Articles by Ajaryans
Schools of Yoga

Introduction: No physical evidence supports the claim that Yoga is as old as civilization. Earliest archaeological evidence of yoga is stone seals of around 3000 BC depicting yoga poses. We can today divide the history of yoga into four periods.

Vedic Period: The Vedas arethe sacred scriptures of Brahmanism,modern day Hinduism’s basis. The Vedas contains the oldest known yogic teaching; hence, such teachings are called Vedic yoga.

Pre classical yoga: The creation of the 200 Nos. of Upanishads marks the pre classical yoga. The Upanishads describe the inner vision of reality resulting from devotion to Brahman.These explain the teachings of Vedas further. Around 500 BC, the Bhagavad gita or Lord`s song came up. Currently scholars take this as the oldest known yoga scripture.

Classical Period: The creation of the yoga sutras by Patanjali

Post classical Period: Post classical yoga differs from those of previous periods since it focuses more in the present. It no longer strives to liberate a person from reality but rather one to accept it and live at the moment.

Today’ssix main schools of yoga out of numerous are:
  • Hatha Yoga- or yoga of postures
  • Raja Yoga- or yoga of self-control
  • Kundelini Yoga- yoga of energy
  • Karma Yoga- yoga of mind
  • Jnana yoga-yoga of mind
  • Bhakti yoga- Yoga of devotion

Hatha Yoga: Hatha yoga is a fundamental base for other yogas. Hatha yoga techniques act on body energy to keep it in good health. Hatha yoga by definition is the union of the sun and the moon, the physical and mental energies, prana shakti and chitta shakti. The basic principle of hatha yoga is harmonization of this dual energy which governs the functioning of the physical body and its organs, and our mental activities, reactions and moods. Hatha yoga deals with these energies through the swaasi.e. the flow of breath in the nostrils, and through the two major nadis, ida and pingala, the energy channels corresponding to the right and left nostrils, body’s right and left halves, and brain’s two hemispheres. When the energy of the two halves become equal i.e. in a third force,known as atma shakti of kundalini shakti dawns. Main benefits of continued Hatha yoga doing are:
  • Restores and maintain good health, by reestablishing the fundamental balance in the physical and energetic frame work
  • Avoids the illness factors, mainly disturbances blockages which decreases prana Shakti i.e. vital energy flow
  • Influences the mental realm because a healthy and quiet body has a psychosomaticeffect; it reduces dissipations, conflicts, lock of confidence existing in the mind.

Hatha yoga contents: Hatha yoga comprises of Asanas or postures, pranayama or breathing practices, shatkarmas or cleansing exercises, bandhas/energy locks, mudras or somoto-psychic gestures

Hatha yoga in the past practiced mainly the shat kamas, the yogic cleansings, but gradually, encompassed different types of posture and other techniques.

Hatha yoga is considered as a pre-requisite and complement to raja yoga and kundalini yoga.

Swami Swatmarama introduced Hatha yoga. Hatha yoga is the union of the opposite forces.

Raja Yoga: Raja yoga can be defined as the royal path of union. It considersbeing higher in continuation to the practices of other yoga schools. Raja yoga deals with the mind and is also known as ashtanga yoga,the eight fold path or the eight limbs of yoga.

The main objective of raja yoga is to control the mental energies which are generally dissipated and fluctuating. The mind has infinite capacity; but due to its rajasic nature, it remains in constant activity. Concentrating and masteringthe thoughts and thus the mind without injuring it is a very big task. Raja yoga practices acknowledge, accept and redirect the mental activities, without generating self judgment and conflicts in the personality.

Patanjali defined the below listed eight fold paths in his yoga sutras to maximize yoga practice benefits.
  • Yama and niyama: the personal and social rules of behavior
  • Asana: the major static postures concerning meditation.
  • Pranayama: the control of breath and pranas
  • Prathyahara: The sensorial with drawl, which is the first stage of meditation.
  • Dharana: The state of meditation
  • Samadhi: Self realization and union.

What about paths 7 & 8?

One must practice Raja yoga after or with hatha yoga techniques. It should be associated with Karma Yoga, the yoga of selfless action. In this way, a purely inner process is fruitfully combined with a harmonious outward expression.

Raja yoga is the supreme yoga. Raja Yoga says restrainment of waves or modifications of the mind is itself yoga.Raja yoga was outlined by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras.

Kundalini Yoga: Kundalini yoga’s aims are:
  • Awakening the atma shakti.
  • Preparingthe body and the mind for the awakening of the primal force and its arising in sushumna nadi, the internal passage of the spiritual energy.
  • Balancing and activating Chakras and nadis to bring a positive awakening and to avoid blockages or psychological problems at different levels of consciousness.
  • stimulating chakras and nadis, the psychic centers and passages, and then to awaken the kundalini shakti

The above discussions show that Kundalini Yoga is a critical practice of immense benefits but of potential problems if not done under the care of an expert till one becomes sufficiently proficient. Hence, properly managing this mighty power is vital for bettering the body and mindand to avoid troubles.

Kundalini Yoga has several practices, of which the nada yoga technique uses sounds to awaken and harmonize the chakras.

