Overview of the Various Paths of Yoga

By taking an overview of the various paths of yoga, we can identify the primary correspondences as well as the differentiating principles between them. Since all paths of yoga have a similar aim, to connect the human individual with the divine consciousness, the differences are primarily related to the method and active power employed by the respective paths.

Sri Aurobindo notes: “…we find that they arrange themselves in an ascending order which starts from the lowest rung of the ladder, the body, and ascends to the direct contact between the individual soul and the transcendent and universal Self.”

The most widely known path of Yoga in the West is Hatha Yoga. “Hathayoga selects the body and the vital functionings as its instruments of perfection and realisation; its concern is with the gross body.”

Rajayoga, also known as Patanjali Yoga (named after the sage who codified this path in his Yoga Sutras), “…selects the mental being in its different parts as its lever-power; it concentrates on the subtle body.”

Next come Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga: “The triple Path of Works, of Love, and of Knowledge uses some part of the mental being, will, heart or intellect as a starting-point and seeks by its conversion to arrive at the liberating Truth, Beatitude and Infinity which are the nature of the spiritual life. Its method is a direct commerce between the human Purusha in the individual body and the divine Purusha who dwells in every body and yet transcends all form and nature.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Introduction: The Conditions of the Synthesis, Chapter 4, The Systems of Yoga, pg. 28