The Five Types of Yoga

The Sage Patanjali. While his true identity and origins are subject to speculation, it is thought that if he lived, he did so between 2nd century and 4th century CE. Image: Patanjali Yogpeeth, Haridwar, India. Wikipedia.

Both the Seer and the seen – meaning the Person and things – are both Brahman; thus, in the knowledge of that, full realization and understanding is born. 

-Patanjali Yoga Sutras 4:22

Yoga, literally translated means “to yoke” or “to join”, and as a system of psychological development, its practices were defined sometime in the first to second century BC by Patanjali, considered as a naga incarnation of Vishnu.  Whether or not Patanjali was an actual being is subject to speculation, but the Yoga Sutras that he set to writing lay out for the student a very specific system of self-cultivation, which, if followed and if the individual is capable, is meant to draw the human through the fields of illusory thought processes and inaccurate perception to merger with the source of ultimate peace and restfulness, endless energetic support, and bliss. 

Yoga is not a philosophical system per se, rather it is a practical means of applying an existing philosophical approach, in this case, Samkhya philosophy.  The study of Samkhya philosophy does not presuppose the need for the student to have a teacher whereas yoga does; rather, it offers a means of understanding the world that can be arrived at through self-analysis and objective consideration of the world, concepts of God and the individual’s place in the scheme of things.  This type of approach emphasizes clear knowledge, or Jnana, and the premise is that by rightly understanding what is to be understood, one can arrive at a place of peace or release from the suffering caused by existence in the phenomenal realm. 

Yoga, rather than strictly approaching this phenomenal world in terms of philosophy, instead offers the individual a methodology, and specific means of cultivating the body, mind, and spirit in order to live a more harmonious life.  Yoga offers tools that can enhance the individual’s capacity for positive self-creation, and accessing one’s true nature, which is synonymous with the ultimate reality that lies beyond this physical world, and which must be discovered through a process of self-application.  Yoga, from the literal meaning of the word “to yoke”, implies a process of doing.  There is an active process that is implied in the journey from the self to the Self, and while a process is implied, it can be regarded as a negative process, for what needs to be done is to actually stop the “doing of things” that hold us back from true awareness or understanding of our actual nature.  As well as presupposing an action, also implicit in the word yoga is the concept of duality, for in joining or uniting, there is the individual self and that with which the self unites.  The source of the act of union is thus, the Higher Self, the Source of all creation, ultimate transcendent reality, or God.  Yoga is therefore the act of reaching or attaining that place of merger, and attaining a permanent identification with the ultimate state of eternal, unchanging presence. 

Patanjali also defines yoga as “citta vritti nirodha”, or the process by which we stop the fluctuations in the subconscious mind which operate on our consciousness through the creation of incorrect ego identification, deluded perception based on sensory data and mental processes based on sensory data, and also the perceptions that arise due to the sullied condition of the build up within the subconscious mind.   Patanjali outlines several obstacles to realizing Yoga, and these are:  ignorance, egoism, attachment, hatred and clinging to life. Any or all of these obstacles will block our capacity for Yoga by their action on the mind, as they set up conditions that cause intense difficulties for achieving any real knowledge or realization.   By following the steps outlined in the Yoga Sutras, one can overcome the effects of these obstacles that mainly exist in the subconscious mind.  By clearing the subconscious mind, we thereby clear the path to a crystalline state of consciousness that is no longer affected by incorrect thoughts, emotions and misapplication of data processing.  For peace to emerge, the process of arising from the subconscious mind must be ceased or blocked (nirodha).  When this process of yoga occurs, the ego is stilled and the pseudo reality that is generally considered our only reality is surpassed.   The personal self resumes identification with the ultimate, impersonal reality.  Patanjali does not claim that there is any merger with this Ultimate Source.  Rather, the peace arises through the very cessation of attachment and identification with the constant fluctuations of personality.  This supposes the acquisition of a skill set that takes us to a greater place of self-control, energetic capacity, expanded awareness and personal capability. 

