The Sanskrit word ‘Yoga’ literally means ‘Union’. It is a science that can unite an Individual with God.
The ancient yogic scriptures teach us that in order to reach the goal of yoga, union of the aatma (soul) with the super soul (God), we must develop all aspects of ourselves – including the physical, intellectual and spiritual. Programs at the Ashram are designed with this in mind, and strive to integrate the five main paths of yoga to help us realize the true nature of our souls:
Hatha Yoga aims to unite the body and mind by control and coordination of subtle forces in the body. It keeps the body free from disease and premature decay, allowing one to focus on control of the mind and senses needed to achieve Self-realization. The seven steps involved to unite the body and mind are: Shat Karams (Cleansings), Asanas (Physical Exercise), Mudras and Bandhs (Subtle movements and locks), Pranayamas (Breath Control), Pratyahara (Discipline of Senses), Dhayana (Meditation) and Samadhi (Self-realization).
Raja Yoga is the eight-step path to Self-realization systematized by Maharishi Patanjali. The eight steps that lead a seeker from ignorance to Truth are: Yamas (Restraints), Niyamas (Observances), Asanas (Physical Exercise), Pranayama (Breath Control), Pratayahara (Discipline of Senses), Dharana (Concentration), Dyana (Meditation), and Samadhi (Self-realization). Raja Yoga incorporates all aspects of the individual and represents the essence of all branches of Yoga.
Karma Yoga is the path of action and selfless service, or serving without attachment to the results of the action. This yogic path teaches that we are just instruments and that God is working through us. Therefore, we should surrender our actions and their fruits to the Lord. The practice of Karma Yoga prepares one for the reception of knowledge of the Self.
Gyana Yoga is the path of wisdom. It is suitable for people of an intellectual nature. A Gyana Yogi acts with the feeling, “I am not the doer; Nature is doing everything. The body and mind are moving among the objects. I am the silent witness of all that is happening. The work does not bind me, I am free.” All of creation is seen as the play of Maya, or illusion. The Gyana Yogi constantly discriminates between the unreal and the Real, the not-Self and the Self.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion. This path can be practiced by anyone with loving faith in God. In Bhakti Yoga, everything is but a manifestation of the Divine and all else is meaningless, including the ego. Constant thought and service to God creates the emotion of devotion and allows one to surrender to God and attain Self-Realization.