In ancient times yoga was often referred to as a tree, a living entity with roots, a trunk, branches, blossoms and fruit. Here in the west, hatha yoga is the most popular and often associated with “traditional” yoga. But it is only one of six branches, the others including raja, karma, bhakti, jnana and tantra.
Each branch has its own unique characteristics and functions that guide a particular approach to life. Some people may find one branch more inviting than another. This is not a one size fits all philosophy. However, it is important to note that involvement in one of these paths does not preclude activity in any of others. As a matter fact, many of the paths naturally overlap and to our natural curiosity and drive for wellness it is not uncommon to enter on one branch and find yourself drawn to another.
In this series, entitled Branches of Yoga, we will briefly explore the various branches of yoga. You may already be a yogini practicing the postures with a teacher or by yourself. If you are a hospice worker you are actively practicing karma yoga. Perhaps you came across this blog searching for an in-depth study of yoga philosophy, setting you on the path for jnana yoga.
Remember you need not be limited to one expression. You may practice hatha yoga (taking care of your physical body) while simultaneously cultivating the lifestyle of a bhakti yogi (expressing your compassion for everyone you meet). Trust that whichever avenue of yogic expression draws your interest, it will probably be the right yoga path for you.
Written with gratitude to Mara Carrico.