Gita Talk #11: Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks

(For next week please read Chapters 10 and 11, pages 121-143, in which the Gita suddenly
launches into extraordinary poetry to help our hero come to terms with the
infinite wonder of the universe.)

Near the end of  last week’s fascinating discussion about science vs. religion, I wrote the following to a supporter of the scientific view:

Ah, the beauty of Yoga. 

One can take a scientific view of the universe,
like yours,
or a divinity view
like Graham Schweig’s,
and still end up in pretty much
the same blissful place. 

The bliss can be seen
as the release of certain chemicals in the brain,
as in your view,
or a personal love affair with God,
as in Schweig’s view. 

The Gita doesn’t really care.
Both of you are experiencing
the infinite unfathomable wonder of the universe
first hand.

The ancient Yoga sage(s) who wrote the Gita recognized that different people would need different types of Yoga to match their personality types. 

People who are primarily analytical in nature might feel most comfortable with Jnana Yoga, or the Yoga of Knowledge.  They like to think and philosophize about Yoga.

People who are primarily people oriented might be most attracted  to Karma Yoga, or the Yoga of Action, which emphasizes selfless giving and compassion.

People who are highly emotional in nature might prefer Bhakti Yoga, or the Yoga of Love and Devotion, which emphasizes love, sacred chanting, mantras, and devotional kirtan music.

Finally, people who are what psychologists call “drivers” might tend towards Raja Yoga, or the Yoga of Meditation, as exemplified by the progressive spiritual attainment of the Yoga Sutra.

None of this is meant to pigeonhole people.  We all have aspects of all these types within us.  But most people have what psychologists call a “dominant style.”  And, according to the Gita, all of these paths lead to the same place–a deep awareness of the infinite wonder of the universe

I was surprised by how closely the types of Yoga in the Gita correspond to modern personality theory.  It’s almost an exact match.  The ancient Yoga guys figured out thousands of years ago that there are different Yoga strokes for different Yoga folks.

How do you blend these different types of Yoga in your practice? 

Do you identify with any particular one of them? 

Any additional discussion of Chapter 9 is also welcome.

Please see
Welcome to Gita Talk
for all Gita Talk blogs and general information.
Jump in anytime and go at your own pace.

34 replies on “Gita Talk #11: Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks”

For me it has been a beautiful journey from fearbased "but what if X went wrong"-thinking, to a lovebased thinking where all is and will continue to be Well. Meditation has been a extreamly efficient tool for me, making it easy to see what thoughts are hindering me or benefiting me.
I use the knowledge (as in jnana) of anatomy and biomecanics to treat my body with love (ahimsa; non-harming) as I twist, turn and bend myself into all kinds of yoga poses. But all of them (jnana, karma, bhakti, raja) are somehow incorporated in my practice and my everyday life.
Everyday is a gift and I love life. Feeling very comfy with my new mindset 🙂

Thanks, Bob! These types of yoga are also considered paths or margas!

From my blog:
“Even though I AM reflective which would indicate that Yoga Marga is right for me, I also lead a life of action in the world so Karma Marga also applies. And, God KNOWS, I can be ruled by my emotions (especially love) so sign me up for Bhakti Marga! And, yes (!), I do like the life of the MIND so Jnana Marga, too!”

Read more here…

Hi Brooks , sometimes i've heard it said that our personaility somewhat dictates what path of Yoga we are drawn to but i've found that its great to explore what all the paths have to offer. i think this can be a great way to deepen my understanding of myself. I think there is going to be a cross over in that it would be hard to work selflessly as a karma Yogi if you werent some way devoted to what is being done and the other way around also. Discline , Raja Yoga is needed to maintain focus for all the other paths, i see them as intermingling with each other and agree that if it becomes a label then the only path were on is STUCK

Great thought, Sevapuri. Even though I'm most naturally Jnana (The Yoga of Excessive Noodling), I really stretch myself out when I immerse myself in other types of Yoga. It's actually a good way to help one get outside one's ego!

That's actually a far better and more insightful question than the one I asked in the blog: How do you blend these different types of Yoga in your practice? I'm going to go and add that to the blog. Thanks.

Like to hear from the rest of our readers on this question.

Bob W.

Right so, I'm trying to find out what a "driver" is coz none of the others fit me completely (well Jnana does to a certain extent).

I have found in my practice, that hard work or effort is the path to God to a certain extent, but that could just be coz I'm Kapha!

Hi, tobye. Thanks again for all the great conversation in Gita Talk #10 about science and religion.

A "driver" is a person who's natural style is pushing hard toward progressive achievement in whatever they do, be it financial, spiritual, athletic, artistic, or anything else.

Hi Tobye!

From what you wrote:

“I have found in my practice, that hard work or effort is the path to God to a certain extent…”

it sounds that you have found the Path of Action, or Karma Yoga, to be working for you…

Cool, Thanks Brooks!

