The five paths of Yoga

There are many different paths or systems of yoga, for example, mantra yoga, kundalini yoga, swara yoga, bhakti yoga, japa yoga, hatha yoga, etc. Each one leads to the same source, the same experience, just like the different roads that lead into a city or the different rivers that flow into the sea. All the paths of yoga aim at the elimination of the ego and lead to meditation. They can be broadly classified into five fundamental groups:-


  1. Karma yoga – path of action or activity
  2. Bhakti yoga – path of devotion
  3. Jnana yoga – path of enquiry
  4. Raja yoga – path of introspection
  5. Hatha yoga – path of balancing the physical, mental and pranic layer in the body


It is good to practice a combination of all the five paths, with an emphasis and zeal on the path that best suits the personality type, the being. These paths are all intimately connected and not separated in a rigid manner.

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga, the yoga of action, is the path or system of yoga for developing awareness through activity. It is the performance of actions done with intense awareness, non detachment from the action and non-attachment to the fruits of actions. It is not what you do, but the attitude and state of awareness in doing it. This intense, honesty based action leads to reduction of the power of the ego and to more effective and efficient action and performance. “Yoga is efficiency in action” – Bhagavad Gita. Every action should be lived and pursued with the greatest intensity.


It is important to develop the ability to do the work, and at the same time be a witness to the actions. When one is no longer the doer, but merely the instrument, then every action becomes spiritual and the work becomes super efficient. Work becomes meditation as the doer, the actions, the object become one – this is the real karma yoga.


Bhakti Yoga

This yoga path of devotion appeals to those have some form of belief or devotion. The bhakta channels his emotions towards devotion of the deity, guru, or other object. He is motivated by the power of love. Through prayer, ritual of worship, mantra chant, songs of devotion, thebhakta loses his ego as he becomes totally absorbed with the object. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says – “a bhakta can worship me in any form; whatever form he chooses, i will justify and accept his devotion”.


Bhakti can be cultivated and there are many practices that will help one develop bhakti. But if you are not emotionally inclined, do not force yourself to follow this path.


When there is devotion towards an object, all the energy flows towards it, leading to one-pointedness of mind which comes from intense love and devotion. Intense bhakti will induce the joy of meditation.

Jnana Yoga

This is the path of enquiry, where one enquires into the absolute truth of who we are, and what we are experiencing. It focusses understanding the laws of existence. The jnani uses the powers of the mind to discriminate between the real and the unreal, the permanent and the transitory. One has to transcend logic and rational thinking to receive the answers in the form of revelations. The full realization of this truth brings enlightenment.


Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga, also known as the royal road. Patanjali’sashtangar yoga is also known as raja yoga. He divided the system of raja yoga into the eight limbs of yoga or ashtanga yoga. Yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. It is the system where the physical and mental energies are turned into spiritual energies. It is the path of introspection where one becomes aware of and delves deep into the different realms of the mind – the conscious, subconscious, unconscious and superconscious with the purpose of becoming aware of the different aspects of the being. The chief practice is meditation.


Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is also known as the science of purification of body and mind. Swatmarama in his book Hatha Yoga Pradipika begins by saying, you should first purify the body. Then comes asana, pranayama and the practice of mudra and bandha. Self control and discipline starts with the body. Start with the body first instead of fighting with the mind first. In this way, it will be possible to develop deep meditation leading to samadhi.


Hatha yoga balances body secretions, hormones, breath, brain waves, prana so that the mind becomes automatically harmonious and ready for meditation. When the body and mind are cleared of impurities, the energy blocks in the nadis will be released, allowing pranic energy to flow to the brain. When kundalini energy ascends and reaches the sahasrara chakra or crown center, it is no more hatha yoga but yoga, which is the union of consciousness (shiva), with energy (shakti). Hatha yoga prepares one for the highest experience of raja yoga (samadhi). The ultimate goal of Hatha yoga is to bring about yoga.


In fact, hatha yoga is regarded as the first part of Raja Yoga. Intellect stands in the way of spiritual awakening; the practice of hatha yoga is most effective way of transcending the intellect because it works on prana and bypasses the mind in this way. Dormant areas of the brain are activated and one’s physical and mental potential begins to increase and manifest.

