Everyone wants to find true happiness. But according to yoga tradition, we cannot get it in the outside world because it lies within our inner self.
A person may only obtain pure and unwavering joy through wisdom, meditation and favor from the Supreme Being. And we can only attain this if we truly search for it with a sincere heart.
Yoga is about achieving real bliss through the realization of a union between individual consciousness and universal consciousness. It is not merely a union of the physical body and the mind.
In order to fully understand and achieve this union, the ancient spiritual masters designed the four paths of yoga. These were intended to overcome spiritual ignorance which can come in different forms such as selfishness, restlessness of the mind and no regard for truth.
The four paths of yoga are:
1. Raja Yoga (Self-control)
Many yoga practitioners consider raja yoga as the “royal road” or the complete yoga because it centers on controlling the mind and body for the purpose of attaining enlightenment.
The main focus of the raja teaching is meditation, breathing and absolute mental control.
But it also has a physical aspect which teaches control of the body through asanas or yoga postures, breath control, and relaxation. This aspect is called hatha and it aims to give you complete control of your body and subtle life force called prana.
2. Karma Yoga (Action)
The teaching of karma yoga is centered on the causes and effects of a person’s acts. Its principles are focused on living a life of selfless service without aiming for a gain or reward. Karma is the path to union with God through acts of kindness or selfless service.
3. Bhakti Yoga (Devotion)
Bhakti means to serve the Divine. This path of yoga teaches an individual to open his/her heart to the Divine. It is a way of personal devotion which involves complete surrender to the Supreme Being through prayer, worship and chanting.
4. Jnana Yoga (Knowledge)
Most yoga practitioners often consider jnana yoga as the most difficult path. One of its goals is to seek knowledge through meditation, questioning and contemplation.
It is also important for jnana yoga practitioners to undergo the lessons of the other yogic paths that can home them to achieve selflessness, love of god, and strength of body and mind.