Like today, yoga was used as a form of meditation in ancient India. It was used to get in touch with your Atman. In Hinduism, your Atman is your inner self or soul. Getting in touch with your Atman is the way that you can reach Moksha, which is the word for being liberated from the cycle of reincarnation.
You are liberated when your Atman self becomes one with the transcendental self called Brahman. While meditating, a mantra, a phrase with a special meaning, is said to help center the mind.
As popular as the overall notion of Yoga is, there are actually four types of Yoga that are interconnected and employed by different people.
The Meditative Person
A meditative person, a person who is dedicated to the cultivation of the mind, follows Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga, or royal yoga, is a form of yoga most similar to prayer. It is called royal yoga because the mind is considered the highest, or kingly, part of a person that must tame the body.
It is also considered royal or kingly because all other forms of yoga are in an effort to reach this form of yoga that will provide the needed insight into a person’s Atman. Raja Yoga, as meditative yoga, encourages the mind to separate itself from the kind of obsession that can distract one’s concentration from the Atman.
The Rational Person
A rational person, a person who is dedicated to reason and thinking, follows Jnana Yoga. In ancient Sanskrit, Jnana means knowledge. The rational person will meditate to gain knowledge of their body. Acquiring knowledge of the body will allow the mind to control it. A person must know the difference between the body and the self in order to reach Moksha.
In Jnana Yoga, there are four ways to reach liberation. The first way is discrimination. One must have enough knowledge to differentiate between the real, transcendental Brahman, and everything else in the Karmic universe. After a person achieves this, they have to then achieve dispassion, which is the disconnection of the self from everything but Brahman.
From dispassion, a person would acquire the six virtues which are control of the mind, control of the senses, only performing duties, endurance, faith, and unwavering concentration. Finally, a person must want to be liberated more than anything else. Knowledge and acquisition of these four stages would, according to Jnana Yoga, result in liberation.
The Active Person
In Hinduism and other Eastern religions, a person’s life is determined by Karma. Karma, meaning action, is a system of actions and consequences. You will have consequences, good or bad, for everything that you do. The active person will follow Karma Yoga, which is the Karma of good deeds.
Karma Yoga is being perfect in your action for the perfect consequences. To achieve perfect action, act and think in a way that is in accordance with your duties, without consideration for yourself. Karma Yoga centers on good action for the sake of good action, nothing else. Once you achieve Karmic perfection, you can know your Atman and can be liberated.
The Charismatic Person
The charismatic person, the person who is dedicated to loving devotion, follows Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti Yoga is more in line with the mystical side of Hinduism. In this form of yoga, the person meditating is devoted to the beloved, or Brahman.
Due to the separation of the Atman from the Brahman, the charismatic person is devoted to being one with the beloved. Nothing is more important than loving devotion. With enough true devotion, knowledge of the Atman can be attained.
Although all four parts of yoga are separated for four different types of people, they are all interconnected. In Hinduism, everyone and everything is interconnected in the cycle of time, life, and the Karmic universe. No matter what type of person you are, don’t exclusively concentrate on one type of yoga.