Though the ultimate goal of hatha yoga practice is preparation of the body and mind for the higher conscious states, it also plays a very important role promoting mental and physical health, and has been used succesfully by yogis and rishis for eliminating diseases. Illness in the body and mind is a state of disharmony in the energy systems. Hatha yoga has proved to be successful as a therapy in reversing cases of chronic ailments like high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, rheumatism, hysteria, back pain. The practices in Hatha Yoga which consist of theshatkarmas (cleansing), asanas,   pranayama, mudras and bandhas balance the energies in the body, healing the body and mind.


Several reliable yogic literature texts provide us the foundation for the practice and philospophy of hatha yoga. The well known texts are Hatha Yoga Pradipika by Yogi Swatmarama, GorakshaSamhita by Yogi Gorakhnath, GherandSamhita by Gherand and Hatharatnavali by SrinivasabhattaMahayogindra. All these texts are said to have been written between the 6th and 15th century AD. There are also some references to hatha yoga in the Upanishads and the Puranas as well as the SrimadBhagavatam.


Swatmarama is remembered for his treatise Hatha Yoga Pradipika, a direct, practical and technical handbook of hatha yoga. In this book he reminds all that all hatha yoga practices serve only for the attainment of raja yoga. The great sage Gorakhnath told his disciples that hatha yoga is the science of the subtle body, the means through which the body’s energy can be balanced; it is also the way the dual nature of the mind can be balanced.


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Relationship of Yoga to Ayurveda

Yoga and Ayurveda are complementary as they are interrelated and interconnected; both springing from the same well of concern for human health and well-being.
Though, while Ayurveda is more restricted to the body – and, to a certain extent the mind – Yoga extends to the emotions and Spirit as well. The human constitution depends on a particular configuration of humors (doshas) that influence the body’s functioning and structures growth requirements.

They are also known to influence emotional and psychological reactions. A healthy body demands a balance of factors; for instance, as external conditions change, dietary changes may be necessary to maintain good health. Further, as Yoga affects the human constitution, balancing the entire system, physical, mental and emotional, you can use different Yoga techniques to benefit different doshas.

Introduction to Ayurveda

Ayurveda is translated as ‘ayur‘ (life) and ‘veda‘ (knowledge of or science). It is commonly known as the ‘Science of Life’. Ayurveda is the natural healing system which originated out of India over 5000 years ago. Ayurveda is a healing gift that has been given to us from the ancient enlightened Vedic culture. It is the system for maintaining optimal health through adherence to natural rhythms and cycles. Ayurveda employs a variety of natural means to bring harmony to the physiology including diet, herbs, spices, minerals, exercise, meditation, yoga, mental hygiene, sounds and smells.

The Rig Veda is the oldest of the four Vedic scriptures and contains the main concepts regarding Ayurveda.  It speaks about three cosmic powers associated with Wind, Fire and Earth and how these primal forces relate to the three psycho-physiologic constitutions of man known as Vata,Pitta and Kapha.

From the five elements, the three doshas are derived—Vata,Pitta, and Kapha. Known as mind-body types, the doshas express particular patterns of energy—unique blends of physical, emotional, and mental characteristics.

In Ayurveda, health is defined as the dynamic state of balance between mind, body, and environment. It is possible for each of us to achieve and maintain a vibrant and joyful state of health by identifying our mind-body type and then creating a lifestyle that sustains and nurtures our unique nature.

Yogic nutrition

Sattvic Way of Eating


What is the best time to eat

Ayurveda says that in our manipura region (navel region), we have what is known as digestive fire (jataraagni). This jataraagni is closely related to the sun. When the sun is out, it means your digestion is functioning at its optimum. Always aim to eat your meals between sunrise and sunset (not before or after).

Eat light, sattvic and pure foods for breakfast – fresh squeezed juice, fresh fruit etc.

Our jataraagni is at is strongest when the sun is at its highest in the sky (at approximately 1pm). It is best to eat our largest meal between 12pm and 2pm.

The evening meal should again be light and best eaten before the sun goes down for the day.


Devote at least half an hour to eat and digest each meal (1.5 hours per day for eating is not much).

Remember that one fourth of your food is taken through the eye (sense of seeing) so serve your dish on a beautiful plate – you are worth your best cutlery! It is also a nice practice to set the table you are eating at decoratively.



Say a small prayer before eating your food. It doesn’t have to be too elaborate, simply just say a small thank you for the food that you have and that is about to become part of your body.