There are five main types of yoga:  Raja, Bhakti, Jnana, Karma and Hatha Yoga.  Each of these five varieties is presented in order to accommodate the many different types of characters that will be expressed in the seekers. 

Raja Yoga is a complete yoga path, (the royal road) and is the path outlined by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras.   Through understanding and development of the eight-fold route (ashtanga) outlined in the Yoga Sutras, the seeker can ultimately, through right practice, and through focussing on all-round self-control and firm establishment in meditation, come to a place of right and final knowledge of Reality, and thereby, find release. This path is multi-level and involves a mix of approaches – intellectual, physical, emotional and subtle.  All other Yogas eventually lead to Raja Yoga.   Within the realm of Raja Yoga, one finds many different elements, such as the study of Hatha Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Laya Yoga, Mantra Yoga, and Kriya Yoga.  All of these practices work together to bring the seeker to a point of full involvement, and prepare for the final shift to a new level of consciousness. 

Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion, and it involves the establishment of the relationship between the Lord and the devotee.  Through intense and complete devotion on the qualities of a personalized divinity, and concentration or meditation on the qualities of this God or Goddess, the devotee comes to a place of merger with the divinity, as when devotion is total, all that is understood or experienced is an expression of the God.  This is the sweetest form of yoga, as it is based in pure Love.

Jnana Yoga is the cultivation of clear knowledge, or ultimate knowledge.  Study of the Vedas, Upanishads and associated materials activate the higher mental functioning, and it is through the cultivation of the mind, the ultimate source of both suffering and release from suffering, that the student or seeker finds Reality. Jnana Yoga relies on the process of listening (sravana), reasoning (mananam), and suspension of personal experience (nididyasana).   By learning from the experience of others, studying the works of those who have gone before, the student comes to an understanding the workings of the mind, through trial and error, and extended experience and observation of the stages of mind function.  Once the mind and its ways are fully understood, the nature of Reality can be apprehended, and Jnana or true knowledge is gained.   This is not simply an intellectual process, but entails shifting away from the strict knowledge to gain an experiential understanding or awareness of the materials contemplated.  Thus knowledge no longer becomes the point of the Yoga, but the means to the end.

Karma Yoga is the yoga of action.  The Bhagavad Gita is the classic text of Karma Yoga, and through its study we can understand the condition of Yoga that can be found in undivided, attentive and dedicated action.  We are asked to immerse ourselves fully in our activity without regard for the potential outcome of these actions, acting strictly for the sake of the action, integrating and rising about self involvement and utilizing the Self as a tool or means of divine expression.  We are removed from the process of self-identification and Ego delusion by merger with the action, with the flow of events and with simple attention to the action itself becoming the point of Yoga. 

Hatha Yoga is cultivation of mastery over the bodily form, which when practiced with dedication, can lead us to the realization of ultimate Reality.  Through learning mastery over various asanas, or postures, the physical body is cultivated to a point where the flow of prana or universal energy becomes unimpeded or natural, and the connection between the physical, subtle and causal body becomes harmonized and strengthened.  Hatha Yoga is generally considered a precursor to greater immersion in other forms of yoga, such as Raja Yoga or Jnana Yoga, for it becomes clear to the student that cultivation of the physical, while valuable, is only one stage in a much greater realm of experience available to the seeker. 

Astrology: Sun Ingress to Leo 2020

Art: Nick Brandt, ‘Lion Before Storm II’, platinum palladium print, 2006.

Happy Birthday to all you Leos out there! Ruled by the Sun, Leo is the true star of the zodiac, gregarious, warm, loyal, proud, regal, generous, and always above reproach, for why would they ever ruin their reputation by being anything but fabulous at all times?

