The Yoga of continuity

May 26, 2020

To this list we must add as a branch of its own Guru (goo-roo)  Yoga, the  Yoga of dedication to a Yoga master.

The seven branches and Guru Yoga are described in the following sections.

Feeling enlightened

To get a sense of the nature of enlightenment, sit in a warm room as still as possible, with your hands in your lap. Now sense your skin all over; it’s your body’s boundary separating you from the air surrounding you. As you become more aware of your body’s sensations, pay special attention to the connection between your skin and the air. After a while, you realize that no sharp boundary really exists between your skin and the outside air. In your imagination, you can extend yourself further and further beyond your skin into the surrounding space.  Where do you end, and where does the space begin? This experience  can give you a sense  of the all-comprising expansiveness of enlightenment, which knows no boundaries.

Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of devotion

Bhakti Yoga practitioners believe that a supreme being  (the Divine) transcends their lives, and they  feel moved to connect or even  completely merge with that supreme being  through acts of devotion. Bhakti Yoga includes such practices as making  flower offerings, singing  hymns of praise, and thinking about the Divine.

Hatha Yoga: The Yoga of physical discipline

All branches of Yoga seek  to achieve the  same final goal, but  Hatha Yoga approaches this  goal through the  body  rather than through the  mind  or the  emotions. Hatha Yoga practitioners believe that unless they  properly purify  and  prepare their bodies, the  higher stages of meditation and  beyond are virtually impossible to achieve — such an attempt would  be like trying to climb  Mt. Everest without the  necessary gear. 

Hatha Yoga is very much more than posture practice, which is so popular today. Like every form of authentic Yoga, it’s a spiritual path.

Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of wisdom

Jnana Yoga teaches the  ideal  of nondualism — that reality is singular, and your perception of countless distinct phenomena is a basic misconception. What about the  chair or sofa that you’re  sitting on? Isn’t that real? What about the  light that strikes your  retina? Isn’t that real? Jnana Yoga masters answer these questions by saying  that all these things are real at your  present level of consciousness, but  they  aren’t ultimately real as separate or distinct things. Upon enlightenment, everything melts into one, and  you become one with the  immortal spirit.

Karma Yoga: The Yoga of self-transcending action

Karma  Yoga’s most important principle is to act unselfishly, without attachment, and with integrity. Karma  Yoga practitioners believe that all actions, whether bodily, vocal,  or mental, have  far-reaching consequences for which they  must assume full responsibility.

Good karma, bad karma, no karma

The  Sanskrit  term  karma  literally means “action.”  It stands  for activity in general but also for the “invisible action” of destiny. According to  Yoga, every  action  of body, speech,  and mind produces visible and also hidden consequences. Sometimes the hidden consequences — destiny — are far more significant than the obvious repercussions. Don’t think of karma as blind destiny. You’re always free to make choices. The purpose of Karma Yoga is to regulate how you act in the world so that you cease  to be bound by karma. The practitioners of all types of Yoga seek to not only prevent bad (black) karma but also go beyond good (white) karma to no karma at all.

Mantra Yoga: The Yoga of potent sound

Mantra Yoga makes use  of sound to harmonize the  body  and  focus  the  mind. It works  with mantras,  which can be a syllable, word,  or phrase. Traditionally, practitioners receive a mantra from their teacher in the  context of a formal initiation. They’re asked to repeat it as often  as possible and  to keep  it secret. Many Western teachers feel that initiation isn’t necessary and  that any sound works. You can even  pick a word  from the  dictionary, such as love, peace,  or happiness, but  from a traditional perspective, such words are,  strictly speaking, not mantras.

Raja Yoga: The Royal Yoga

Raja Yoga means literally “Royal Yoga” and  is also  known  as Classical Yoga. When you mingle  with Yoga students long enough, you can expect to hear them refer  to the  eightfold path laid down  in the  Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, the standard work of Raja Yoga. Another name for this  yogic tradition is Ashtanga Yoga (pronounced ahsh-tahng-gah),  the  “eight-limbed Yoga” — from ashta (“eight”) and  anga (“limb”). The eight  limbs  of the prominent traditional approach, designed to lead  to enlightenment or liberation,  are as follows:

Yama (yah-mah): Moral discipline, consisting of the  practices of non- harming, truthfulness, nonstealing, chastity, and  greedlessness  

Niyama (nee-yah-mah): Self-restraint, consisting of the  five practices of purity, contentment, austerity, self-study, and  devotion to a higher principle.

Asana (ah-sah-nah): Posture, which serves two basic purposes: meditation and  health.

Pranayama (prah-nah-yah-mah): Breath control, which raises and balances your  mental energy, thus boosting your  health and  mental concentration.

Pratyahara (prah-tyah-hah-rah): Sensory inhibition, which internalizes your  consciousness to prepare your  mind  for the  various stages of meditation.

Dharana (dhah-rah-nah): Concentration, or extended mental focusing, which is fundamental to yogic meditation.

Dhyana (dhee-yah-nah): Meditation, the  principal practice of higher Yoga 

Samadhi (sah-mah-dhee): Ecstasy, or the  experience in which you become inwardly one with the  object of your  contemplation. This state is surpassed by actual enlightenment, or spiritual liberation.

The sacred syllable om

The best  known traditional mantra, used  by Hindus and Buddhists alike, is the sacred syllable om (pronounced ommm, with a long o sound). It’s the symbol of the absolute reality — the Self or spirit. It’s composed of the letters a, u, and m and the nasal humming of the letter m. A corresponds to the waking state, u to the dream state, and m to the state of deep sleep; the nasal humming sound represents the ultimate reality.