Historically, the heritage of Yoga was passed from teacher to student orally. Inevitably, in this process, much was left out, changed, or added! Naturally, as time progressed, many branches emerged representing distinct traditions. So when we talk about Yoga, we are talking about a multitude of yogic paths and orientations. Despite the diversity, they all agreed in the need for going beyond the ordinary personality and setting self-transcendence as the ultimate goal. The differences among the classical branches relate more to the way in which self-realization is accomplished and how the transcendental reality is defined.
Out of this context, six major paths of Yoga have gained prominence. They are: Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Japa Yoga. Sri Swami Satchidananda, one of the great Yoga Masters of our time, is the founder of Integral Yoga, a system which integrates all six major branches of Yoga. His life is an example of the Yoga teachings which he learned from His guru, Sri Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.
Sri Swami Satchidananda describes Integral Yoga as a “flexible combination of specific methods designed to develop every aspect of the individual: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual…”. When we begin to study Integral Yoga, depending on our personalities, backgrounds, and life journeys, we will likely be inclined to explore one branch more than the others. Or we may discover that two of the paths really speak loudly to our heart. I consider myself a Hatha and Bhakti yogini. No doubt, these are the forms of Yoga that nurture my body, mind, and spirit the most, and keep them closely devoted to the Divine. What about you? Have you investigated which paths would best support your earth-spiritual journey?