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Rock in Sand

What is Yoga?

Yoga is that inner state in which the mental movements of the mind have come to complete rest. Yoga is a science and the art that studies the human body and mind. But it is also a means of calming the human spirit and leading it out of isolation into unity with the universe. Yoga is a way of life and can bring about an expansion of consciousness. It is a path to integrating body, breath, mind and soul and one of the oldest methods for conscious human development that has come down to us. Yoga relieves you of numerous ailments, gives the body strength, promotes flexibility and brings these seemingly opposite qualities into harmony. But yoga is also the art that gives us the ability and self-confidence to face everyday stress with calm. The term yoga comes from the Sanskrit root 'yuj', which means to harness, unite or connect. By adhering to ethical principles, practicing body positions and breathing control, creating deep concentration, contemplation or meditation - depending on your preferred yoga practice - the ultimate goal is always to achieve the realization of union with the Self, our innermost core.

Even if the forms of yoga practiced today appear very different to us on the outside, they all have the same goal: namely the liberation of human existence from suffering towards the realization of the highest human potential, the knowledge of true human nature, the much-praised, absolute bliss.

Here you will find a brief overview of the seven traditional paths of Yoga:

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Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is the yoga of wisdom. It is the yoga of the Vedas and early Upanishads, wherein the real is distinguished from the unreal, in the light of wisdom, through a process of contemplative meditation. Jnana Yoga, like Raja Yoga, explores all the intricacies of the human mind, but unlike Raja Yoga, it uses the exploratory ability of the rational mind. Of central importance here is dealing with the question: Who am I?

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga harnesses the energy of emotions: desires, affection, devotion and love. However, emphasis is placed on the fact that the object of these feelings is divine and not mortal. Through rituals that include song, dance and the recitation of mantras, the longing of the human heart is directed, intensified and used to dissolve the habitual sense of separateness that automatically leads to desires, attachments and thereby endless suffering.

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Karma Yoga

The Bhagavad Gita is the definitive source of Karma Yoga. A karma yogi strives for liberation by approaching himself and his activities with a self-transcending attitude. Whatever his tasks, duties and activities may be, he regards everything as an offering to the Divine, a selfless service, and does nothing in view of the fruits it may bring, whether financial, social or spiritual. Through this, yogis are able to use the mundane activities of daily life to break the bonds that blind them to their relationship to the Absolute.

Mantra Yoga

The word mantra consists of two Sanskrit terms: Manas (mind/spirit/intellect) and Trayati (liberation). Mantra yoga is also about the liberation of the human spirit and is seen in many texts as a suitable form of yoga when devotion and zeal are not very strong. In Mantra Yoga, a short saying is recited audibly or mentally to concentrate the mind. Most traditional mantras have a particular spiritual meaning and vibration, which means that each mantra has a different spiritual effect on the practitioner's consciousness.

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Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga, the 'royal' yoga, focuses on the meditation techniques as set out in the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali. Although the term Raja Yoga is mentioned in many yoga scriptures, the Yoga Sutras themselves do not use it. Today Raja Yoga is understood as meditation, without any relation to the other limbs of yoga. However, this is a big mistake because there can be no Hatha Yoga without Raja Yoga and there can be no Raja Yoga without Hatha Yoga. Meditation cannot be experienced without good posture, calm, even breathing and internalization of consciousness. When the body loses its stability, the mind wanders and the breathing becomes irregular; when the mind wanders, the body loses its stability, the breath becomes unstable. The pose, breath and awareness form the cord that connects each part of the practice, leading from the concrete aspect of the pose to the more subtle aspect of pure awareness.

Tantra Yoga

The word tantra consists of two Sanskrit terms: tanoti (expansion) and trayati (liberation). Tantra Yoga is said to be the only path that can lead to liberation in the present age characterized by the destructive effects of selfish desires. Tantra works because it uses the fundamental energy of everyday life to transform consciousness: the energy of desire. There have always been two paths to transforming desires into spiritual ecstasy. The outer, left path is the most extreme and often misunderstood form of tantric practice, ritualized sexual contact. This path was only recommended for the most highly developed yogis and yoginis who had long since separated themselves from sexual desire. This extremely difficult path is not an end in itself, but is intended to internally clarify the consciousness. On the inner, right path, this energetic resolution and increase in consciousness occurs through the use of asanas (body postures), pranayama (breathing and thus prana control) and powerful meditative visualizations.

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Hatha Yoga

Hatha Yoga is one of the most widely practiced yoga paths and at the same time the origin of the no less well-known yoga schools Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga, B.K.S.Iyengar Yoga, Traditional Hatha Yoga and Viniyoga. Although Hatha Yoga is said to place a strong emphasis on the body, it does not only teach asanas (postures). According to the writings of Hatha Yoga, the practice of esoteric techniques, pranayama (breath and prana control), bandhas (neuromuscular closures), shatkriyas (internal cleansing processes) and mudras (symbolic postures to direct the subtle energies in the subtle body) becomes a much larger one given importance. Asanas provide stability and calm to the body to explore the intricacies of meditation known as Raja Yoga. Hatha means will, but is rather seen as the unity of Ha (sun) and Tha (moon), i.e. the complementary, opposing tendencies in body and mind. The aim of Hatha Yoga (as well as Kundalini Yoga, both of which are based on Tantra) is to bring the fundamentally 'female' and 'male' energies in the body into balance. The lunar energy flows through the Ida Nadi, through the left nostril and the solar energy flows through the Pingala Nadi, through the right nostril into the body. Hatha yoga techniques, especially pranayama and the shatkriyas, cleanse and stabilize these subtle energy flows. Only when they are in balance can the mystical serpent force Kundalini Shakti (Prana/energy aspect of Consciousness) rise through the Sushumna Nadi (main energy channel in the center of the spine), to Shiva (Cit/Consciousness aspect of Consciousness itself), to gain Self-Realization in the Sahasrara Chakra. When perfected, this yoga technique even promises the creation of a kind of divine body, immune to the influence of time and disease. In addition, various psychic powers develop through Hatha Yoga, including telepathy and more.

Yoga promotes a deep understanding of our own life situation and life itself, brought about through the regular practice of mindfulness. It promotes the ability to physically and psycho-logically let go of past, painful, negative experiences and impressions in order to blossom more and more in the here and now.

Yoga is process work and does not mean turning away from life - on the contrary - it helps us to face the demands of life, to step into life with both feet and to take responsibility for everything that happens to us. Or as Tich Nhat Hanh put it:


“The real miracle is not to walk on water or in thin air, but to walk upon the earth.”

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