The Four Paths of Yoga

1. Karma Yoga – The Yoga of Action
The Bhagavad Gita, chapter 3.25
“Though the unwise cling to their actions, watching for results, the wise are free of attachments, and act for the well-being of the whole world”
Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Action. It is the path chosen primarily by those of an outgoing nature. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions and offering them up to God, you learn to sublimate the ego.
Principles of Karma Yoga:
It is not what you do that counts, it’s the attitude while doing it that determines if a job is a karma yoga job, i.e. a liberating job, or a binding job. Work is worship. Swami Sivananda advises us to “give your hands to work, and keep your mind fixed at the lotus feet of the Lord.”
Just like the attitude, it is not what you do that counts but your real motive behind it. Your motive must be pure. “Man generally plans to get the fruits of his works before he starts any kind of work. The mind is so framed that it cannot think of any kind of work without remuneration or reward. A selfish man cannot do any service. He will weigh the work and the money in a balance. Selfless Service is unknown to him.” – Swami Sivananda.
Often “duty” is referred to as “righteousness”. You will incur demerit if you shun your duty. Your duty is towards God, or Self, or the Inner Teacher who teaches you through all the specific circumstances of your life as they appear.
Whatever you have to do, do at your best. If you know of a better way to serve, you must use it. Do not hold back because of fear of effort or because of fear of criticism. Do not work in a sloppy manner just because no one is watching or because you feel the work is not for you. Give your best. Try to do such actions that can bring maximum good and minimum evil.
The way to realize this truth is to constantly work for work’s sake and let go of the results, good or bad. It is the desire for action that binds the individual. It is the detachment from action that will dissolve the karmic seeds. Detachment from results also means detachment from the type of job itself. There is no job that is inferior or superior to a different job. Don’t be attached to your job. Be ready to give up your job if necessary.
Do to others what you would like to be done to yourself. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Adapt, adjust, accommodate. Bear insult, bear injury. Unity in Diversity. We are parts of the same body. Practice humility in action. Beware of power, fame, name, praise, censure.
Each job is a teacher of some sort. You can learn different skills by doing different jobs. Each job has different requirements in terms of time, degree of concentration, skills or experience, emotional input, physical energy, will. Try to do whatever job you are doing, well.
2. Bhakti Yoga – Yoga of Devotion or Divine Love
This path appeals particularly to those of an emotional nature. The Bhakti Yogi is motivated chiefly by the power of love and sees others as the embodiment of love. Through prayer, worship and ritual one’s surrenders himself, channeling and transmuting the emotions into unconditional love or devotion.
3. Raja Yoga – The Science of Physical and Mental Control / Ashtanga
Often called the “royal road” it offers a comprehensive method for controlling the waves of thought by turning our mental and physical energy into spiritual energy.  Raja Yoga is also called Ashtanga Yoga referring to the eight limbs leading to absolute mental control. The chief practice of Raja Yoga is meditation. It also includes all other methods which help one to control body, energy, senses and mind. The Hatha-Yogi uses relaxation and other practices such as Yamas, Niyamas, Mudras, Bandhas and so on, to gain control of the physical body and the subtle life force called Prana. When body and energy are under control meditation comes naturally.

Ashtanga – The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga

Eight Limbs Path or Eight Limbs Yoga as outlined by Sage Patanjali Maharishi who composed this path into Darshan (philosophy) in his book Yoga Sutra, as a progressive series of steps or disciplines which purify the body and mind that leads to enlightment.
1. YAMA (Principles or moral code)

  • Ahimsa – A principle of non-violence
  • Satya – A principle of Truthfulness
  • Asteya – A principle of non-stealing
  • Brahmacharya – Continence or self-control / Celibacy
  • Aparigah – A principle of non-hoarding or non-possessiveness

2. NIYAMA  (Personal Disciplines)

  • Shoucha – Purity
  • Santosha – Contentment
  • Tapas – Endurance
  • Swadhyaya – Self study
  • Ishwara Pranidha – Dedication

3. ASANA (Steady and comfortable yoga pose)
With a steady, stable and motionless posture helps to attain mental equilibrium.
4. PRANAYAMA (Yogic Breathing)
The expansion of vital energy, Prana.
5. PRATYAHARA (Withdrawal of Senses)
A mental preparation to increase the power of mind by moving consciousness inward.
6. DHARANA (Concentration on Object)
Concentration of mind on one object and its field in consciousness.
7. DHYANA (Meditation)
Withdrawing mind from all external objects and focusing on one point and meditating on it.
8. SAMADHI (Salvation / Super-conscious state)
In state of Super bliss, joy and merging individual consciousness in to universal consciousness. Union between Jivatman (individual soul) and Paramatman (supreme self). The union of Shiva and Shakti in Sahasrara Chakra (the top of the head). Realizing the Brahman (pure consciousness) or Realization of God is the ultimate achievement of Human Birth.


This is the most difficult path, requiring tremendous strength of will and intellectuality. Taking the philosophy of Vedanta the Jnana, Yogi uses his mind to inquire into its own nature. We perceive the space inside and outside a glass as different, just as we see ourselves as separate from God. Jnana Yoga leads the devotee to experience his unity with God directly by breaking the glass, dissolving the veils of ignorance. Before practicing Jnana Yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths – for without selflessness and love of God, strength of body and mind, the search for self-realization can become mere idle speculation.


Vedanta is that philosophy which comes from the sacred scriptures called The Upanishads. The Upanishads are the final part of the ancient texts known as the Vedas.
Veda means knowledge and Anta means end. Therefore Vedanta is said to be the philosophy which leads to the end of knowledge and also from the ending part of the Vedas.


The beauty of Vedanta is that it transcends dry philosophy and mere intellectual concept. Vedanta is an actual life experience, a philosophy in practice. This practice includes the many techniques of Jnana Yoga – The Yoga of will and intellect.
Rhea – Ashtanga 200hr, weekday 2015

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