I guess seeing that I teach Karuna yoga, it's no wonder Karma yoga would be working for me!

I can see the hard work as a form of selfless giving, now that you've got me to focus on it :o)

I've never liked those personality types, which come up a lot in yogic and Buddhist philosophy, since I tend to gravitate among all or most of them–as can be seen by my comments here, I go back and forth between taking a very intellectual view–though one that involves a strange mix of a mechanistic view of the universe and an emphasis on compassion above all–and being utterly revolted by the same and wishing everybody'd just shut up and meditate…

Hmmm…"shut up and meditate" would be a really good name for a blog post…whaddaya call a yogi who's constantly trying to think of ways milk all this for blog material?

Well I think that the post, “Shut up and Meditate” could be a Jnana post (especially if you didn’t say anything…). And your recent CPR cert would be Bhakti… Anyway I’m not into being labeled either, but the labels serve to help to talk about the energies present in human experience, so I think it’s interesting and helpful to identify what’s in the brew of experience. I also see these designations as tools one can employ… But if I think of them as labels used to shut down further exploration, then I don’t like that.

Right, Brooks. Just tools, and often best left in the background, not brought to the fore. I dislike this personality type stuff too when it's used to restrict or limit people.

Early in my business career the idea of different personality style is one of the most important things I ever learned. But I always used it privately to help me understand people who are very different from me, not to restrict or pigeonhole them in any way.

(In business at least, the most effective people are those who are versatile. They can empathize with people of all styles and they are flexible in their own style, depending on the situation.)

Bob W.

Bob: That’s really interesting about the personality “styles” being important to you in business. And flexibility within one’s own personality definitely seems to be a helpful skill… Thanks for sharing that!

Understanding Ayurvedic dosha's helps me to understand people, it assigns them a type but it also helps you to be compassionate to the vata space cadet nutty professor mystic the pitta intellectual/scientist text the laid back Kapha who might not be bothered to post cuz they are so so serene.

When you see the world from a non-dual position, there is no difference between the brain chemicals and the belief in God. They are simply all part of the same system. The brain creates the ability to have abstract thought and the rest comes from there, including knowledge of and appreciation for those pesky universal laws, doshas, personality types and the practices that may reflect which strengths are more prevalent for us at a given time. From that perspective, there is no versus between religion and science.

I can agree with that wholeheartedly, Scott. I do like to place interconnection in that mix–even it is just a basic way of seeing cause and effect in a materialist universe. Still, the cause and effect of globalization, climate change, and aid efforts across national boundaries are fundamental ways of seeing that we aren't simply distinct self-serving agents but inter-operative beings in an increasingly connected world. If there is such a thing as "God," for me it is the creative, harmonious, rational and compassionate part of that interconnection.

Good thoughts, Matt. Thanks for writing.

I don't want to ask too big a question for the situation, but is it possible to summarize how Integral Theory views science and religion?

Bob W.

Hi everyone, the four main paths of Yoga are discussed in so many ways in the various Yoga Scritures, even Krishna here tells us devotion is the best way ( Bhakti) and wisdom is the bestest way ( Gyana) and action is the very best of best (Karma), this has meant for me that at certain times along the way the differant paths hold meaning and nourishment for my journey. I cant find it in my self to say that i follow only one path and i dont think of myself as jumping from path to path to suit what mood i'm in but as using the differant paths to help explore and understand the dilemas that face me and all of us not unlike Arjunas dilema on the battlefield. Usually i find myself imersed in one particular path before i know it and only realise on reflection where my energies were directed.

I wonder if anyone sees these as building on each other. Devotion is necessary to develop wisdom and wisdom is necessary to do karma yoga without harming others?

I agree, they build on each other and develop a depth of understanding that is more holistic ( thats a wierd word but i hope you get my meaning). In the teacher training course we teach each path for 5 weeks and every time whatever path i'm teaching i'm immersed in it and then its time to teach another path and i get immersed in that path and i find as you said each path builds on the other and the effect it has on my understanding of yoga is immense.

Hi, Sevapuri. Thanks for writing. I always found that intriguing that even Krishna can't seem to make up his mind as to which type of Yoga is the best, which, of course, drives home the message that:

However men try to reach me,
I return their love with my love;
whatever path they may travel,
it leads to me in the end. (BG 4.11)

Bob W.

Hi. I wonder if yoga is a good practice for each person? because when I said to my entourage that I want to do Yoga. They think that I'm too irritated, "active" … It's a little true because I never achieve of staying without move.
Thank for you help:) and sorry for spelling error, but I learn English.

I have not looked in here for some time for the reason that I believed it was becoming boring, but the last few blogposts are great good quality so I think I’ll add you back to my every day bloglist. You are worthy of it my buddy 🙂

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