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Yogas Jnana, Bhakti, Kriya & Karma ~ the paths less travelled

The mind acts like an enemy for those who do not control it –  Bhagavad Gita


Yogas ~ Jnana, Bhakti,  Kriya (raja) & Karma yoga are considered the 4 aspects of yoga, all of which form Yoga as a whole. It is likely that whatever Yoga you practice now or have practiced will fall into one or more of these aspects, however,  yoga is not divided by these  different aspects,  it just appears so because they align with a natural predisposition to want to naturally practice one or two aspects or whatever it is that we want to do with our practice.

When I studied the  vedic meditation technique of Hong Sau, an opportunity arose  to discuss the aspects of Yoga,  during this conversation it dawned on me that they are yet to  truly come of age in the West and defines the difference between Yoga practiced in the East & the Yoga evolution into the West at this time.

All 4 aspects  separately are direct paths to yoga,  but also form a whole.  They differ in approach

  • Jnana ~ the path of knowledge,  is considered one of the main & most direct paths,  but the most difficult.  Often the path of the renounciate it draws on deep contemplation & introspection on the nature of our being it also involves pursuing knowledge and truth through the mind and study of the scriptures .
  • Bhakti ~ is the path of devotion, which requires an open and loving heart, remembering the divine in all action is bhakti,   kirtan and ritual worship of deities are  common bhakti practices.
  • Kriya Yoga ~ is the path of action,  transforming our energy through sadhana & meditation
  • Karma Yoga ~ also the path of action through selfless service for the benefit of others without expecting anything in return.

The Bhagavad gita is there for everyone unless we have humility, devotion and eagerness to serve we cannot digest this knowledge – Swami Radhanath


All Paths can be practised on their own, yet all paths draw on elements of each other to achieve the common goal of Union (samadhi).  Yet without devotion to something bigger outside  of  ourselves,  none will succeed on any path. The devotion I speak of is not limited to the practice of bhakti, it belongs to every path of yoga,  it is the subtle realm of the internal experience of the honest seeker.  It defines Yoga, yet it alludes many students. This is the aspect that is yet to come of age in the West,  and as Sadhguru says ~ “the process of yoga is to help takes us from what we know to the next step of the unknown”. From this perspective  the Western Yoga evolution will be helped along by the willingness of the teacher/ student to move beyond the physical  and jump into the lesser known aspects of yoga.

As a student some 20 + years ago, I can say that my first few years of yoga were  limited. With a strong Hatha yoga focus I had experienced the internal sensations from the fruits of my practice, even from my first experience of Yoga.  While useful  for feeling the vibration, considered by some Yoga lineages as the first step,  there was no teacher sharing how this vibration could be used to obtain higher states of awareness.  There was no teacher sharing verses of the Bhagavad Gita, the Yamas & Niyamas weren’t weaved into a practice session,  nor was the knowledge of how my physical practice could help transcend my mind. These aspects of yoga came much later, when my soul yearned for more wisdom, more knowledge.

It wasn’t until I initiated as a dedicated spiritual student with the  Kriya Yoga lineage  that the parts of Yoga that had been missing for so long began to come together, for many years there had been parts missing from my practice, which upon reflection, could have deepened my practice sooner.  This awareness has now formed my own teaching philosophy,  which is not unique, I simply bring to a class whatever my capacity is able to make Yoga whole for the student.  An integration of all paths ~  to spark the natural movement between the other aspects of yoga and to ultimately assist to explore the experience of living in tune with our surroundings, of deep peace and relaxation and ultimately the truth of who we are.