I understand from Autobiography of a Yogi, that the type of Yoga that most Yogis preferred was Raja Yoga. Is this true? What is the difference between Raja Yoga Hatha Yoga, Kriya Yoga, and the energization excersizes? Do you practice Yoga, and what type of yoga do you do? I practice Hatha yoga. Should I switch to Raja yoga for spiritual developement?
—Tammy , USA
Our practice at Ananda is best described as Raja Yoga, or the ‘royal’ yoga. Raja Yoga is the harmonious combination of several yogas — including Hatha Yoga — with meditation as the supreme guide.
Meditation is integral to the path of Raja Yoga, and for that we have several specific meditation techniques that were taught by our Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda. Kriya Yoga is one of those techniques. The Energization Excercises, while not exactly a meditation technique, are important to understanding and working with the life force in deep Kriya Yoga practice.
Other important yogas that are part of Raja Yoga are Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Gyana Yoga. The Raja Yogi practices all of these to varying degrees, because they all aid and support each other.
For example, deep love and devotion to God, as practiced in Bhakti Yoga, is integral to success on the spiritual path. But without meditation, that devotion can turn outward into mere emotion. Meditation without Karma Yoga, or selfless God-reminding activity, may make the yogi become selfish or lazy.
Gyana Yoga, or the yoga of wisdom, is essential because we must use discrimination and wisdom in order to understand ourselves, our desires and attachments, our likes and dislikes, and all the ways in which we can go astray on the spiritual path. Gyana Yoga without Karma Yoga, however, can become mere armchair philosophizing, of no real use.
This is only the barest of explanations of how these yogas work together to help the yogi become balanced, and to fully integrate their inner spiritual experiences. These yogas are not an end in themselves, but serve the real goal of yoga — in its meaning of “union with God”, or as Paramhansa Yogananda put it, “union of the little, ego-self with the divine Self, the infinite Spirit.”
Swami Kriyananda’s The Art and Science of Raja Yoga is an extraordinary guide for people on any spiritual path, and gives a much fuller explanation of these different yogas, and how they support eachother.