of non-dualism, asserting the essential Oneness of everything), summed up his whole philosophical understanding into three statements: 1) Brahman is real, 2) The world is unreal, and 3) the world is Brahman. He didn’t stop with 2), but went on to assert the existence of the world as Brahman. In other words, the world by itself has no underlying substance, no reality of its o~, but as an emanation of the One, the Light, or whatever we wish to call It, the world does indeed exist for it is not separate from That.

Bhakti Yoga / Karma Yoga / Jnana Yoga / Raja Yoga / Japa Yoga / Hatha Yoga

As a lamp placed in a windless spot does not flicker–to such is compared the Yogi of controlled mind, practicing Yoga in the Self (or absorbed in the Yoga of the Self).

— Bhagavad Gita, 6.19

In the study of Raja Yoga no faith or belief is necessary. Believe nothing until you find it out for yourself –. that is what it teaches us. Truth requires no prop to make it stand.

— Raja Yoga, Swami Vivekananda

Yoga means union. Union with the Divine is the ultimate aim. Raja Yoga is the royal path, for Raja means king. Raja Yoga deals with the mind directly and is, therefore, called the Kingly Yoga. It is also called Ashtanga Yoga, ashtanga meaning eight-fold. There are eight steps in the ladder of Raja Yoga. These are:

1. YAMA (Restraints)

a. Ahimsa (harmlessness)

b. Satya (truthfulness)

c. Brahmacharya (continence)

d. Asteya (non-stealing)

e. Asparigraha (non-receiving gifts)

2. NIYAMA (Observances)

a. Saucha (purity, internal and external)

b. Santosha (contentment)

c. Tapas (austerity)

d. Svadhyaya (spiritual study)

e. Ishwarapranidhana (self-surrender to the Lord)

3. ASANA (Physical posture)

4. PRANAYAMA (Breath regulation)

5. PRATYAHARA (Withdrawing of the senses)

6. DHARANA (Concentration on one point)

7. DHYANA (Meditation, the steady flow of thought upon one point)

8. SAMADHI (Absorption, subject and object become one)

Raja Yoga is sometimes called the Yoga of Meditation, as it leads the practitioner into the Silence (the silence of the mind) during the state called Samadhi (absorption). All the practices in Raja Yoga, all the ethical and moral observances, are applied solely to that end. In other words, the ethics and moral code are not in and of themselves the goal of this Yoga. Many people are interested in meditation, but when they hear about Yama and Niyama, they say, “This sounds like some kind of religion, with all its ‘do good,’ ‘be good,’ ‘purity’ stuff. I want to meditate; I don’t want all of this!”

Raja Yoga goes quite further into the mind than to stop at the exhortation, “Do good”. It is the science of mind, not limited to the Western motto, ‘I think, therefore I am!’. The Raja Yogi is not satisfied with such a statement, as his question is, ‘What thinks?’ And he is not satisfied with merely asking the question, but proceeds step-by-step to discover for himself the true nature of the mind and, eventually, the spirit. This is the Yoga for those who have a more experimental, mystical nature. It is based almost entirely on the aspirant’s own efforts to reveal the spirit within, without the dependence upon an external object of devotion (Bhakti Yoga).

When you get a flash of illumination, do not be frightened. It will be a new experience of immense joy. Do not turn back. Do not give up meditation. Do not stop there. You will have to advance still further. This is only a glimpse of truth. This is not the whole experience. This is not the highest realization. This is only a new platform. Try to ascend still further.

— Concentration and Meditation; By Swami Sivananda

Though Raja Yoga is divided into eight steps, it is almost impossible for the practitioner to decipher when one step ends and another begins. Especially in the three-fold practice of concentration, meditation and Samadhi, this divisionlessness becomes apparent. So the dividing of Raja Yoga into parts is mainly for our benefit as long as we are not practicing it. When we begin to practice Raja Yoga, the necessity to separate Ahimsa (harmless-ness) from Dharana (concentration) vanishes.

Bhakti Yoga / Karma Yoga / Jnana Yoga / Raja Yoga / Japa Yoga / Hatha Yoga

OM is everything. OM is the name or symbol of God, Ishvara or Brahman. OM is your real name. OM covers all the experiences of man. OM stands for all the phenomenal worlds. From OM this sense universe has been projected. The world exists in OM and dissolves in OM. OM is the basis of your life, thought, and intelligence.

