April 29, 2018

Six Branches of Yoga

Yoga is often known to be a tree with six branches. Bhakti (Devotion), Hatha (Breathing and physical exercise), Tantra (Inner technology), Raja (Discipline and self control), Jnana (Path of self-realization) and Karma (Engaging deeply with any activity) - all branches from this tree, each branch having their own defining characteristics and representing a perspective and approach to life. Two paths of the tree, Raja and Hatha yoga are the two prominent branches practiced in the world. When life gets busy, it’s nice to know there’s a system dedicated specifically for improving your physical, mental, and spiritual wellness.

Raja Yoga

Raja, the Sanskrit word for royal, is a yoga that requires discipline and self-control. Focused on meditation, Raja Yoga aligns itself with the eight limbs of Patanjali’s Yoga sutra also known as Ashtanga Yoga.

Eight limbs of Yoga

  1. Ethical Standards (Yamas)
    1. Non-violence (Ahimsa)
    2. Control of senses (Bramacharya)
    3. Non-stealing (Asteya)
    4. Truthfulness (Satya)
    5. Non-coveting (Aparigraha)
  2. Self-discipline (Niyama)
    1. Cleanliness (Shaucha)
    2. Contentment (Santosha)
    3. Asceticism (Tapas)
    4. Self-Study (Svadhyaya)
    5. Devotion (Ishvara Pranidhana)
  3. Posture (Asana)
  4. Breath control (Pranayama)
  5. Sensory withdrawal (Pratyahara)
  6. Concentration (Dharana)
  7. Meditation (Dhyana)
  8. Final liberation (Samadhi)

Often referred to the crown of Hatha yoga, Raja yoga’s focal point is meditation. After the physical and mental parts of our body are cleaned, Raja yoga trains the body to stay calm and be observant. This concentration allows one to reach Samadhi.

hatha yoga

The idea of the Hatha Yoga is that if you consciously get your body into certain postures then you can also elevate your consciousness. Hatha Yoga is not exercise, it is a preparatory process wherein your body is required to be in certain posture (Asana) so that you are ready to experience the vast possibility of your inner self.

Mostly known as Yoga in the West, Hatha yoga is known for the physical practice of asanas. By perfecting the body, one can wake dormant energy to travel upward the spine toward awakening.

  1. Postures (Asanas)
  2. Six Cleansing Techniques (Shat Kriyas)
  3. Pranayama (Breath Control)
  4. Locks and Seals (Bandhas and Mudras) for Life-Force (Prana) and Dormant Energy (Kundalini) manifestation
  5. Nirvana (Samadhi)

Hatha, also known as “forceful” yoga,  it gives perspective on balance and how to find it. Hatha yoga is designed to align and calm the body, mind, and spirit in preparation for meditation.

Raja and hatha

The combination of the Raja and Hatha path allows for a powerful deepening of expression. Although not explicit, details of karma, bhakti, jnana, and tantra yoga are also always present. For example, practicing hatha yoga while simultaneously focusing on meditation allows one to cultivate a stronger compassion for others, a strong element of bhakti yoga.  The overlapping components of these yoga are not uncommon and more universal as we think.

About the author

Christin Lee is a yoga instructor, entrepreneur, and lifestyle blogger living in NYC. She currently writes for InsiderEnvy with an emphasis and focus on fitness, health, and universal human rights.



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