Different forms of yoga have been taught in India for thousands of years. These different forms can be categorised into three basic kinds – yoga for the body, yoga for the mind, and yoga for the soul. Although the different kinds of yoga may vary, the aim is the same – to reunite, or connect, with the Supreme.
Physical yoga is the kind most people know about and is commonly known as hatha yoga. This is a natural way to help maintain health and reduce stress levels. In the yoga of the body, we stretch our physical muscles and feel good for some time.
Control of the breath (pranayama) also forms a practice in physical yoga. Such practice can help still the mind and help us develop strong willpower. Pranayama techniques should be practiced with care under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
Whilst some yoga teachers consider exercise the primary goal of yoga, others consider it a pleasant side effect.
Yoga for the mind is also now commonly practiced in the west in various forms, the traditional one being known as raja-yoga, or astanga-yoga. Mental yoga involves the use of physical yoga. However, the main focus of this discipline is to control the mind and bring it to a state of spiritual awareness through the practice of meditation.
Traditionally, there are eight stages of mental yoga:
- Physical restraint (yama)
- Mental restraint (niyama)
- Sitting postures (asana)
- Breath regulation (pranayama)
- Withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara)
- Concentration (dharana)
- Meditation (dhyana)
- Absorption in the Absolute (samadhi)
It is possible to achieve physical health and mental equilibrium by the performance of physical and mental yoga. However, it is very difficult to achieve the ultimate goal of yoga by physical or mental means. According to the yogic texts (written by the great yogi, Patanjali) the third method of yoga, or spiritual yoga, provides an effective method to achieve the goal of yoga that is simple enough to perform even in the modern context.
Spiritual yoga helps teach us how to attain eternal life and eternal pleasure. Spiritual yoga is known as bhakti yoga. Since ‘bhakti’ means ‘love’, bhakti yoga literally means the art of eternal love. Such yoga is a wonderful adventure – with it we can stretch our spiritual muscles and feel good forever.
There are many different kinds and qualities of love. Some love lasts a few days, some love lasts a lifetime, and some love lasts forever. Love that lasts forever is spiritual love and is considered the purest of all. Spiritual love, or bhakti, reaches its perfection in the relationship between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul (Krishna).
Bhakti yoga, the simple and natural method for loving Krishna, also enables us to love every other living being. This is compared to pouring water on a tree’s roots. When we pour water on the roots of a tree the water is distributed throughout the tree.
In the text Bhagavad-gita, Krishna taught this ancient art of loving spiritual yoga. This knowledge has been passed down from one teacher to another until Srila Prabhupada (the Founder-acarya of ISKCON) brought it to the Western world in the latter part of the twentieth century.
At Radhadesh there are regular classes on both hatha yoga and bhakti yoga.
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