The Four Paths of Yoga

“Yoga means union. It shows us how to unite all our life-forces by directing them inward. The goal is happiness and happiness lies within”. – Swami Vishnudevananda

The GurusSivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres & Ashrams

In the words of Swami Sivananda, “The practice of Yoga leads to communion with the Lord. Whatever may be the starting point, the end reached is the same”.

Yoga manifests itself as four major paths, namely Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Rāja Yoga and Jñāna Yoga.

These four paths are like the branches of a tree or tributaries of a river. They all have the same source and resting place. In essence, they are all the same.

The only thing that differentiates them is that there is a certain aspect of the mind involved in a particular path or practice.

In Karma Yoga the active aspect of mind is involved; in Bhakti Yoga, the emotional aspect; in Rāja Yoga, the mystical aspect; in Jñāna Yoga, the intellectual aspect.

Karma YogaSivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres & Ashrams

“Thy right is to work only, but never with its fruits; let not the fruits of action be thy motive, nor let this attachment be to inaction.”

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2, Verse 47


Karma ~ Service

It is the yoga of action, the path of selfless service.

The practice of Karma Yoga involves performing an action without any expectation of any reward in return, thus renouncing the fruits of the action.

A Karma yogi sublimates the ego, purifies the heart and realises oneness with all beings by acting selflessly.

Karma Yoga can be practiced anywhere, anytime where there is a desire to serve. It depends on the attitude, not the action.

The staff and guests at our ashrams and centres get an opportunity to practice Karma Yoga by helping with activities such as teaching, cooking, serving food, cleaning etc. It helps guests and students to integrate with the centre community and put the teachings into practice.

Bhakti YogaSivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres & Ashrams

"The easiest, surest and quickest means of God-realisation."

Swami Sivananda, on Bhakti Yoga

Homa in progressSivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres & Ashrams

Bhakti ~ Devotion

It is the devotional approach of yoga, the one of pure love.

This path involves surrendering oneself to God in order to realise the highest Truth. Aspirants channel their emotions into devotion, developing humility, self-surrender and the feeling of being an instrument in the hands of the Divine.

Bhakti Yoga can be practiced in many ways - praying, chanting, japa (repeating a mantra or name of the Divine), and by participating in ceremonies and rituals.

Aspirants choose a medium to express their devotion to develop a relationship with the Divine.

In the tradition of our Gurus, based on Hindu culture, Bhakti Yoga is practiced at our centres by way of kirtan (chanting the names of the Divine), ceremonies, prayers, rituals, celebrating festivals and service to the Gurus.

At our centres and ashrams, we follow the principle of “Names are many but God is one. Religions are many but the Truth is one”, honouring all religions and all forms of the Divine.

Sivananda Daily ChantSivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres & Ashrams

Daily Chant At Our Ashrams and Centers Worldwide

Raja YogaSivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres & Ashrams

“Meditation is the royal road to the attainment of freedom, a mysterious ladder that reaches from earth to heaven, darkness to light, mortality to immortality.”

Swami Sivananda, on Raja Yoga


Rāja ~ Royal

This is the scientific, step-by-step approach of yoga, the one of mind control.

In the practice of Rāja Yoga, the mind is systematically analysed and various techniques are applied to bring it under control. This process turns the physical and mental energy into spiritual energy.

The practice of Rāja Yoga includes Hatha Yoga (yoga postures, cleansing techniques and breathing exercises) and meditation and other methods which help one to control body, mind and senses.

Rāja Yoga also includes Ashtanga Yoga (eight limbs), described by Patanjali Maharishi which leads to absolute mind control.

In our ashrams and centres, we follow Rāja Yoga through the practice of Hatha Yoga and meditation.

Swami SivanandaSivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres & Ashrams

"It is the path of knowledge. Moksha is attained through Knowledge of Brahman. Release is achieved through realisation of the identity of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul or Brahman.”

Swami Sivananda, on Jñāna Yoga

Jnana YogaSivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres & Ashrams


Jñāna ~ Knowledge

This is the philosophical approach to yoga, the yoga of knowledge.

Jñāna yoga is the most direct of the four paths, using intellectual inquiry for spiritual evolution.

It is practiced through:
Shravana – listening to the teachings of the guru or study of the scriptures such as Vedas
Manana – reflection on the teachings
Nididhyāsana – meditation on the nature of truth

A jñāna yogi uses the mind to examine its own nature through right inquiry (vicāra) and constant self-analysis (vivekā).

Through lectures and talks on a variety of topics related to the philosophy of yoga and through the study of spiritual texts and Gurus’ teachings, students and guests at our centres are exposed to Jñāna Yoga.

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