5 Types of Yoga
In the West, it's often common to assume that "yoga" just means stretching and maybe some meditation. But yoga history and philosophy tell us much more about what exactly yoga even is. We find that it is a systematic way to know thyself. And if yoga postures (asana) aren't you're thing, there are still tons of other options to uncover your true nature.
If you've never heard of the types of yoga that don't necessarily involve movement, you might be missing an important piece of the puzzle for yourself and your practice. Because everyone learns differently, yoga offers us many different tools to reach the same type of mindfulness and soul-fueling practice. Read below to see what type of yoga might support you the most.
The yoga that we think of that involves physical postures is HATHA yoga. So any type of physical movement, whether gentle, vinyasa, yin or heated, (when combined with an awareness of the yamas and the niyamas) is a form of hatha yoga. I clarify this philosophical understanding because without it, B.K.S. Iyengar tells us that we're just performing acrobatics.
BHAKTI yoga is the yoga of love and devotion. The root word of bhakti is "BHAV" and it means love, spiritual feeling, emotion. Bhakti brings in all of the many ways that we can express and experience love and spiritual connection. A few example bhakti practices are: focusing on God or your own spirit throughout your asana practice, pouring your heart out through song or dance, chanting, soulful creative expression, creating a sacred altar space...etc. All of these practices are different expressions of bhakti.
When we meditate and develop self-control, we're practicing RAJA yoga. The word 'raja' means royal, or the royal path. Hatha yoga was only developed so that the ancient yogis could sit still, practice raja yoga longer, and keep their bodies strong and supple. You might like raja yoga if you are quiet, reflective and internal, but in the same way, it's great to practice if you're none of those things!
JNANA yoga is the practice of study, gaining knowledge, and seeking wisdom. It usually involves reading of the ancient yoga texts, but nowadays, there are any number of yoga-related texts to study. With jnana yoga as a base, any other types of yoga you practice will be enhanced and supported with knowledge and understanding. Jnana yoga is wonderful for book-lovers and knowledge-seekers.
Though many associate KARMA yoga with free classes or selfless service, karma simply means action. It is often manifested through service, but we can also practice karma yoga via any intentional action we take such as running, cooking, eating, gardening...etc. If you already have a hobby that makes you feel deeply connected to yourself, you are already enjoying karma yoga.
All 5 types of yoga are connected and helpful to understand and practice together. Different moods, times of day and energy levels will call for various types of yoga practice. Using all 5 types of yoga is how we truly take our yoga "off the mat" and into our lives, especially via karma yoga. It becomes a daily and natural incorporation of mindfulness and awareness.
I hope this helps you to understand the ways in which you're already practicing yoga and other opportunities to be present.