The word "yoga" conjures pictures of contorting the body through stretching exercises. Not all yoga practices, however, are made up of physical exercises. Sivananda.org explains that Jnana yoga is a practice of searching and contemplation, making it the most difficult of yoga paths. In order to fully follow Jnana yoga, you must have extremely strong willpower and intellect.
Jnana yoga is the yoga of knowledge or wisdom. In seeking to follow Jnana yoga, you are setting out on a path to wisdom, a path to realize and know the self. This main purpose of Jnana yoga is reached by attuning oneself with spirit, withdrawing the mind or illusion of self so that you are open to the perception of truth.
In his book "The Yoga of Truth," Peter Marchand explains how experiences and tapping into your true identity is important to the practice of Jnana. Examining your surroundings and the experience you have with them will lead to the enlightenment that comes with full realization of truth. Marchand acknowledges that all yogas can lead to enlightenment if followed completely, but Jnana yoga can be beneficial to anyone by keeping the central objective of seeking the truth at the forefront of the practice.
All is One
The basis for the Advaita Vedanta in Jnana yoga is non-duality, or all is one. The website of the International Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres maintains that the perception of separateness is an illusion. Using the imagery of a glass, it explains that you might think the space inside the glass is a different place than the space outside the glass, just as a person sees herself as an individual being, separate from all others and God. Jnana yoga encourages you to break the glass, thereby dispelling the illusory veil that separates us from each other and God. That is the heart of the Vedantic teachings: God only is real. The world is unreal. The individual is none other than God.
Although the exercises performed in practicing Jnana yoga aren't of the physically taxing sort, the practices are useful. Pravin K. Shah writes in his article "All Life is Yoga" that study, thinking, direct inquiry and contemplation are the basic practices employed in Jnana yoga. Shah encourages meditation to ask "Why am I here?" "What is real and unreal?" and ultimately "Who am I?" The skills you've honed in examining your experiences and surroundings are useful for expanding yourself and your mind to perform this type of thinking and contemplation.
- The Yoga of Truth: Jnana: The Ancient Path of Silent Knowledge; Peter Marchand
- Sivananda: The Four Paths of Yoga
- Harvard.edu: All Life is Yoga; Pravin K. Shah
- Yoga World: Jnana Yoga
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.