The Four Branches of Yoga

The Four Paths of Yoga - Pebbles
The Four Paths of Yoga – Pebbles

History of Yoga

Yoga is literally translated from “Juj”, which means union between the physical, mental and spiritual bodies, through the breath that is our tool to achieve that interconnection and to be able to harmonize with the universe.

Historically, yoga arose long before the first religions or belief systems were born. The earliest carved figures and illustrations on yoga date back between 10,000 and 15,000 years and were found in the Indus Saraswati Valley, which is now India, Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan. But it is not until the Vedic period (3000 BC to 800 BC) that the Vedas (yoga knowledge) began to be transmitted through the scriptures instead of transmitting the knowledge orally. Yoga is said to become more systematized during this period, with the beginnings of Buddhism, Jainism, and the śramaṇa movement. Upanishads like the Bhagavad Gita emerge promoting the concepts of Karma and Bhakti as a path to Moksha (liberation). Swami Satyananda Saraswati considers the Vedas to be the oldest literature in the library of man. In one article, he estimates that they are over 45,000 years old. Furthermore he says:

“Geographical references in many passages of the Vedas that differ completely with the existing geography of today. The great astronomers have also studied some of the passages in the Vedas and have found references to astrological conjunctions that occurred a hundred thousand years ago.

It is in the Vedic period that Vedanta (a Hindu philosophy) emerges with four main branches in yoga that lead us from ignorance to the truth we already know and guide us to reestablish our connection to oneness. According to Vedanta, there are three impurities of the mind that cause avidya (ignorance) which are:

Bad: selfishness, thinking in a way that only seeks the benefit of oneself.

Vikshepa: the tendency of the mind to focus outward, constantly moving from one thought to another. Often known as the “monkey mind.”

Avavana: forgetting or not knowing our True Self in the form of layers, which seem and separate us from all life.

Today there are four traditional schools of Yoga, and these are Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Raja Yoga. For the vast majority of yoga practitioners, it is more common to use a combination of the four traditional types of Yoga. In the end, one follows his own predisposition to balance the different forms of yoga. A quick description of each branch follows:

Bhakti yoga

Bha translated as fear and Kti as liberation. It is the path to liberation, excitement, love, compassion, and service. All actions are carried out in the context of developing pure love, of enlightening our friends by walking beside them and not in front of or behind anyone.

Jnana Yoga

it is the path of knowledge, wisdom, introspection and contemplation. It involves a deep exploration of nature through systematic exploration and setting aside false identities. It involves the knowledge of yoga through the understanding of philosophy. So we can understand who we are, what is the supreme being and what is our relationship with it.

Karma Yoga

It is about action with a conscience. It is the path of action, service to others, mindfulness and remembering the levels of our being while fulfilling our actions or karma in the world. It is about delivering the result of the action without expecting anything in return. Service; spiritual, intellectual, physical, food, clothing, shelter. I am not attached to the result. See others as equals.

Raja Yoga

The sage Patanjali explained in 300 BC. C. the eight limbs of yoga as a comprehensive method that emphasizes controlling the mind through meditation while covering all aspects of yoga. It deals directly with the thoughts of encounter and transcendence of the mind. The mind can be our friend if we place it correctly in transcendence, but it can be our enemy if we do not place it in being. It is about turning our mind into our ally, using it in the process of self-realization through different techniques. It is what we call the modern practice of yoga, which refers to Hatha and Ashtanga / Vinyasa yoga. Ashta is literally translated as 8 parts, and Anga is literally translated as branches (limbs). Those eight limbs are as follows:


Personal obligations to live well. Regulations for the practice of yoga and self-control;
Ahimsa (no harm or no violence in thought, word and deed)

Satya (truthfulness)

Asteya (without stealing)

Brahmacharya (celibacy or “correct use of energy”)

Aparigraha (no greed or hoarding)

NIYAMAS: They are a way of applying the ethical codes of yoga to the mind, body and soul of the student, helping to create a positive environment internally. Recommendations for before practice. It is said that practicing niyamas gives the yogi the inner strength, clarity, and discipline he needs to progress on his spiritual journey;
Saucha (cleaning)

Santosha (happy)

Tapas (discipline, austerity or ‘fiery enthusiasm)

Svadhyaya (study of the self and texts)

Isvara Pranidhana (surrendering to a higher self or contemplating a higher power)


(Physical movement / pose): It is the yoga practice that we find in most contemporary yoga studios. Although it is only a small part of the practice of yoga, it will help us improve our health and prepare the mind for meditation.


(Breathing techniques): These are techniques to control prana (vital energy), and be able to redirect it appropriately in order to have a stable body and mind. If my breathing is agitated my mental waves are agitated. If my breathing is controlled and rhythmic, my mental waves will be clearer and calmer.


 (Withdraw the senses of attachment to external objects): It is about internalizing, stopping being aware of what happens on the outside all the time and being able to travel towards our interior. Being able to go deeper, to see what is inside the heart.


 (Concentration, fixation of the mind in one place): Being able to control how to direct our mental waves.


(Meditation): Being able to choose objects on which to meditate.

 (A state of deep meditative contemplation that leads to a higher consciousness). It is about the connection between individual and universal intelligence. Consensus our individuality but cultivating our relationship of love with others.


(A state of deep meditative contemplation that leads to a higher consciousness). It is about the connection between individual and universal intelligence. Consensus our individuality but cultivating our relationship of love with others.


Yoga Dharma

Ministry of External Affairs, Indian Government

Ekhart Yoga

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Patricia Sánchez
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