The 9 forms of yoga
Different methods of dealing with various aspects of the human reality
In Chakra Yoga, we have 9 main chakras that correspond with fundamental energies of the universe. This includes the 7 we learnt about before of the physical universe, and the 2 chakras external to our bodies: referring to energies imperceivable to the human mind and only to consciousness itself (these chakras require some extremely deep meditation!). Therefore, there are also 9 main forms of yoga that empower and transform each of the energy centres more directly.
The following list outlines the different types of yoga taught within Chakra Yoga, and the corresponding chakra that is influenced most strongly in that case.
This form of yoga empowers the first chakra: Muladhara.
Hatha Yoga is the form most people consider to be yoga. It consists of mainly physical postures and movements designed to stimulate and rejuvinate the physical cells of our being.
It involves a detailed knowledge of our physiology taking us in to look at body chemistry, and brings us to an understanding of how the glands and organs function and what causes them to malfunction sometimes. We learn how to influence the glands & organs in a positive and stimulating way, what to feed the body, how to detoxify, strengthen, etc.,. All of this information and more is part of the first phase of yoga. We include some of the little known Dhandal techniques that were classically used for body building and power development in the warrior tradition of the Kshatriyas.
This form of yoga empowers the 2nd chakra: Swadhistana.
Jnana yoga has to do with achieving wisdom through the path of self-analysis. It leads us to understand the emotional aspect of our being and its ruling effect on our mind.
As a practice, it is an application of many different relaxation techniques, along with introspective methods for studying the emotional motives for our actions and reactions in the social world. The technique of pratyahara, for example, is like a withdrawal from the outer world of distractions to refocus the awareness on the workings of the mind itself; studying how it is led around by the senses and desires; this becomes an in depth study of the psychology of mind. The philosophical principles of Samkhya are then realized followed by the application of yoga technique for changing that situation around until consciousness leads and directs the mind.
This yoga develops the 3rd chakra: Manipura.
Pranayama yoga begins with the art of proper breathing: from there is moves through dozens of techniques aimed at rejuvinating the nervous system through controlling the flow of the energy in the nerves.
Ultimately, pranayama means energy control. Many of the methods learned here, are combined with the other forms of yoga. It is a fundamental part of Hatha yoga practice (traditionally) as there are specific techniques for rejuvenating each gland or organ, for releasing stress or boosting hormonal productions, for empowering the muscles etc. Likewise there are techniques for clearing the mind, weeding out old negative thought patterns, and bringing peace of mind. Some of the breathing methods are used to induce deep relaxation and meditative states, there are even some for leaving the body. Add to this a detailed look at what deep breathing does to the oxygen levels within the body and how that changes body chemistry...
Karma yoga unfolds the 4th chakra: Anahata.
Karma Yoga is a more subtle study of the laws of cause and effect as they apply to our personal life.
In essence it is a study of how we have created the situation we are in now and subsequently look at what we would like to create in our upcoming years and lifetimes. Techniques involve self-analysis of thoughts, emotions and feelings, leading to insights about where it all comes from, and how to change the undesirable aspects. In practice it comes down to being helpful and compassionate with everyone, thereby creating positive karma.
This type of yoga awakens the power of the 5th chakra: Vishuddha.
Raja Yoga may be more commonly known as the yoga of the mind, and that it is.
Here we find many methods of working with the mind through creative visualization and use of verbal and vocal process. There is a lot of learning about the functions of the mind followed by skillful use of mind energies to achieve certain results within the body; as in healing, and out in the world as in manifesting your dreams. Meditational practices that take you out of the normal world to explore the inner world are a large part of this Raja.
This form opens the inner eye, the 6th Chakra: Ajna.
Yantra Yoga has to do with the structure of mind, energy and time.
One of the least known forms of yoga, it is like a study of cosmic (sacred) geometry and how it unfolds as mandala, and mathematics as in the measurement of time and the biorhythms of the chakra energies. It involves numbers, symbols and color, leading to an understanding of how these influence the mind; while through the time cycles a personal calendar can be made to help us see how the energies are affecting us by the day, month, year, etc.
Practise of mantra will unfold the 7th Chakra: Sahasrara.
Mantra Yoga is an intricate study of sound and its influence on energy, on mind, and on the external world.
More than just chanting of certain sounds, this goes more deeply into the essence of what sound is as vibration, what type of sounds affect which area of the body, mind, - what the mental reactions are etc. Then comes the application of certain sound formulas to create the desired results. Fundamentally it comes down to the reality that all is energy and that energy is in a state of vibration - vibration is sound.
This is the most suitable form to empower the 8th Chakra: Narayanana
Laya Yoga involves concentration techniques to move energy in certain ways for the purpose.
These forces (or the Force) are somewhat magical in their nature and should only be used by an adept for dharmic purposes, healing or helping others along the spiritual path. Other names by which this yoga is known are Kundalini and Tantra. Knowledge about the energy centers known as Chakras are contained in this realm of yoga. Methods and techniques such as the Laya Yoga Kriyas are used to move energy from the base of the spine to the mind to attain higher levels of consciousness.
The 9th Chakra: Brahmananda, is developed through Bhakti.
Bhakti Yoga is the study of the oneness of the universe, of how it all fits together into a pattern, allowing us to see that the universe is unfolding with intelligence, beauty and purpose. Through a study of the energy fields we eventually come to a realization that the energy, which makes up the stars and planets, the heat, light, etc, is the same as that which makes up our own bodies. With this understanding we can go with the flow and trust that we are part of this unfolding process as well. Bhakti Yoga is more than a philosophy about this oneness, as it utilizes the other forms of yoga in bringing about a heartfelt realization of this truth. Bhakti literally means devotion to God; in India it is known as the path of love to God (while Jnana is the wisdom path). Through developing an awareness of oneness, one arrives at the wisdom that we are all part of one infinite energy field, in a state of vibration that feels like love.