Fragrance of the food

Bring your face toward the food and inhale the fragrance of the food. Enjoy the different aromas of the food. Allow this sense to be filled.

Touch the food

Touch the food with both hands and all fingers, feel the textures.

All five fingers have minor chakras. Therefore, when we touch the food, we send a signal to our digestive system that you are about to ingest food.

Eating the food

Let the first morsel be a sacred act to yourself.

Chew the food 32 times – or until food is pulp in the mouth. We do this for two reasons. The first is, when you chew the food slowly, your system has time to understand that enough food has been eaten. You won’t overeat when you chew the food slowly. The second reason is, when you chew the food well, the digestive process begins in the mouth itself where the enzymes in the saliva can start to break down the food. When the food reaches your stomach, it does not have to work so hard to breakdown all the food. Breaking down food in the stomach takes more energy than running around your street block. That is why we feel very tired after eating food.

Have positivity when you are eating and digesting your food

Leave some room

You should only fill three quarters of your stomach.

Leave the final quarter for some water and air.

Small sips of warm water can be taken during meal. Never drink cold drinks during a meal as they can weaken your digestive fire.

Leave a complete half an hour after your meal, than you can drink a full glass of warm water if it is required.

One can sip water throughout the day. It greases the system and breaks down what is known as ama which is residue of your digestion.

Sit in vajrasana to help digestion

Sit in the vajrasana position (sitting on your heels, knees and feet together) for 3 – 5 minutes after a meal.

This position can help the food to digest as a lot of blood will be brought to that area.

It helps to remove gas and prevent bloating. If you get the urge to belch or pass wind, that is what the posture is designed to do, so try not to suppress these urges.

The posture will help you to feel light and energized after the meal.

Never lay down or sleep after a meal. If you want to gain weight, than this is a 100% guaranteed way to put on weight; sleeping after food

Ayurvedic Constitutional Test

Body Structure and Appearance

Vata                               Pitta                             Kapha

Frame Tall or short, thin; poorly developed physique Medium; moderately developed physique Stout, stocky, short, big; well developed physique
Weight Low, hard to hold weight, prominent veins and bones Moderate, good muscles Heavy, tends towards obesity
Complexion Dull, brown, darkish Red, ruddy, flushed, glowing White, pale
Skin texture



Thin, dry, cold, rough, cracked, prominent veins Warm, moist, pink, with moles, freckles, acne Thick, white, moist, cold, soft, smooth
Hair Scanty, course, dry, brown, slightly wavy Moderate, fine, soft, early gray or bald Abundant, oily, thick, very wavy, lustrous
Head Small, thin, long, unsteady Moderate Large, stocky, steady
Forehead Small, wrinkled Moderate, with folds Large, broad
Face Thin, small, long, wrinkled, dusky, dull Moderate, ruddy, sharp contours Large, round, fat, white or pale, soft contours
Neck Thin, long Medium Large, thick
Eyebrows Small, thin, unsteady Moderate, fine Thick, bushy, many hairs
Eyelashes Small, dry, firm Small, thin, fine Large, thick, oily, firm
Eyes Small, dry, thin, brown, dull, unsteady Medium, thin, red (inflamed easily)

green, piercing

Wide, prominent, thick, oily, white, attractive
Nose Thin, small, long, dry, crooked Medium Thick, big, firm, oily
Lips Thin, small, darkish, dry, unsteady Medium, soft, red Thick, large, oily, smooth, firm
Teeth & Gums Thin, dry, scaly, rough, crooked, receding gums Medium, soft, pink, gums bleed easily Large, thick, soft, pink, oily
Shoulders Thin, small, flat, hunched Medium Broad, thick, firm,
Chest Thin, small, narrow, poorly developed Medium Broad, large, well or overly developed
Arms Thin, overly small or long, poorly developed Medium Large, thick, round, well developed
Hands Small, thin, dry, cold, rough, fissured, unsteady Medium, warm, pink Large, thick, oily, cool, firm
Thighs Thin, narrow Medium Well-developed, round, fat
Legs Thin, excessively long or short, prominent knees Medium Large, stocky
Calves Small, hard, tight Loose, soft Shapely, firm
Feet Small, thin, long, dry, rough, fissured, unsteady Medium, soft, pink Large, thick, hard, firm
Joints Small, thin, dry, unsteady, cracking Medium, soft, loose Large, thick, well built
Nails Small, thin, dry, rough, fissured, cracked, darkish Medium, soft, pink Large, thick, smooth, white, firm, oily

