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Hatha-Yoga is the Yoga of power, referring primarily to the Kundalini energy and prana (vital energy) within the body. The practices of Hatha-Yoga are intended to strengthen and prepare the body for controlling the life forces within. An important aspect is the practice of asanas , the postures that are often misidentified as being Hatha-Yoga itself. However, traditional Hatha-Yoga also involves celibacy, a vegetarian diet, breathing and concentration exercises (meditation), and cleansing the nasal passages and the alimentary canal.


Laya-Yoga focuses on meditative absorption of the psyche or mind to the point of ecstatic realization, or samadhi . As an advancement from Hatha-Yoga, Laya-Yoga leaves behind the physical focus of Hatha-Yoga for a highly developed state of meditation in which one’s sense of self dissolves into transcendental self-realization (i.e., realization of the true self, the transcendental spirit).


Bhakti-Yoga is the Yoga of devotion or love, in which the force of human emotion is channeled toward the Divine. This devotion develops along nine stages, the first being to listen to the names of God. The second is to chant praises in honor of the Lord, which is why chanting is so common in the practice of Yoga and Buddhism. The remaining stages involve a variety of practices or rituals. As simple as the first two stages may seem, together they have given rise to a special form of musical prayer: Kirtan , the practice of singing the many names of God (see the section on spiritual music below).

Bakti-Yoga is more than just a simple devotion to atman (the Supreme Soul that is God). It is a deep, genuine searching for the Lord that begins, continues, and ends in love (Vivekananda, 1955a). The secret of Bhakti-Yoga is that the great sages of ancient India realized that passionate human emotions are not wrong in themselves, they are not to be avoided and repressed, but rather they should be carefully harnessed and turned toward a higher spiritual direction. This is the direction of God, and the true nature of Bhakti-Yoga. However, there can also be dark side to Bhakti-Yoga, among those who have not turned toward a higher direction. Individuals who become trapped in the lowest level of Bhakti-Yoga can become religious fanatics. The only way they see to truly love one ideal is to hate all others (Vivekananda, 1955a). Religious fanaticism has caused great torment throughout the history of the human race, but it should never be confused with the true ideals of religion or spirituality.

Raja-Yoga or Kriya-Yoga

Raja-Yoga, or Royal Yoga, combines the principles, though not necessarily the practices, of other forms of Yoga and thus supersedes them all (Bailey, 1927). Raja-Yoga is that which was originally taught by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras . It is also known by the name Kriya-Yoga, and it is this term that Yogananda used when bringing Yoga to the United States in 1920. According to Yogananda, this form of Yoga is more than just a practice developed by a great man. Patanjali is believed to be one of the ancient avatars of India, making this form of Yoga a direct divine inspiration (Yogananda, 1946). Furthermore, this form of Yoga was lost to humanity for centuries, until another avatar named Babaji revealed it again to the Indian guru named Lahiri Mahasaya in 1861 (Yogananda, 1946). Of particular interest to Americans may be the fact that Babaji inspired Yogananda to come to America, through Babaji’s disciples Lahiri Mahasaya and Sri Yukteswar. Thus, Yoga came to the United States, as well as the rest of the Western world, at the behest of Babaji, a divine incarnation believed by many to be as significant as Gotama Buddha or Jesus Christ!

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Source:  OpenStax, Personality theory in a cultural context. OpenStax CNX. Nov 04, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11901/1.1
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