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

Via Bob Weisenberg
on Jun 27, 2010
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(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.


About Bob Weisenberg

Bob Weisenberg: Editor, Best of Yoga Philosophy / Former Assoc. Publisher, elephant journal / Author: Yoga Demystified * Bhagavad Gita in a Nutshell * Leadership Is Like Tennis, Not Egyptology / Co-editor: Yoga in America (free eBook) / Creator: Gita Talk: Self-paced Online Seminar / Flamenco guitarist: "Live at Don Quijote" & "American Gypsy" (Free CD's) / Follow Bob on facebook, Twitter, or his main site: Wordpress.


34 Responses to “Gita Talk #11: Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks”

  1. paramsangat says:

    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 :)

  2. Brooks Hall says:

    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…

  3. […] Gita Talk #11: Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks […]

  4. tobye says:

    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!

  5. 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?

  6. YogiOne says:

    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.

  7. Sevapuri says:

    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.

  8. vic says:

    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.

  9. 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 :)

  10. […] Gita Talk #11: Different Yoga Strokes for Different Yoga Folks […]

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