— Concentration and Meditation by Swami Sivananda

The repetition of a mantram, or sound-structure, as a technique for centering the mind and attaining the state of Samadhi, is perhaps the most well known of all meditation practices. It has its basis in the understanding that sound is the medium of Creation, the dynamic force of the Absolute, as in the Scriptures it is said,

“In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was God…”

The science of Japa is a very ancient one, having its roots in the experiences of the Himalayan sages, who heard certain sounds in their meditations and were able to communicate these sounds. These are called mantrams. They were not formulated by Sanskrit scholars. They are representatives of another state of consciousness than this waking, thinking state. By the constant repetition of such a mantram, the practitioner merges in the sound vibration. It is not even correct to say that he is creating that vibration, because the mantram, which his mind repeats, is only a vague and gross companion to the real mantram, which is symbolized in the word OM. Called also ajapa japa, the sound is occurring at all times, in all places, “the music of the spheres”, and is perceived by the human mind through this practice of mantra repetition. It can faintly be heard as the Anahata sound if you close your ears with the thumbs and concentrate totally on the sound in the right ear. This takes some practice but eventually the Anahata is heard even during the day while engaged in any activity.

The practice of Japa continues until the Anahata is heard, at which time there is no need to continue. The mantram is a vehicle to take us to the ocean of this inner sound in which we merge and experience our true nature.

For our practice, we can use the mantrams, OM SHANTHI, HARI OM, or just OM (as Pranava OM or with the Mmm drawn out for a longer time).

Bhakti Yoga / Karma Yoga / Jnana Yoga / Raja Yoga / Japa Yoga / Hatha Yoga

The goal of Yoga is to have a peaceful, clear mind in a sound, healthy body. Hatha yoga is thes aspect of yoga which approaches this goal through the physical side of the individual. On the beginners’ level it includes bodily postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), cleansing practices (kriyas) and a technique of deep relaxation. The postures work mainly with the spine making it supple and healthy, thus promoting the maximum fresh blood circulation to all the organs, glands and tissues. By the gentle pressure of the asanas the all-important endocrine glands are toned, benefitting us both physically and psychologically. By learning proper relaxation the body comes to its own natural state of health and ease. These practices also have a profound effect on the mind, making it more relaxed, poised and centered.

Hatha Yoga may be practiced by people of any age or physical condition, even stiff, tense or flabby, as these negative conditions will leave by themselves with your regular relaxed practice. In the case of acute or chronic illnesses, it is advisable to consult . a Yoga therapist before commencing practice. Women are recommended to suspend practice during menstruation except for alternate nostril breathing and corpse pose. Pregnant women should consult THE MOTHER IS THE BABY’S FIRST GURU by Sri Swami Satchidananda for appropriate Hatha practices. Children under twelve may certainly practice Yoga but should avoid the more difficult poses like head stand, peacock pose and stomach lift.

The maximum benefit will be obtained from the very beginning through following a simple vegetarian diet and avoiding strong stimulants. However, do not be concerned if you find this difficult in the beginning as the body will tend to lose its desire for these things with regular yoga practice. Continence according to one’s state in life will be extremely beneficial as well.

Hatha practice should be done on an empty stomach and only loose, unrestricting clothing should be worn. The place for your practice should be airy but without drafts and not in the very hot sunshine. Be sure the spot is level; you may spread a thick rug or folded blanket there. If you wish to combine Hatha with athletic games or other exercises, do the latter first or at another time of day. It is strongly recommended to adhere to the times given in this book for each practice and to avoid straining. As Sri Swamiji tells us, “Take it easy, but not lazy”.


As Hatha Yoga is not merely a physical discipline but a mental and spritual one as well, it is beneficial to begin your practice with a chant or prayer. This will center your mind and the vibrations will calm you. Sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position and repeat with deep feeling and strong will:


Om Namah Shivaaya Gurave
Satchidaananda Moortaye
Nish Prapanjaaya Shaantaaya
Niraalambaaya Tejase.

Om! Salutations to the Guru who is auspiciousness,
The embodiment of Existence/Knowledge/Bliss,
Who is free from world consciousness and peaceful,
Who needs no support, who is Self-effulgent like the sun.

Om Tryambakam Yajaamahe
Sugandim Pushti Vardhanam
Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaan
Mrityor Muksheeya Ma Amritat.

Om! We worship the omniscient One,
Who brings fragrance and nourishes all beings.
May He liberate us from the fear of death
And let us realize our immortality.

Om Shaanti Shaanti Shaanti.
Om Peace, Peace, Peace.

For more complete information about Hatha Yoga please refer to INTEGRAL YOGA HATHA by Sri Swami Satchidananda, Integral Yoga© Publications, 1995, or consulot Satchidananda Ashram – Yogaville or any Integral Yoga® Institute.

Route 1, Box 1720
Buckingham, Virginia 23921

Fifth Printing: 8,000 copies; 1997
ISBN 0-932040-23-3

Printed in the United States of America