The month of Leo allows us the chance to embrace creativity and an openness of spirit. Leo rules the heart, and it is during this month that many of us typically take holidays with our loved ones, exploring and enjoying for a time the sense of wonder that most adults leave behind with childhood. The pandemic has certainly changed life for everyone on the planet, but we will leave it to Leo to lead us through with their sunshine and nobility, ever finding the silver lining to even the gloomiest perspectives.

Despite their seemingly effortless ability to conquer everything, all the time, this is a time to watch for Leo, as you will find pressures steadily mounting in terms of health, domestic situations, and the impact of any potential stressors on how partnerships are envisioned. Saturn sits at the threshold between Capricorn and Aquarius, and will move into Aquarius full by mid December 2020, remaining there until April 2023, and while travelling through Aquarius, will ask that Leo gets serious in matters of personal self-definition, how the ego is utilized in moving through the world, and how one finds oneself expressing authenticity vis a vis others. Jupiter blows through Aquarius next year, and will add some wind to your sails, and there is a risk of overdoing things, but that’s no problem, as sometimes we need to overdo it in order to fine tune our efforts until we achieve just the right balance. Jupiter’s expansion, while occasionally dangerous, is always of value in the long run, so work with that flow.

Be true to yourself, Leo, you have the full support of the universe behind you. Tough as it may seem, the discipline you need to let yourself shine at full capacity is there for you now, and for some time to come. Saturn doesn’t ask anything of us that we are truly not able to accomplish, even if that means digging deeper than ever before to find the grit required to succeed. At the end of this Saturn cycle, you will be tougher and more capable, your skills will be honed, and you will be better equipped to express the talents of your unique and glorious soul. Many happy returns Leo!

Mythology: Frejya, Norse Goddess of Love, Wealth, War and Death

Johannes Gehrts, ‘Freyja’, illustration, 1901.

Freyja, the Norse goddess of love, wealth, fertility, war, wealth and beauty was one of the Vanir, the original, old gods associated with Earth magic, Nature, and seidr, or the art of seeing and shaping the future according to will, or sorcery. She is sister to Freyr, god of peace, prosperity, virility, all things pleasant and good. As one of the old gods, the Vanir, Freyja has deeply shamanic energies; her association with seidr indicates that she used her powers to see the future, and with her divine nature, shaped the course of events according to her divine judgement.

Freyja is said to have a chariot drawn by cats, named Bygul and Trjegul, and a magical cloak of falcon feathers, which she would lend to supplicants in need of extra protection, or her love and fertility magic. She commands the apple, birch, alder, rose and vervain, as well as amber, copper, moonstone and silver. Her day is Friday, she is associated with the astrological sign Cancer, and along with Odin, lord of the Æsir, the gods of power and force, she is a goddess of Death. According to the Poetic Edda, Freyja takes half of the souls of those who departed in battle, bringing them to her Folkvangr, fields of glory and celebration, the other half going to Odin, to celebrate eternity in his great hall in Valhalla.

14. ‘Battle-field the ninth, where Freyja arrays

the choice of seats in the hall;

from half the slain she makes her choice each day:

the other half Odin has.

Donn Philip Crane, “Freyja and Freyr”, illustration, America, 1920.

Freyja is featured throughout Northern European folklore and as mentioned above, is noted in the 13th century Poetic Edda, the Prose Edda and Heimskringla, as well as the Icelandic sagas. Freyja may be the same figure as Gullveig, a key participant in the Æsir-Vanir War, which led to the eventual creation of a new pantheon of Norse, uniting the old gods of the nature with the newer pantheon, the Æsir, who were the gods of force and wrath, such as Odin, Thor and Loki. This new pantheon was born through complex diplomacy, hostage-sharing, intermarriage and the generation of new bloodlines.

