Although yoga is an ancient form of spiritual and physical exercise that originated in India, there are different forms of this training as there are different ways of yoga. Primarily, there are four paths of yoga - Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga. Importantly, each of these forms is suited to different individuals or goes with their outlook or approach towards life. However, importantly, all these four different paths eventually lead to the same goal - unifying the individual 'Self' with God or the 'Brahman'. Moreover, lessons of each of these paths need to be incorporated by an individual if he or she desires to accomplish the true wisdom.
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Basically, people with a sociable personality opt for Karma Yoga, which is the yoga of action. This form of yoga sanitizes the heart by training one to act unselfishly without the thought of any gain or profit. By following this path of yoga, an individual realize sublimate the self-image by learning to disengage oneself from the fruits of his actions and presenting them to God. In order to attain this power it is essential to keep the mind concentrated on continuously reciting a mantra or holy rhyme while occupied in any doings.
On the other hand, Bhakti Yoga is the means and way to devotion and is generally followed by individuals who are of poignant personality. Normally, a person who practices Bhakti Yoga, or a Bhakti yogi, is aggravated by the potency of love and perceives God as the personification of love. A Bhakti yogi resigns himself to God through prayer, reverence and sacrament. He directs and transmutes his sensations into unrestricted love or dedication to the Almighty. Incidentally, a considerable part of Bhakti Yoga comprises reciting or singing the glorification of God.
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Jnana Yoga is basically known as the yogic practice of awareness or astuteness and is considered to be the most complex among the four paths of yoga. Practicing Jnana Yoga requires great power of resolve as well as mental power. Going by the definitions, accepting the philosophy of Vedanta, the Jnana yogi utilizes its intelligence to question into its own temperament. For instance, an individual recognizes the interim inside and outside a glass as unlike, similarly he perceives himself as detached from God. Thus, Jnana Yoga leads the yogi to unite with his God by breaking the glass and dispersing his ignorance about reality. It may be mentioned here that before taking up the practice of Jnana Yoga, it is essential for an individual to take up the incorporated instructions of the other three paths of yoga because without unselfishness, love of God, power of body and mind and the search for self-realization, this path of yoga may just prove to be an redundant conjecture.
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Though mentioned in the end, Raja Yoga is equally important as the other three paths and may be termed as the science of corporeal and cerebral control. The path of Raja Yoga is also often known as the 'royal road'. This form of yoga proffers an all-inclusive technique for organizing the impressions of thinking by transforming one's mental and physical vigor into spiritual energy.
During the last few decades popularity of yoga has spread rapidly as more and more people are taking up this form of ancient oriental exercise every day. And with the popularity of yoga, the number of instructors too has been growing. Although there are numerous yoga asanas and pranayama, the basic rules are the same everywhere. The training process, however, differs with each instructor who teaches in his or her individual style depending on their personal experiences. The most frequent forms of yoga currently practiced by people in the West are 'Hatha' yoga that includes various postures or asanas, pranayama or breathing methods and meditation or rumination.
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Apart from 'Hatha' yoga, 'Karma' yoga, 'Mantra' or repetitive chanting of holy syllables or phrases, 'Bhakti' yoga or devotional practices, 'Jnana' yoga or the study or self and 'Kriyas' also known as purification practices are also popular among the health conscious people in the West. Significantly, each of these yogic forms again has different deviations and techniques which are practiced differently. In brief, the different characteristics of yoga may be compared to a hologram (a flat optical image which looks three-dimensional to the naked eye) that also has several sections and exposes as a complete entity. In fact, all these aspects of yoga are simple optional paths that lead one to the same cherished end.
In the modern day world, plenty of students are looking forward to material as well as mental healing and increasingly adopting yoga as the vehicle to achieve their objectives. However, the entire idea of giving up the will power often becomes difficult for people who are extremely blemished and wounded or those who have survived different abuses in life. It is truly regrettable that presently the yoga and meditation societies are bringing to light more and more incidents of different types and volumes of abusive relations prevailing in the modern-day society. Even as yoga is gaining popularity, there is a new breed of so-called spiritual leaders or gurus who are exploiting people and are alleged to be physically, emotionally, financially as well as sexually abusive towards their disciples. Some of these gurus or teachers are also known to be indulging in drug and alcohol abuse. This is ruining the benefits of yoga as well as wearing off some of its reputation.
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Hence it is always advisable to remember that one need not take what ever the teacher says or does to be gospel truth. Never take it for granted that every move of the yoga teacher or guru is beyond question and hence never ever surrender or sacrifice yourself to all the doings of the yoga guru or any specific community or group. Even as we accept and acknowledge the benefits of yoga and all related regulations, it is pertinent that we are careful and cautious and distinguish as well as recurrently examine that the teachings and practices are beneficial for us in the present situations. Incidentally, this is not what we are advising, but has been included in the ancient yoga teachings that emphasize that one must not acknowledge anything that he or she does not believe it to be true from within. Unless our experience tells us that something is correct, we need to accept it.
The sacred practice of yoga enables us to unlock ourselves as well as become more responsive and regulated. However, at the same time, we need to be trained to protect ourselves from being susceptible to the various traps laid by a section of unscrupulous yoga gurus or trainers. It is pertinent that we organize ourselves to avoid the weaker sides of the openness brought about through yoga and as energy is released, we need keep ourselves more deeply involved in this ancient form of spiritual and physical form of exercises. Incidentally, there are a number of people who are talented with supernatural powers and obvious perception and these qualities may be further molded as well as enhanced through regular practice of yoga. Although many may be of the opinion that having such mystical powers makes a person 'spiritual', the Yoga Sutras describe them as mere commotion that may prove to be hurdle in the path to attaining enlightenment. One should never forget the basics that yoga is primarily all about completeness and amalgamation as well as inter-connectedness and tranquility. As our awareness increases through the practice of yoga, it is essential that it should progress in uniformity with wisdom and discretion so that we may be able to utilize these skills sensibly as well as carefully.
Before concluding, it is essential to remind that yoga and its holistic attitude in curing, provide us with several openings and opportunities for self-care and empowerment or make us physically, emotionally and spiritually stronger. And when this acknowledgement is carried to the farthest, we are told that we are completely responsible for the well-being of our mental and physical health. Eventually, it also results to our emotional and financial betterment.