Waste Materials / Metabolism

Urine Scanty, difficult, colourless Profuse, yellow, red, burning Moderate, whitish, milky
Feces Scanty, dry, hard, difficult or painful, gas, constipation Abundant, loose, yellowish, diarrhea, with burning sensation Moderate, solid, sometimes pale in color, mucus in stool
Sweat/Body Odor Scanty, no smell Profuse, hot, strong smell Moderate, cold, pleasant smell
Appetite Variable, erratic Strong, sharp Constant, low
Taste preferences Prefers sweet, sour or salty food, cooked with oil and spiced Prefers sweet, bitter or astringent food, raw, lightly cooked,without spice Prefers pungent, bitter, astringent food, cooked with spices but not oil
Circulation Poor, variable, erratic Good, warm Good, warm, slow, steady

General Characteristics

Activity Quick, fast, unsteady, erratic, hyperactivity Medium, motivated, purposeful, goal seeking Slow, steady, stately, strong, good


Low, poor endurance, starts and stops quickly Medium, intolerant of heat Endurance, but slow in starting
Sexual nature Variable, erratic, deviant, strong desire but slow energy, few children Moderate, passionate, quarrelsome, dominating Low but constant sexual desire, good sexual energy, devoted, many children
Sensitivity Fear of cold, wind, sensitive to dryness Fear of heat, dislike of sun, fire Fear of cold, damp, likes wind and sun
Resistance to disease Poor, variable, weak immune system Medium, prone to infection Good, prone to congestive disorders
Disease tendency Nervous system diseases, pain, arthritis, mental disorder Fevers, infections, inflammatory diseases Respiratory system diseases, mucus, edema
Reaction to medications Quick, low dosage needed, unexpected side effects or nervous reactions Medium, average dosage Slow, high dosage required, effects slow to manifest
Pulse Thready, rapid, superficial, irregular, weak/like a snake Wiry, bounding, moderate/like a frog Deep, slow, steady, deep, rolling, slippery/ like a swan

Mental Factors and Expression


Low, weak, hoarse High pitch, sharp, moderate, good Pleasant, deep, good tone
Speech Quick, inconsistent, erratic, talkative Intelligent, penetrating, critical Slow, steady, dull
Mental Nature Quick, adaptable, indecisive Intelligent, penetrating, critical Slow, steady, dull
Memory Poor, notices things easily but easily forgets Sharp, clear Slow to take notice but will not forget
Finances Earns and spend easily Spends on specific goals, causes or projects Holds on to what one earns, particularly property
Emotional tendencies Fearful, anxious, nervous Angry, irritable, contentious Calm, content, attached, sentimental
Neurotic tendencies Hysteria, trembling, anxiety attacks Extreme temper, rages, tantrums Depression, unresponsiveness, sorrow
Faith Erratic, changeable, rebel Determined, fanatic, leader Constant, loyal, conservative
Sleep Light, tends towards insomnia Moderate, may wake up but will fall asleep again Heavy, difficulty in waking up
Dreams Flying, moving, restlessness, nightmares Colorful, passionate, conflict Romantic, sentimental, watery, few dreams
Habits Likes speed, traveling, parks, plays, jokes, stories, trivia, artistic activities, dancing Likes competitive sports, debates, politics, hunting, research Likes water, sailing, flowers, cosmetics, business ventures, cooking

TOTAL                        Vata  ………………    Pitta  …………….…     Kapha …………

Putting Ayurveda into Practice

Waking up

Rise Early (before 4:30am)

Declare completion


Eye wash, JalaNeti (Sutra Neti for advanced yogis), natural evacuation & enema,

Drink neem juice or lemon juice on empty stomach

ThailaKriya – Oil Pulling

Cleaning Tongue and Brushing Teeth

Oil Massage

Bathing – Be inside your boundary when you bathe. Let your mind be where your

body is, full awareness of the sensations

Moving – Any practice of Hatha Yoga

Being mindful with every movement throughout your day

Mindful Eating – Practice ‘Mindful Eating’ at every meal

Sit in vajrasana after meal


(require oils that are heating and lubricative)


(require oils that are cooling)


(require oils that are heating and invigorating)