Swami Sivananda’s Yoga of Synthesis integrates the four paths of Yoga in order for the aspirant to develop him/herself in a complete way.
- Karma Yoga or selfless service: Also know as the Yoga of action, Karma Yoga is the core of the entire Sivananda Organization. Put in a simple way, it is the path of Yoga where one serves with no expectations of reward. The duties are performed with the feeling that one is serving God through humanity. Karma Yoga is meant to purify the ego, for as one serves, one becomes an instrument in the hands of God, loosing his/her identification with the work done and forgetting about his/hers own wants and needs.
- Bhakti Yoga or the Yoga of devotion: In Swami Sivananda’s words, Bhakti Yoga is the easiest and surest way to attain God-Realization in this present age. Through prayers, chants and worship one turns his/hers emotions into devotion, developing an unconditional love toward all creation, for God is beheld everywhere.
- Raja Yoga: Raja Yoga deals with the control of the mind through the study and understanding of its workings. A set of practices is prescribed to discipline and control the components of the human being: body, prana (vital energy) and mind. With the tools provided by these practices, one develops will power and clarity of mind.
- Jñana Yoga or the Yoga of knowledge: this is the intellectual approach of Yoga. Through the practice of Vedanta and a deep philosophical enquiry, one investigates the nature of the Self. This path is said to be the most difficult one, for the aspirant needs some previous qualifications as well as great will power and courage to face the Truth.
Swami Vishnudevananda made the yogic teachings understandable and available to all by simplifying them into five points, showing specific ways to develop physical and mental health as well as spiritual growth through:
- Proper Exercise (Asanas) – The meaning of the word Asana is steady and comfortable posture. They are practiced in a systematic way in order to stretch the body, relieving tension and increasing flexibility and to improve blood circulation, oxygenating the tissues, removing toxins and carrying nutrients throughout the entire system.
- Proper Breathing (Pranayama) – Pranayama or breathing exercises are a powerful tool to render the mind calm and clear and the intellect sharp. Through slow, deep and conscious breath one can reduce the stress and many other disorders associated with poor breathing habits.
- Proper Relaxation (Savasana) – Techniques of deep conscious relaxation, in which the practitioner experiences a complete rest for the body and mind while aware of it. It allows the body to replenish itself with energy overcoming the fatigue and the mind to become free from worries and anxieties.
- Proper Diet (vegetarian) – There are various reasons for vegetarianism, among them are the non-violence against other living creatures, environmental and economic purposes and also the subtle effect that the food has on the body and mind. Yoga teaches how to live a simple life and the food plays a big role. The practitioner avoids those kinds of food which stimulates the mind and the system and those that make them slow and lethargic. Eggs, meats, fish, onion, garlic, coffee, drugs, tobacco and alcohol are avoided.
- Positive Thinking (Vedanta) and Meditation (Dhyana) – Through the practice of the four previous points, one becomes happier and with a better approach of life. Positive thinking comes when one begins to feel better about oneself and to accept the situations in life with a clearer understanding. Meditation is then achieved as the mind no longer dwells on vain worries and preoccupations, it’s energy is no longer scattered and slowly brought to one-pointedness.