Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Did you know that there are three Yogic paths?
Karma, Jnana and Bhakti Yoga are all paths to liberation (Moksha) from the duality of human experience. The Bhagavad Gita teaches that these here forms of Yoga can lead the student to a place of oneness. One of these paths (Margas) could be more suitable for the individual depending on how they live life and what they want from a Yoga practice.
The word Karma can bring up many connotations for us in the Western world. These connotations often have something to do with the misunderstanding that Karma means that ‘bad things happen to bad people because they deserve it from doing harm to others, maybe in a past life’. For example, a bad thing happening to a person who had cheated on their partner might illicit the response ‘what goes around comes around’. I have definitely been guilty of thinking this way in the past! However this was not what was meant by Karma on the Karma Yoga Marga. Karma Marga, roughly translated to yoga of action, was the path of a person who chose to “seek salvation” through right action on their “day to day tasks while leading an ordinary life and raising a family” (information sourced from Yogapedia). According to the Bhagavad Gita, a Yogi following the Karma path can look forward to being reincarnated into a life of no suffering, or perhaps even break the cycle of birth and rebirth and be full liberated form being in human form.
A yoga teacher may point out the Karma path to students by suggesting that they do an act of kindness anonymously each week, as well as carrying out their daily asks with diligence and care. Perhaps students could translate the ease, grace and space, we cultivate on the mat into a meeting with their colleagues or a challenging family conversation.
Bhakti Yoga is yoga which has the devotion to the supreme at its heart. People may feel that the Supreme is God, Universe, Source or their True Self. Bhkati Yoga can be seen in classes which include chanting Om or devotional chants to Goddesses and other Deities, or gratitude chants to Patanjali. Some Bhakti yogis also burn incense or sage to cleanse themselves before entering into the practice of devotion towards their Supreme.
Jhana Yoga is the yoga of self-study, knowledge and self-enquiry so that we can know ourselves and find union. A Jhana yogi teaching an Asana class may pose questions or enquiries for their students to reflect on at the start of their practice. The Jhana yogi may have been developing the sequence they are going to share by spending time in meditation and self-reflection into who they are.
Which of these paths speaks to you? Perhaps all of them do.