As we looked at in the previous post, essentially “yoga” means union with the ultimate. Sadhguru describes yoga as a science to determine the nature of who you are and what you want to be.
So how does one go about determining one’s own nature and attain union with the ultimate?
Since today the word “yoga” is commonly associated with certain physical poses or postures, it may come as news to at least some of you that physical postures is only a very small aspect of yoga. In Sanskrit, the physical postures in yoga are referred to as “asanas” or “yogasanas”.
Traditionally, there have been six main branches of yoga, as listed below:
- Hatha yoga: Hatha yoga is a preparatory process of yoga and its focus is on the practice of yogasanas. The word “ha” means sun, “tha” means moon. As Sadhguru explains, Hatha yoga means to bring balance between the sun (or the masculine) and the moon (or the feminine) in one. Bringing a balance between the masculine and feminine is the first process of yoga in order to allow flowering of consciousness.
- Raja yoga: “Raja” means “royal” or “king”. The focus of Raja yoga is meditation as well as strict adherence to the eight limbs of yoga that are outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.
- Karma yoga: “Karma” means outwardly directed action (as opposed to “Kriya”, which means inwardly directed action). Karma yoga is the path of service or selfless action. The focus of Karma yoga is to transcend oneself through the performance of selfless doing in the service of others. It is based on the premise that what we experience today is the result of our past actions. So we perform selfless karma today to create a joyful future free from negativity and divisiveness.
- Bhakti yoga: “Bhakti” means devotion. The focus of Bhakti yoga is to channel one’s emotions in a positive way by seeing and acknowledging the divine in each and every aspect or item of creation. The devotion is expressed in every thought, word and action. Bhakti yoga is also often called the yoga of the heart.
- Jnana yoga: “Jnana” means knowledge or wisdom. Unlike the “yoga of the heart”, Jnana yoga is often referred to as the yoga of the mind or the intellect. The focus of Jnana yoga is to develop the intellect through the study of yogic literature. It is considered the most difficult as well as the most direct path.
- Tantra yoga: The word “Tantra” is related to the concept of weaving and expansion. It is derived from the Sanskrit word “tan”, which means to expand and weave out (into one unified whole). The path of Tantra yoga focuses on rituals and ceremonies.
So, of these six branches, why is Hatha Yoga important?
Although physical postures or asanas form an important aspect of Hatha Yoga, it is not just about physical exercises or postures. In fact, it is a pathway to lead one towards the experience of the ultimate union or “yoga”.
Hatha Yoga techniques have been developed with a deep understanding of the human system and mechanics of the body. Through such deep understanding, it makes use of the body through postures or asanas, to drive one’s energy in specific directions to allow flowering of consciousness.
Sadhguru says that fundamentally, Hatha Yoga is a physical preparation – i.e. preparation of the body for a higher possibility. So yogasanas need to be done with a certain level of awareness – of the breath as well as the physical sensations and reverberations of the body.
Today Hatha Yoga is often practiced for various health benefits. For example: to reduce stress, to improve concentration, for overall wellbeing etc. Nevertheless, these physical health benefits are only side-roads branching off the main highway leading one to the “Ultimate Union!”
Resources for you:
(1) Hatha Yoga: Connecting with the Sun and Moon – Sadhguru:
(2) Isha Upa Yoga Practices: Learn Yoga Online:
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