The Mayan Calendar comes to a close, and many predict the end of times. But I see that 2012 is a year that promises change, new beginnings, a shift in thinking. We are moving away from the information age, and moving towards an inspiration age. And as we are transitioning our behaviors from those of consumers to those of citizens, we are looking at what is really important in our lives, and asking ourselves big question - such as: what is my purpose in life?

In the west, we think of yoga primarily as a form of exercise. Although physical postures make up one branch of this philosophy, yoga in general is so much more. The Sanskrit word “yoga” means to yoke, or to unite. In Vedanta there are four different yogas, or spiritual practices, to help us to accomplish a feeling of connection, body, mind, and spirit. The yogas can be practiced individually or in combination, as each one balances and strengthens the others.

The four yoga paths could be thought of as bridges, bringing us from a limited understanding of who we think we are, to the greater understanding of who we really are. These paths help us to be aware of, and express, our purpose, our dharma, through love, work, knowledge and meditation.

Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and devotion. Bhakti is the love of all creation. It is about loving what is, without expectation. Through our relationships with people we can experience a greater awareness. There is a power, a positive energy that comes with love, that we can utilize for our spiritual growth. With Bhakti Yoga, we learn through our relationships, and through our primary relationship, which is with ourselves.

Karma Yoga is the path of work, or the path of service. This is work without attachment to the end result. Rather than working for a paycheck, it is performing the work we do as a spiritual offering. We do what needs to be done, and we love what we do.

Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge. Knowing is different than believing, it uses reasoning to help us shed the veil of illusion. Jnana Yoga teaches to become more discerning, recognizing the difference between what is temporary and what is eternal, so that we understand that we are pure, perfect, and free.

Raja Yoga is the path of meditation. By stilling the mind through meditation, we can experience more of our true selves. Raja Yoga explains that we need to settle down the mind, which is constantly stirred up with thoughts just as a lake is muddied through activity.

There is wisdom to be gained from each of these paths. Yet quite often one of these paths will resonate with particular individuals more than the others. One will seem to offer a more clear direction, a more personal journey.

Author's Bio: 

Lissa Coffey is the author of “What’s Your Dharma? Discover the Vedic Way to Your Life’s Purpose.” Take the dharma quiz to help determine your dharma at: