In the Bhagavad-Gita, three main types of yoga are mentioned. These are “Jnana Yoga”, “Karma Yoga” and Bhakti Yoga”. Yoga philosophy is about the understanding coming from these three types of yoga.
We can look at “Jnana Yoga” as being able to see from an equal distance, the things that are good for us and those that are not, thanks to our distinctive awareness. The dualistic nature of the mind shows us moments of pain and pleasure, allowing us to become aware of them. The word “Jnana” means knowledge. This is revealed as a feeling in the body. Thanks to this information, we can find our way physically more easily.
The psychological equivalent of this, is the development of our ability to learn from what happens. In this way, we can live by learning from what happened, without identifying with the feeling of pleasure that emerges in the moments when we express ourselves, or the feeling of pain that emerges in the moments when we cannot express ourselves.
This leads us to a life where we live a life of learning from the mistakes and truths we make, without feeling guilty or proud. With this understanding, we stop blaming our environment. In moments of success, we develop the ability to enjoy the moment comfortably instead of being proud. In this way, we can share our own happiness or the happiness of those around us more easily.
“Karma Yoga” is about seeing that everything is interconnected with cause-effect relationships. We die because we are born. Karma, in its simplest form, is about action. In the flow of life, everything interacts with each other. Everything has a cause and effect. Those consequences create other causes. Nothing is left out in this system. Karma Yoga is about understanding the nature of movement, that is, life.
One of the easiest ways to understand this is to look at the waves. “Wave” is actually the name of the movement. When we look at waves we see the nature of motion. Waves are born, grow and die. When we look at the waves, we can see them as if they are separate from each other. But actually they all interact with each other. They affect each other. As one wave ends, another begins. And so on. And the essence of all of them is actually water.
This is easy to understand when we look at the waves because this flow is constantly and rapidly occurring in front of us. But this actually applies to everything. Since our lives are longer and this process occurs more slowly, we may not be able to see these things happen with the same simplicity. However, the wave metaphor enables us to develop an understanding that the essence of everything is one and that life consists of a cycle that constantly moves and changes shape.
“Bhakti Yoga” is about stepping outside our ego so we can see the big picture. It is also known as “Devotion”. For example, people who work in some ashrams are said sometimes to practice Bhakti Yoga. With this, the door opens for the person to see that there is a much larger system than him or herself and that she/he is a part of it.
Apart from the studies carried out in this way, we can also understand this in our own ordinary lives. Bhakti yoga is about seeing that the world does not consist only of our desires and ambitions. Everyone is in a similar effort. Our perception develops in this direction.
This brings with it humility. We realize our smallness. Along with this, we also see our uniqueness. In this way, we can better appreciate what is unique to us. And in fact, the more we are ourselves, the more we can serve the whole. Because the more our own expression is revealed, the more it benefits the whole.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
These three types of yoga are also mentioned in Patanjali’s yoga sutras, Bhagavad-Gita. These three types of yoga actually interact with each other. They are in an indivisible integrity. This understanding forms the basis of yoga philosophy. Patanjali’s yoga sutras are called “Raja Yoga”. Raja means king. It encompasses the understanding from these three types of yoga.
Raja Yoga is about finding ourselves in the flow of life (Karma), where everything is interconnected, by learning from the pains and pleasures (Jnana) and thus serving the whole with our highest potential (Bhakti).
When yoga philosophy is explained, very big pictures are usually mentioned. For example, karma is generally talked about as big interactions. For example, things that come to you from your family or the effects of your actions on future generations. However, karma is related to movement. It can actually be seen in the relationship of body parts to each other.
In the same way, jnana, distinctive information, manifests itself in the form of separate signals in each body part. The body tells us this by constantly producing sensations and sending signals.
And Bhakti is described as serving the big picture, the whole. The same understanding can be seen when we look at the relationship of body parts to each other. When a body part is itself and does its part, it serves the whole body. It is the greatest service to the whole system. Whole system relaxes. We can learn a lot from this.
The connection between yoga philosophy and movement practice
We can understand that the system relaxes when body parts take responsibility. There can be relief in our own relationships also when we take responsibility. Or let’s think the opposite. We can see that injuries may occur if some body parts do not take their responsibility they should. Other parts start to carry their burden. We may experience psychological or physical pain. The sama thing happen in pur relationships as well.
Raja Yoga as The Heart Of Hatha Yoga
When the concepts of Jnana, Karma and Bhakti emerged, there were no systematic yoga movement practices in the world as there are today. In these texts, “Asana” is mentioned as the only joyful-steady (Sthira-Sukha) posture. Hatha Yoga, that is, practices in which physical movements are performed systematically, started later.
When I looked at the concepts of Jnana-Karma-Bhakti Yoga in the relationship of body parts, I realized that Raja Yoga lies within the practice as the heart of Hatha Yoga. Everything that was said confirmed the integrity of the body with clear mathematics. Jnana (pain – pleasure, production of sensation), karma (connections through movement), bhakti (devotion to the whole). And that’s why I always share the practice in this way.
In this article, I tried to explain the connection between yoga philosophy and movement practice. In my next article, I will explain the relationship of yoga movement practice with the elements. I think all of these articles have a complementary understanding. For this reason, it would be beneficial for you to read them together.
Also, it would be great if you could experience what I am talking about in practice. If you want, you can attend our classes on weekdays or weekends. Thus, what you read does not remain in concept, but begins to come into being.