4 Paths of Yoga (Synthesis of Yoga)
What kind of Yoga does Swami Sivananda teach? Swami Sivananda teaches the synthesis of yoga. He promotes divine life by combining the practice of Karma Yoga (selfless service), Bhakti Yoga (devotional love to God), Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga (systematic control of body, breath, and mind, culminating in meditation), and, last but not least, Jnana Yoga (or Vedanta philosophy), which is the philosophical teachings of the True Nature of the Self and of the Universe.
His teaching is summarized in his most well known slogan: “Serve, Love, Give, Purify, Meditate, Realize”
The tenets and practices of these 4 paths of Yoga are further explained in subsequent sections.
It is important to remember however that all the paths lead ultimately to the same destination – to union with Brahman or God – and the lessons of each need to be integrated if true wisdom is to be attained.
Karma Yoga – the Yoga of action – is the path chosen primarily by those of an outgoing nature. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the fruits of your actions and offering them up to God, you learn to sublimate the ego.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of devotion, which appeals particularly to those of an emotional nature. The Bhakti Yogis are motivated chiefly by the power of Love and sees God as the embodiment of Love.
Through prayer, worship and ritual, he surrenders himself to God, channeling and transmuting his emotions into unconditional love or devotion. Chanting or singing the praises of God form a substantial part of Bhakti Yoga.
Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga is the science of physical and mental control. It offers a comprehensive method for controlling the waves of thought by tuning our mental and physical energy into spiritual energy.
Jnana Yoga – the Yoga of Knowledge and wisdom – is the most difficult path, requiring tremendous strength of will and of intellect. Taking the philosophy of Vedanta, the Jnana Yogi uses his intellect to enquire into his own nature, dissolving the veils of ignorance and illusion.
Before practicing Jnana Yoga, the aspirant needs to have integrated the lessons of the other yogic paths – for without selflessness and love of God, and strength of body and mind, the search for Self-realization can become mere speculation.