All forms of yoga practices invariably falls under one of the four major paths of yoga. These are Rāja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jñāna Yoga and Bhakti Yoga. Each path of yoga utilizes specific aspect of mind as a tool for inner growth and harnesses its full potential. As the mind with its different aspect is refined and purified, the entire personality is balanced and corrected.
The four paths of yoga impart holistic development of body and mind. If used in integrated manner, they can effectively manage and treat lifestyle disorders. Modern stressful conditions and sedentary lifestyle has given rise to chronic diseases also known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs). All age groups are affected by NCDs. Unhealthy lifestyle, poor diet habits, rapid urbanization are some of the factors responsible for stress and disease. NCDs have complex etiology with prolonged course of illness and rarely does one achieve complete cure.
Given the non-contagious origin of such diseases and risk factors associated with behavior, lifestyle and environment we can safely bet on Yoga, which is a way of healthy living. Yoga now a day is widely recognized as health-care system which has all the necessary tools for health promotion. The whole practice of yoga can be put under four streams or paths. These are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Rāja Yoga and Jñāna Yoga. They utilize the four major faculties in man – intellect, emotion, will-power and executive capacities through sensory and motor apparatus. Whatever form of yoga we practice, we need any one of these faculties which automatically put the yoga practice into any one of the above four paths of yoga. With the help of all four yoga we can work on all aspects of our personality.
Kosha or Personality Level
By practicing all the four Yoga we can utilize all the faculties available with us. i.e. sensory and motor organs for work (Karma Yoga), Will-power for Meditation (Rāja-Yoga), Intellect to reason out (Jñāna-Yoga) and emotion to purify love (Bhakti-Yoga). Each yoga also has a corresponding effect on one of the kosha or layer of our personality. Operating on all these koshas to restore the balance is the method for handling these complex NCDs.
Yoga practices at the Annamaya Kosha level include asana (Rāja Yoga). To restore balance in the Pranamaya Kosha level we use pranayama (Rāja Yoga). For operating on Manomaya Kosha we use meditation and devotional session (Rāja and Bhakti Yoga). Use of intellect (Jñāna Yoga) to correct our notions helps us to operate at Vijnanamaya Kosha. Action in relaxation (Karma Yoga) brings out the state of bliss of Anandamaya Kosha.
Thus, the use of four Yoga is most suited for the modern man in order to have all-round development of personality and for health, happiness and peace in everyday life as well as for obtaining bliss. In our Hatha Yoga Teacher Training course we introduce four streams of Yoga to students for better understanding of Yoga and spirituality.