The Yoga tradition

September 17, 2019

Modern Yoga has little to do with ancient Yoga practices. So what are the origins of Yoga and how many types of Yoga are there?

Couple meditating and doing Yoga

The word Yoga comes from Sanskrit and originally indicated ascetic and meditative practices of the religions of India. In contemporary usage, the word Yoga refers to a range of activities that often have nothing to do with the traditional Yoga, which encompasses several typolgies and different psychological and physical exercises that promote meditation and relaxation. The various types of Yoga are distinguished according to the different benefits they confer to the body and mind of those who practice them.

The term Yoga initially appeared in the Vedic Upanishads, but its origin is probably to be searched well before the documented occurrence of the term, when its discipline was handed down orally. The fact that such an ancient practice has survived to the present day is testimony to the beneficial effects it has always had.

Woman doing Yoga at Virupaksha temple in India
Yoga can be practiced anywhere

What types of Yoga are there?

Over the centuries different practices of Yoga have developed according to the different historical periods and areas. Those that we present below are some of the most common types.

Karma Yoga is the Yoga that has to be practised in a selfless manner, without expecting anything in return. It is an altruistic service: the purpose of Karma Yoga is to achieve the common good and the improvement of the surrounding environment. It is a very difficult attitude to be adopted at the beginning. Practicing to act in an impartial manner is a way to give back to God what He has created.

Bhakti Yoga is centered on the figure of the Bhakti, which is the personal deity, for this reason it is also known as Yoga of devotion or devotional Yoga. This type of Yoga allows you to surrender to the Lord through worship and eventually leads to the liberation of the individual.

Jnana yoga is the Yoga of metaphysical knowledge, of knowledge of the absolute and the Vedas. It is based on the deep understanding of the complex texts related to Yoga.

Hata Yoga, perhaps the best known, aims at the well-being of the body making it work effectively. It is characterized by asana, specific positions, and breathing techniques, pranayama. A much simplified version of this type of Yoga is today offered in gyms, but it originally included very complicated exercises.

Man practicing Hatha Yoga
Hatha Yoga practicioner

Raja Yoga is the royal Yoga, which is the meditative process followed by yogis who retire in the mountains or in places of isolation to devote themselves exclusively to meditation.

Laya Yoga is the practice of resorption: through special meditation techniques, yogis learn how to bring their mind back into the inner levels of their individual essence favoring the expansion of consciousness.

Nada Yoga is the Yoga of sound, with which, through the noise, one can reach the development of consciousness.

Mantra Yoga is practiced through the repetition of a mantra, often using a traditional Vedic rosary. It promotes breathing control and is often accompanied by precise gestures and visionary practices.

Finally, AcroYoga is the couple acrobatic Yoga, which combines conscious movement and acrobatic gymnastics. It is based on the control of breathing and has therapeutic effects. Its origins are not Indian though, as it began to spread in the United States in the 90s, while taking up the discipline of traditional Yoga.

Couple practicing Acro Yoga
Acro Yoga is made with a partner