Yoga has been likened to an ocean fed by many rivers, with each one fed by many. The ocean in its enormity is the ocean. And once there, all the traces of the river that lead to it dissolve.
These rivers on their way to their final destination naturally differ in their courses, but not their final destination. It is only when still, in the flow of the river, that these differences have any significance.
Each of these rivers is fed by many streams and rivulets. The range of techniques and tools of yoga is endless. And impossible to enumerate, or classify exhaustively.
Historically there have been five main branches of Yoga:
Raja Yoga The Royal Path, with emphasis on meditation
Jnana Yoga The Path of Wisdom, with emphasis on self-inquiry
Hatha Yoga The Path of Energy, with emphasis on energetic balancing
Bhakti Yoga The Path of Devotion with emphasis on worship
Karma Yoga The Path of Action, with emphasis on service
As each of us goes deeper on any one path, the more it reveals. And the more it may resemble the others in effect, if not in method. The distinctions between them are mostly of emphasis and approach. These differences take into account the broad spectrum of human inclination, and aptitude, thereby permitting greater access to the ocean of yoga.
Yoga represents the highest ideal, and attainment of the human being. However, it is not a philosophical phenomenon, but an experiential one. In essence, it is the undiluted experience of the full potential of human existence. This experience, or state of being, is not exclusive to Yoga.
It is accessibly many other spiritual practices from other cultures, East and West. It has been given many names to describe it: All inadequate, and partial; but each giving a sense of it from a particular angle.
Liberation: freedom from bondage.
Emancipation: freedom from the self.
Salvation: freedom from suffering.
Self-realization: freedom from the ego.
The word yoga itself implies all of these meanings. It is a state of being in which all apparent opposites, distinctions, and states are reconciled experientially, as well as ontologically in a state of unity. The word yoga means union. This means not only union of the parts with each other, but also with the whole.
Therein we are able to live without fragmentation, or inner conflict. We are able to trace our whole being from the surface to the depths. We encompass both our transient limitations, and our perennial limitlessness.
We express through our individuality, the wholeness of which are a momentary fleeting expression. We honor, and live from, by, and within our true nature. Yoga is the key to a life of peace, and contentment. </b+1>