By Nizha Periaswamy

Losing weight, being more flexible, staying in shape or staying calm, are among the goals for most yoga practitioners.

But yoga is not just about that. The ultimate goal of yoga is to be happy, loving yourself and being compassionate to others under any circumstances.

On can be of any size and leading a simple life with very little money, but if he or she is happy doing that, nothing can pull them down right?

Yoga was initially meant for spiritual development, cultivate discernment, create awareness, self-regulation and higher consciousness in an individual.

It later evolved to become the wellness or fitness routine that emphasizes only on yoga asanas (movement) today.

Yoga is divided into different margas (path) and every practitioner is encouraged to discover all the paths in order to dispel mental impurities and find the way to the truth - that we are beyond the body, mind, emotions and intellect.

According to the Vedanta, the 4 major margas are Nyana Yoga (the path of wisdom and knowledge), Bakthi Yoga (the path of devotion), Karma Yoga (path of selfless action or service) and Raja Yoga (path of self-discipline).

Now let's look into these 4 yoga margas in detail.

1) Nyana Yoga:

Nyana means wisdom and it is the intellectual approach to Yoga. One can study Vedanta or any scripture of book related to yoga life, self-empowerment, motivation and learn to understand the true nature of the soul within us. Though it is an extremely difficult path to follow, as aspirants need a lot of will power, determination and courage will direct you to the path of nyana yoga.

2) Bakthi Yoga:

Bakthi means devotion and the yoga in this discipline is about having devotion towards God, a personal guru, saint, or maharishi. This oldest form of yoga has roots from the Vedas. Yoga scholar, David Frawley, in his book Yoga: The Greater Tradition, mentioned that Bakthi Yoga was a way to surrender to the Divine as one's inner self. According to him, this path consists of concentrating one's mind, emotions and senses on the Divine.

3) Karma Yoga:

Karma Yoga is the path of selfless action that teaches its practitioners to act according to dharma, without being attached to teh fruits or personal consequences. Swami Sivananda said: “Every act can be spiritualised when the motive becomes pure. Work is meditation. Serve everyone with intense love, without any idea of agency, without expectation of the reward.”

4) Raja Yoga:

Raja Yoga is the most popular marga in this generation as it consists yoga asanas from the classic Hatta Yoga. Raya Yoga or Ashtanga, which falls into the "eightfold path", consists aspects that lead its practitioners to develop moral value, self-discipline, self-development and spiritual liberation.

The eightfold path of Raja Yoga as described by the sage Patanjali in Yoga Sutras are Yama (non-violence, truthfulness, chastity, non-stealing and detachment to worldly pleasures), Niyama (purity, contentment, austerity, self-study), Asana (yoga postures), Pranayama (breathing techniques), Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and lastly the state of Samadhi (enlightenment).

"For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends; but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy" - Bhagavad Gita 6.6

Photo source: Sakthi School of Yoga