Freyja is known for her beauty, her fierce might, her keen intelligence and fertility. Over time, based on the motif of her becoming an honored hostage among the Æsir, it seems she was transformed from a direct and independent nature goddess, one of the old gods who existed during the time of the primordial giants, into a minor, sidelined female. Eventually she was depicted in the 14th century in the Sörla þáttr as a concubine of Odin, subservient to his power, her character depicted as lustful, tricky and greedy. Her femininity results in her ultimate diminishment, just another character in the dramatic poetry of the times, not unusual given that the sweep of Christian values throughout Northern Europe during this period would have been more or less complete, even if only officially.

Astrology: Chiron in Aries

Pompeo Batoni, ‘Achilles and the Centaur Chiron’, oil on canvas, 1746. Chiron’s principle role was as a humane, wise and kind teacher.

Chiron stations retrograde 12 July 2020 at 9º26′ Aries, and will remain retrograde until 14 December 2020, when it stations direct at 4º56′ Aries. Chiron moved into Aries 18 April 2018, and will remain in Aries until 15 April 2027, with multiple retrograde cycles throughout this time period, the next appearing in August 2021.  With an erratic orbit, Chiron takes approximately 2- 9 years to travel through each sign of the zodiac. He takes 9 years to go through Aries, but only 2 years to move through Leo, Virgo, Libra and Scorpio. The longer he spends in any sign, will of course lead to a more developed expression and resulting overall impact, and there is much to consider in how Chiron distributes his energy throughout the zodiac. Chiron isn’t a planet per se; it is an asteroid, though it tends to function just as profoundly in our charts as would any other planet, particularly if in aspect to personal points or planets. He can be considered a generational influence, and as such, there will be many people of one’s own age-set who experience his impact upon their lives in a similar fashion. Personal understanding of world events and cultural trends and how these impact us on an individual level will be very similarly apprehended. Chiron does not rule any particular sign, as his influence is universal, and can be expressed through any of the twelve zodiacal sign permutations. He can be considered a helper, a maverick, a go-between, a form of psychopomp, shaman or mediator, as his influence on the chart is to show exactly where it is that we need to address challenges, wounds, and those difficult things that give us trouble which we tend to suppress, frequently experienced only in projection, denial or complete repression.

Considering his mythological origins, we know that Chiron was a centaur, half-man and half-horse. This speaks of his capacity to unite the more evolved intellectual and spiritual capabilities of humanity with the raw, primal, animalist urges which still flow through our bodies and psyches, mammals that we are. As far as centaurs went, most were quite bestial, falling prey to uncontrollable urges of lust, aggression and physicality. As Chiron was the foster-son of Apollo, god of medicine, healing, prophecy and music, his education in the arts and sciences elevated him above the common experience of his brethren, and allowed him a wider perspective on life. As with most of humanity, he had a personal tragedy which defined the course of his life. His occurred when entertaining the great hero Hercules; he offered the hero the wine of Dionysus, and in lust and rage, his fellow centaurs sought to attack Hercules at his leisure. Not one to stand for any affront, Hercules took it upon himself to slaughter the attacking centaurs. Chiron was caught in the crossfire, and was wounded with a poisoned arrow, tipped with a fatal toxin. Being immortal, Chiron was unable to die from his wound, as one normally would, but instead had to withstand immense torment and suffering as the poison continually worked through his body, causing him unending agony. He was finally released from his torment by Prometheus, who offered his mortal soul in exchange for Chiron’s immortality, thereby satisfying the punitive urges of an angry Zeus who sought eternal revenge for the crimes that Prometheus had committed against the gods. And so, Chiron was able to finally die, but his energy lived on in the constellation Centaurus.

Because of his terrible biography, Chiron is frequently referred to as “the wounded healer”. His energy has to do with the processes of acknowledgement, understanding and acceptance. There is no sugar-coating it, Chiron poses a difficult energy, as it underlines that part of us which causes us to feel most dysfunctional. Every individual soul has something specific and definite which perpetually causes shame, grief, discomfort, insecurity, and a feeling of impotence or lack of capacity. We all suffer from this reality. Chiron’s sign and house placement can help us to understand exactly how to find the thorn in our side, and with attention, objectivity, honesty and effort, Chiron offers us an opportunity for tremendous growth and maturity.