Ajna Chakra: Ajna chakra is a psychic center, located in the middle of the brain and is the command center.

Different Stages of Kundalini Yoga:

AwakenAjana chakra first (how?). Its awakening allows facing positively the transitory manifestations arising during the activation of the other chakras.Awakening of ajana chakra, a systematic and progressive work to stimulate and harmonize the whole set of chakras, the balancing of ida and pingala nadis, the opening of Sushumna nadi and the awakening of Kundalini.

Raja Yoga, Hatha Yoga, and Karma Yoga techniquespractices before beginning Kundalini Yoga are must. Karma Yoga is selfless doing of one’s duties regardless of rewards. Such a combined practice improves personal communication with one and all. Self awareness is very importantat all stages. Drashta, the witness attitude, the attribute of ajna chakra, plays a fundamental part. The ability of objective observation allows to keep common sense and to accept the different manifestations liable to happen in course of the different awakenings.

Kundalini combines meditation, Prayer,Asanas and Pranayama.

The Upanishads Hinduism’s sacred scriptures of the fifth century BC provide written description of kundalini; although the oral tradition dates back even further.

Karma Yoga:

Karma yoga means action and yoga union therefore karma yoga is neither an ordinary act nor an altruistic activity. It is meditation in action. In karma yoga, one is supposed to keep self awareness or the witness position while performing the actions, in order to bring unity between individual consciousness and cosmic consciousness.

Upanishads, stress that combination of Hatha, Raja and Kundalini Yogas is an effective way to progress spiritually. The Bhagavad Gita also deals with Kundalini Yoga. In addition, it is perhaps the only one explaining the principles of Karma Yoga.

Karma Yoga is an action performed with full awareness. For example a bus driver’s duty is driving the bus safely and truly. How to do this as Karma Yoga? The witness or drashta runs the show because it is that quality of observation only which can give the opportunity to follow the action, to see one`s self in action and to confront the psycho logical background the way to prepare the action and to undertake it, the personal feelings during action, The mental reactions in link with action and interactions.

Antar manna, the meditation practice of inner silence has to be practiced as it learns how to keep the witness attitude in relation to the surrounding and the inner mental expressions.

In daily life, we are always in a hurry, going from one thing to another. The dominant feeling is that we have to finish the current action. This strong impulse is coming from society, the way of life, the worry to have some rest or pleasure after being relived of the usual obligations.

Asanas and yoga centers are the best places to imbibe and live the spirit of Karma Yoga. In yogic life stay, Karma yoga becomes the major tool of the daily routine, offering larger possibility of experiments, self-observation and evolution.

In the Bhagavad Gita (a chapter from a larger work) there is a summery about process of Karma Yoga 5oo BC.

Jnana Yoga-

Jnana means knowledge or wisdom. It is not intellectual knowledge or logical process of deduction but the intuitive or luminous knowledge which emergesfrom the deepest areas of personality. Therefore in Jnana Yoga, the method of union leans on intuitive flashes and recommends intense meditative practice or deep reflection on reality, self or the true nature of human being.

The two essential qualities of Jnana Yoga are viveka, the capacity to differentiate the real from the unreal, the self from the non-self, the eternal from decay prone perishables. Vairagya, non-attachment, is a craving-free state of mind. It is not a matter of turning artificially one`s back on one’s family ties, Job or personal wealth, but not addicted to these. These things disappear from our lives.Non-attachment is an exceptional quality and the highest yogic attitude. Neither pleasures of life,nor objects of beauty attract a Jnana yogi.

Raja Yoga meditation techniques are very important for a jnana yogi also, as these show him / her self or the supreme reality.“Brahma Sutras” is the main classical texton jnana yoga.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga is pure spiritual devotion, or love for God. He / she love the deity as the beloved. In Bhakti everything is a manifestation of the divine and all else is meaningless, including the ego the bhakta experience separation and longs to meet or even just glimpse his beloved.

Nothing else attracts him, nothing else holds his attention, all else is meaningless.

Bhakti yoga is the direct method, the shortest way to experience the divine. There is nothing higher than love and Bhakti Yoga is the “Religion” of love.

Bhakti Yoga is greater than Karma and Raja yoga because these are intended for an object in view, while Bhakti is its own fruition, its own means and its own end.

Bhakti Yoga has two grades, the first called “Gauni” or preparatory and includes all the preliminary practices. The second is “Para” or the state of supreme love and devotion to God.

A beginner in Bhakti Yoga, yoga should first all prepare the ground of his heart by freeing it from attachment to earthly objects and sense-pleasures, Then by arousing in it extreme longing to see God, to realize divinity to go to the source of all knowledge and to reach perfection and God- consciousness in this life. He/She must be absolutely earnest and sincere. A traveler on the path of Bhakti Should

Observe cleanliness of body and mind, should be truth ful, and lead a simple life, without injuring any living creature mentally or physically. The Bhagavat Gita, Bhagavata Purana and Puranas are scriptures which expound the philosophy of Bhakti. Hindu movements in which bhakti is the main practice are called Bhakti movements, the major schools are Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism.

“One can understand me as I am, as the supreme personality of God head, only by devotional service. And when one is in full consciousness of me by such devotion, he can enter into the kingdom of God-“

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