The 6 Main Branches of Yoga—Defined and Explained

When most people think of yoga, they think of the physical posture exercises, like, Downward Facing Dog, Lotus Pose, Tree Pose, Warrior, and Cobra Pose.

But Yoga is an ancient tradition that has a long history and complex evolution. The physical yoga poses are only a tiny part of the greater tradition of yoga.

Yoga is a practice of physical, mental, spiritual and discipline that originated from India that has traditionally evolved and has been modified into a modern form to suit the current lifestyle.

However, in Indian tradition is more than physical exercise, it has a meditative and spiritual core.


6 Main Kinds of Yoga

Yoga has six distinct branches and is prominent from Hindu yoga culture, the following types are interesting to learn about and possibly integrate into your spirituality practice.

For Beginners, there are also other major kinds of yoga for different purposes.

1. Tantra yoga

Tantra yoga - A-Lifestyle
Source Tantra yoga

Tantra yoga involves many different types of rituals and ceremonies. It is also the yoga tradition that created the chakra energy system.

This physical exercise that expands together many yogic and meditative practices to help the practitioner to have a deeper understanding of themselves and to accept who they are.

However, in Indian tradition history, tantric yoga has been confused by many with ‘spirituality sex’ although its practices are founded on the intimacy principles which are not purely physical.

Due to its standard practices, it is only practiced by gurus to avoid misinterpretation and omission of essential steps.

Practicing tantric yoga explores channeling in different energies within the body to connect with the universe to understand the purpose of life and its principles to aid in spiritual, physical health and wellbeing.

The primary practices of Tantra yoga, are mantra, Yantra, Kriyas, pranayama breathing exercises, and mental visualization exercises.

2. Hatha yoga

Hatha Yoga - Yin yoga
Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is a forceful and active method to activate the and energies inside of the body to attain enlightenment. It is a physical exercise while focusing upon controlling the breathing patterns through the body rather than the mind or emotions.

Hatha yoga is the most modern branch of yoga as it as derived from Tantric yoga; hence it’s through different body postures and movement while controlling the breathing patterns.

Its significance to the practitioner is to experience physical force through the balance of energies within the body, hence bringing about a state of equilibrium within their body.

It also enhances the release of tension in the body and encourages relaxation and dynamism.

The primary practices of Hatha Yoga are Asana yoga poses, pranayama mindful breathing, mudras, and bandha energy locks. 

3. Raja yoga

Raja yoga - A-Lifestyle
Raja yoga

Raja Yoga is linked to Patanjali Yoga Sutras, and the eight fold path.  This kind of yoga is based on observance, cleanliness (both externally and internally), contentment, practices that bring out the perfection of the body and senses, study of scriptures and surrender to the ultimate reality.

It has eight limbs of yoga, that is; ethical standard, self-discipline, physical posture, breathing exercise, sensory withdrawal, concentration, meditation and supreme state of bliss.

Practitioners of Raja yoga helps them to control their thoughts through meditation, mastering their earthly ego-based self and uniting with their higher spiritual self.

The primary practices of Raja Yoga are meditation, self inquiry and self discipline. 

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4. Jnana yoga

Jana Yoga Meditation - A-Lifestyle
Jana Yoga

Jana Yoga is a practice of inner inquiry and deep contemplation. Jnana yoga is believed to be the most difficult yoga to practice because it emphasizes on the serious study of yogis scriptures and text to develop intellect and wisdom.

Practicing jnana yoga requires the use of the mind to inquire about its nature and to transcend the mind identification with its thoughts and ego.

The fundamental goal of practicing this yoga is to become liberated through self-limiting thought and perception and to achieve the union or inner self peace with the oneness of all life by meditation, reflection and conscious illumination.

The primary practices of jnana yoga are contemplation, meditation and self inquiry.

5. Bhakti yoga

Bhakti yoga
Bhakti yoga

Bhakti yoga is a devotional path to connect with something greater than yourself. It is the easiest yogic practice to master and the most direct method to experience in the body, mind and spirit.

Bhakti yoga is majorly based upon the heart, love and devotion towards a chosen deity or ‘God’.

Much like other branches of yoga, it has rules for each practitioner to take part and adhere to: listening to sacred scriptures, singing devotional songs, and divine meditation for remembrance, ritual worship, prostration and divine friendship and self-offering.

The essence of this yoga is to share and promoting unity because of devotion to a certain purpose of life.

The primary practices of bhakti yoga, are mantra, japa meditation, and devotional rituals. 

6. Karma yoga

wholistic lifestyle
Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is a practice of selfless service and removing the sense of ego, through skillful deeds. It is often referred to as ‘The yoga of action’. It aims to achieve union with the divine through selfless service and a path of devotion to work.

Practicing Karma yoga shifts your attitude from one of ego-base to one pure intention to lead a peaceful and a positive impact in the society for a better future. Therefore one must perform every action sacramentally and be free of their attachments to the results.

The primary practices of karma yoga are mindfulness, selfless service, and kindness. 

Practicing yoga has a lot of significance, through the commitment of one’s purpose, it helps them to achieve pure spiritual bond to the universe, attain flexible physical and strong mental health, promoting unity through sharing and acquiring knowledge and wisdom. 

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