There are mainly four main paths of Yoga – Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga.
KARMA YOGA – YOGA OF ACTION
Karma Yoga is the path of action, service to others, mindfulness, and remembering the levels of your being while fulfilling your actions or karma in the world. The path of dedication to work – without any expectation in return (renouncing the fruit or rewards of one action) as a form of action that is absolutely pure. The doer (karma yogi) sees Universal energy dwelling in all living beings and in all action that must be done. Such a person loves all equally- humans, animals, planet and all forms of Universe that exists around and through service to all others. This is a form of yoga that can be practiced at all time under all conditions. It is the root of the concept of Selfless or Voluntary Service. This can be combined with other forms of Yoga practice.
BHAKTI YOGA – YOGA OF DEVOTION
Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion, emotion, love, compassion, and service to God and others. All actions are done in the context of remembering the Divine. Seen by many as the easiest form of realization of one-ness with the Higher Energy it is the path of pure Love and complete dedication. See the Universal Energy (God) in all living existence and pray to it. A person attempts to realize the Higher Energy (God) by devotion and love in a personalized form or worship or practice of chants (mantra). Prayer, Chanting, Japa, Hearing or telling stories of God and Saints, Ceremonies and Rituals are all forms of Bhakti Yoga. In its advancement, Bhakti Yoga rids an individual of ego-centricity and reactive emotions by developing humility, self surrender and feeling an instrument in the hands of higher energy. It is usually best for people who are extremely emotional/temperamental and who’s mind flickers a lot.
JNANA YOGA – YOGA OF KNOWLEDGE OR WISDOM
Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge, wisdom, introspection, and contemplation. This is the path of intellect and also the path of self enquiry (VICHARA) and constant self analysis (Viveka – the ability to discriminate between that which is real and unreal), this leads into examining Minds own nature through meditation and reading of scriptures (philosophy of Vedanta). Through knowledge and self-analysis Dispassion (vairagya) is developed and liberation or Oneness with Universal Energy is attained through personal intuitive experience.
RAJA YOGA – YOGA OF PHYSICAL AND MENTAL CONTROL – ROYAL ROAD
Raja Yoga offers a comprehensive method of controlling the waves of thought by turning your mental and physical energy into spiritual energy. Raja Yoga is a method that emphasizes meditation while encompassing the whole of Yoga. It directly deals with the encountering and transcending thoughts of the mind. Hatha yoga is part of the integral system of Raja yoga and focuses on the subtle energy flow in the body known as prana. Hatha Yoga is the physical practice of yoga which focuses on the asana (physical exercise) and pranayama (breathing exercise). Raja Yoga is the Royal path of yoga consisting of 8 steps. These eight progressive steps are Yama (abstentions), niyama (observances), asanas (postures), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses), dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi (Superconscious state). The first steps are the moral foundations for the yoga practice followed by asana, pranayama, sense withdrawal, concentration, and culminating with
meditation and samadhi.