Someone who’s practicing the discipline of balancing mind and body through Yoga is traditionally called a yogi (if male) or a yogini (if female). In this report, we use both terms at random. Alternatively, we also use the English term Yoga practitioner. Practicing Yoga postures is a step in the right direction but doesn’t make a person a yogi or yogini. For that, you’d have to embrace Yoga as a self-transforming spiritual discipline.
A yogi or yogini who has really mastered Yoga is called an adept. If such an adept also teaches (and not all of them do), he or she is traditionally called a guru. The Sanskrit word guru means literally “weighty one.” According to traditional esoteric sources, the syllable gu signifies spiritual darkness and ru signifies the ct of removing. Thus a guru is a teacher who leads the student from darkness to light.
Very few Westerners have achieved complete mastery of Yoga, mainly because Yoga is still a relatively young movement in the West. So please be careful about those who claim to be enlightened or to have been given the title of guru! However, at the level at which Yoga is generally taught outside its Indian homeland, many competent Yoga teachers or instructors can lend a helping hand to beginners. In this report, we hope to do just that for you.
Considering Your Options:
The Eight Main Branches of Yoga
When you take a bird’s-eye view of the Yoga tradition, you see a dozen major strands of development, each with its own subdivisions. Picture Yoga as a giant tree with eight branches; each branch has its own unique character, but each is also part of the same tree. With so many different paths, you’re sure to find one that’s right for your personality, lifestyle, and goals.
In this report we focus on Hatha Yoga, the most popular branch of Yoga, but we avoid the common mistake of reducing it to mere physical fitness training. Thus, we also talk about meditation and the spiritual aspects of Yoga.
Here are the seven principal branches of Yoga, arranged alphabetically:
✓ Bhakti (bhuk-tee) Yoga: The Yoga of devotion
✓ Hatha (haht-ha) Yoga: The Yoga of physical discipline
✓ Jnana (gyah-nah) Yoga: The Yoga of wisdom
✓ Karma (kahr-mah) Yoga: The Yoga of self-transcending action
✓ Mantra (mahn-trah) Yoga: The Yoga of potent sound
✓ Raja (rah-jah) Yoga: The Royal Yoga✓ Tantra (tahn-trah) Yoga (including Laya Yoga and Kundalini Yoga)