When in Aries, Chiron is working with the typical Aries issues of immaturity, impetuosity, selfishness, callousness, and the principles of force, personal and global power, manifestation of will, energy exchange, violence, aggression, domination, and war. How we move through the world, how we choose to initiate action, how we create something from nothing, the way in which we exert our willpower – all of these things are point of focus with Chiron in Aries. This correlates quite tellingly with current events, as we find ourselves gripped in the chokehold of a global pandemic that has utterly changed the way the world operates. The old rules of engagement no longer apply, either on a personal or transpersonal level, and this thwarting of the will impacts the individual on a deeply personal, visceral level. We feel powerless and infantilized in the face of forces so much larger than us (Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto). Exertion of will is squelched, and movement through space and time – a basic Aries function – is limited, requiring reconsideration and editing at every step.

For Chiron turning retrograde at 9º 26’, the related Sabian Symbol is this: “A man teaching new forms for old symbols….this is a symbol of the continuous and necessary rectification of understanding through direct and every day experience, such as brings every factor of inner realization into immediate and personal significance. Key themes: interpretation, exceptional capacity for putting one’s individual heritage to work, and when negative, witless distortion of values and twisted perspective in general events.” (Marc Edmund Jones, ‘The Sabian Symbols in Astrology’.) This speaks strongly of the current requirement to look deeply at our shared histories, our personal and societal prejudices, and the need for firm and courageous honesty (an Arian trait, when well utilized). As mentioned above, an unhealthy Chiron can result in projection, denial, suppression and oppression. On a global level, it is far too much to realistically expect anything but an unhealthy expression, so projection and denial are the name of the game. With projection, we find massive attempts at scapegoating, cancel culture, blame/shame tactics, and endless, exhausting tautological arguments where someone is to blame, is always to blame, will and must be blamed. Sound a bit like what we have going on right now? Indeed.

Combined with Neptune in Pisces, in itself stewing a hot-bed of fomenting mania, Chiron in Aries energy now creates a dangerous atmosphere that will likely continue to result in further examples of public, damaging witch-hunting, false accusations, and wild assertions based on ill-examined and little understood, unconscious matter. It’s like the world sprang a leak of deep, wretched toxicity, and it is just oozing all over the place, the spill widening, the stain sinking ever deeper into the fabric of our consciousness. How to remedy this? We must summon higher standards of personal accountability, courage, energetic determination aimed at self-betterment and pro-actively call out lies, bullying, manic/panic reactions and practice basic grounding. Keeping it real is hard, but it is what we have to do in order to ensure that things don’t spiral out of control. I am not going to touch on the influences of the other trans-generational planets here (Saturn, Uranus, Pluto), as this would entail lengthy and intensive review which presupposes the patience of you, dear reader, but suffice it to say that we are in a pressure cooker of wild archetypal matter, all swirling into a thick and heady stew of crazy-making. How to make it through this time, sanely and maturely?  Keep it real, ground yourselves, ask yourselves, not once, not twice but perhaps thrice “Is that true? Is that real? What does it really mean to me, and just why am I so angry about that?” before joining in the fray which is building on the sidelines, stronger and deeper each and every day. Chiron in Aries wants to taste blood, and perhaps in obeisance to the gods, we must offer up a bit, but the point here is that in order for us to grow, our bloodlust needs to evolve into something new. Aries requires a maturation process, and we have years to go until Chiron moves along into Taurus, but we have so much room for transformation available. We can harness that dynamic, pioneering Aries energy for true change, on both global and personal levels. This is the opportunity that Chiron in Aries offers us; to take up the mantle of the blooded soldier, the seasoned battle commander with the clarity of vision that only experience and wisdom can bring.

Thank you for reading, and be well, all.