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Welcome to Allspirit's Yoga Annex!
Many Yogas, One Goal

There is no one "right" or "true" style of Yoga. There are many, many different Yoga disciplines; some don't even involve doing poses at all. Yoga breaks down into four basic paths:

  1. Bhakti, the path of love and devotion
  2. Jnana, which seeks the truth through knowledge
  3. Karma, the Yoga of service and selfless action
  4. Raja, the path of conscious will, or self-control

(Article continued below.)

Hatha Yoga, the Yoga most commonly practiced by Westerners, comes from the Raja school of Yoga. Other areas - much of India, for example, lean towards Bhakti Yoga. But go deeply enough into any form of Yoga and you will see that they are all linked philosophically. The goal of all Yogas is harmony and union, it's just that the paths to get there are different. Love unites, so does true knowledge and service. Creating harmony within your body will bring a sense of inner peace that will make you feel closer to everything around you.

Taking this into consideration, it may seem kind of odd that there are so many different branches of these Yoga paths (many of them Hatha Yoga based). There's Iyengar, Ashtanga (and its sister discipline, Power Yoga), Laya, Kripalu, Kriya, Kundalini and Tantra, just to name a few. There are also Tibetan Yoga practices. Even with all these different approaches, however, there isn't a whole lot of divisiveness. No one style of Yoga is seen as any better than another - you won't see two Yogis defending their style of Yoga the same way that, say, Macintosh and PC users debate! It is acknowledged that every Yoga path has the same goal, and competition between paths is a waste of time and energy (that's quite a concept for us Westerners - especially Americans - to swallow!).

Harmony and union, however, are abstract ideas. Most people want to know just how Yoga will benefit them on a very concrete, three-dimensional level - in other words, the physical. Yoga increases flexibility - that's a given. But it's more than just stretching. It also builds strength. In many of the Asanas you are supporting a good portion of your own body weight, and that will certainly create muscle tone. Still, you couldn't recreate Yoga's benefits just by doing weight training at the gym and spending a lot of time stretching. Yoga releases stress far better than these other physical practices. This is due to the part breathing plays in Yoga practice. People take their breath for granted. If they became aware of the way they breathed when upset and when calm, they would note a huge difference. You don't just move into the postures in Yoga, you breathe into them. But Yoga goes beyond breath - the poses also massage the internal organs, and balance the endocrine system and the nervous system. It's rejuvenating. Yoga benefits every aspect of the body and relaxes the mind. And then there is that abstract part that's less defined, that makes all negativity disappear, at least temporarily. How does Yoga do that? It can't really be explained in words.

The best thing about Yoga is that it can be practiced by everybody, no matter their age or level of fitness. Yoga is health-giving on many different levels and it is available to all. There is no competition and everyone goes at their own pace. Yoga is for all of us - together. Namasté!

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