Nonphysical Types Of Yoga
4 Types of Yoga You Don't Know About!
What exactly is ‘nonphysical yoga’? Isn’t yoga about enhancing flexibility and building strength? Here we’ll dive deeper into the roots of yoga to discover some of the original practices that predate the common era…. so these are some old, ancient practices!
Modern vs Ancient Yoga
In modern day, yoga has evolved into diverse, physically-oriented practices, often straying from its authentic essence.
I’ve talked about this topic extensively in another post, but the main gist is that yoga’s true purpose is to discover unity. It’s about recognizing the interconnectedness of the universe and re-aligning ourselves with something greater.
While contemporary yoga forms can definitely still lead to this realization, the emphasis on the physical aspects often overshadows the deeper meaning of this transformative practice.
In an attempt to rekindle awareness on the profound nature of yoga, I present the four original types of yoga practices. These very well might differ from your perception of what yoga entails. This information is here not to discourage the pursuit of modern forms of yoga, but to encourage learning and perhaps inspire the incorporation of fundamental concepts from these traditional practices into your own yoga journey.
These four types of yoga have origins predating the common era, so they are much closer to yoga’s origins than practices such as vinyasa.
These practices were developed to help guide people to experience the spiritual aspects of yoga. The wisdom embedded in these ancient practices holds the potential to enrich and enhance our contemporary approach to yoga, offering valuable insights and benefits to our modern practice.
Use this education as a guide to deepen your spiritual connection within your yoga practice.
4 Types of Nonphysical Yoga
1. Jnana Yoga
Jnana yoga is the oldest of the 4 types of yoga listed here and it has nothing to do with moving your body…
Jnana Yoga is known as the yoga of knowledge or the yoga of intellect.
At its core, it’s the yoga of meditation. Meditation is so closely rooted to yoga’s origins. I always like to remind students that if they are meditating, they are practicing yoga in what might be its purest form!
Jnana Yoga involves sitting in contemplation of one fundamental question: “Who am I?”
Sounds simple but it most definitely is not.
Jnana Yoga prompts individuals to question whether their identity remains intact despite things such as external changes. For example, maybe you ‘identify’ as someone who’s a blonde, but wouldn’t you still be you even if you had brown hair? Uncovering the truth that our physical body does not define who we are is a key part of this practice.
In Jnana Yoga, you explore deeper and deeper until you realize that you simply are a soul and your soul is a piece of a divine source that is greater than words can describe.
This introspective journey of the question “Who am I” eventually leads you to the simple answer of, “I am.” This is what the mantra “so hum” means, it means ‘I am‘ or ‘I am that,’ meaning you are one with the universe, the divine, or this unknown force that is truly indescribable.
By repeatedly returning to this mantra ‘so hum’, practitioners remember the essence of their true selves.
2. Karma Yoga
Karma, a word that we do often hear in the English language but one that we often misunderstand.
Karma Yoga, often recognized as the yoga of selfless service, revolves around the philosophy of action.
“Karma” is not defined by good or bad deeds like is often thought in the West, karma simply encompasses action.
Nothing is really ever clearly good or bad. For example, say you decide to work with your town to decorate for the holiday to bring holiday joy to the town’s residents. Maybe 95% of the town loves it and it fills their hearts with joy but then there’s 5% who have bad memories associated with the holidays and seeing the decorations makes them feel sad. So was this action good or bad?
Instead of defining actions as good or bad, can you act with true compassion in your heart. If you were truly decorating to bring joy, then you were in alignment with karma yoga.
Another key principle in karma yoga lies in choosing actions that lead to freedom rather than becoming bound down by what the outcome will be. So can you act with compassion in your heart and can you act in a way that allows your soul to feel free?
And remember, action is not only physical actions, it’s also what one speaks and what one thinks. On the karmic yoga path, it’s very important to work on your thoughts. By working with your thoughts and recognizing their influence on your actions, you are uncovering your highest self.
In Karma Yoga, you work to try your best to lean towards the light and surrender the attachment to results.
3. Raja Yoga
Raja Yoga is also known as Patanjali Yoga as it traces back to the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali.
Central to this ancient practice is what is known as the “8-limbed path”. These eight limbs serve as a comprehensive guide, outlining a holistic approach to spiritual development and self-realization.
The intricacy of the eight limbs of Raja Yoga becomes evident as two of these eight limbs are further subdivided into five additional parts.
For this reason we won’t go into much detail here on Raja Yoga as this would be multiple posts on its own, but as an overview, this framework encompasses components such as ethical principles, physical postures, breath control, concentration, and meditation.
Although there are some physical elements in Raja Yoga, they differ from the more dynamic movements commonly associated with Vinyasa, so we’re still including it in our nonphysical yoga practices.
If you’re interested in learning more about the components of Raja Yoga, let me know in the comments and I’ll write future posts on this!
4. Bhakti Yoga
Bhakti yoga is our next nonphysical yoga practice.
Bhakti Yoga, often recognized as the yoga of devotion, embraces the path of profound spiritual connection through practices such as rituals and chanting.
In this practice, chanting tends to hold a central role. This type of chanting requires full attention to immerse oneself in the divine qualities invoked through vocal expression.
The practice of kirtan, a devotional and communal chanting, is a great example of Bhakti Yoga.
This type of yoga works to create a state of blissful union and spiritual harmony.
The main principle of this practice is devotion, to either the divine in general or to a specific deity that calls to you. And remember that chanting isn’t the only way to practice devotion in Bhakti Yoga.
Remembering the land that these practices originate from
I believe that it’s so important to acknowledge where traditions originate from. The roots of yoga trace back to India and my heart is filled with so much gratitude for those that have gifted the world with this profound practice.
As an American woman who was not introduced to this knowledge until my adulthood, I do not take this gift lightly.
I express deep gratitude to this part of the world for providing this spiritual path.
Through my journey of practicing yoga and learning in yoga teacher trainings, I aim to share the invaluable insights I’ve gained, hoping to open others’ eyes to the immense beauty and transformative power of this practice in a spiritual context.
However, I also encourage continuous learning, emphasizing the importance of seeking wisdom from those who hail from the very culture that birthed this ancient tradition. There is much to gain by embracing the teachings of individuals rooted in the rich spiritual heritage of India.
Remember that learning and expanding your spirituality is a continual practice in this lifetime. And remember that yoga comes in both physical and nonphysical forms.