Yoga of [Photo]Synthesis :: A Plant Guide to the Four Yoga Paths

Plants have had spiritual significance to humans for thousands of years. Feng shui teaches that
bamboo brings wealth while the peace lily brings compassion. With plants now used for
everything from their look in landscape, their taste in the garden, and with their smell in extracts,
plants of all kinds play an important role in our lives.

In yogic philosophy, there are four main paths known as the Yoga of Synthesis that help guide
yogis to the truth: Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Karma Yoga (action), Jnana Yoga (knowledge) Raja
Yoga (enlightenment). Below are plants available at the nursery that inspire me to connect to
the deeper elements within myself to practice different techniques among the four main paths of

Song of India ( Draceana Reflexa)

For thousands of years, yogis have practiced kirtan, an ancient practice of Bhakti Yoga , or the
yoga of devotion. In Sanskrit, the word kirtan means “to cut through”; thus, kirtan is a practice
that cuts through the idea of separation and connects us to the divine through sound. A
world-renowned mantra singer named Deva Premal says “In kirtan, we sing our praises to the
divine in the many forms in which it manifests.” She goes on to say that the mantras recited in
kirtan are a sound formula that have specific focus and energy.

In kirtan, mantras are repeated in song to guide the mind to a place of peace, away from the
excessive chatter. Because kirtan is also often enjoyed by a group of people, it brings the union
or “yoke” to the world of yoga through the connection of the healing sound. A popular mantra
“Om Mani Padme Hum” is simple, yet effective, to recite. It helps us expand our ability to have
kindness to ourselves and to others. The mantra helps us increase compassion, and, in turn, we
have a better sense of enjoyment and fulfillment in our lives.

The Song of India or Draceana Reflexa plant is native to islands of the Indian Ocean. It is a slow
growing plant that can be used as a table plant, bush, or short tree. It normally grows between
12 to 18 feet tall and 3 to 8 feet wide. It is a low maintenance plant that enjoys part-shade, so it
is great as a container or house plant. Because the Song of India is a happy indoor plant, it
could be the perfect addition to a meditation altar or anywhere in your home that may inspire
you to recite sanskrit mantra or your own versions of affirmation chants. The Song of India is the
physical plant form of a yogic practice created to share love through sound.

Bleeding Heart Vine (Clerodendrum Thomsoniae)

The Bleeding Heart Vine reminds me of the many postures in yoga that open the heart through
chest openers and backbends, especially Melting Heart Pose or Anahatasana. Anahata means
heart and asana means post so Anahatasana means heart pose. The pose is practiced by
coming to your hands and knees until your arms slide forward on your mat to your point of
comfort to find either the chin or the forehead resting on the mat with the heart energetically
pulling forward.

It is poses of this nature that encourage us to have open-heartedness in our lives outside of the
mat through Karma Yoga . Karma means “action” so this path of yoga is the practice of action
without attachment to the outcome. Oftentimes, Karma Yoga is referred to as “doing the right
thing” in following dharma, or purpose whilst accepting what comes, without expectation of
recognition or reward.

The Bleeding Heart Vine or Clerodendrum Thomsoniae is a species of flowering plant native to
tropical West Africa. Though it is often used to cover fence rows or as a hedge, it is
non-invasive. It typically grows to 4 meters tall. The Bleeding Heart Vine could be the great
addition to home or business landscaping as a reminder to give value to the present moment in
action through karma yoga.

Holy Basil (Ocimum Tenuiflorum)

The Holy Basil Plant has had spiritual and medicinal significance in India for thousands of years.
The plant aids in digestive and respiratory health and has been used as an antibiotic and
anti-cancerous herb. Most of all, the Holy Basil plant is known to increase the power of
concentration; hence, it is a great tool for journeying in the path of Jnana Yoga , the science of
mental control through meditation.

Ultimately, Jnana seeks to bring the yogi to meditation practice by turning physical and mental
energy into focused spiritual energy. Because our minds are so often cluttered, it is helpful to
have an herb nearby to help facilitate a meditative atmosphere. It is also said that wearing a
tulsi mala can help clear ones aura and make him find peace, strength, and stillness in life.

The Holy Basil plant is commonly known as Tulsi or Tulasi. It is native to the Indian
subcontinent. It is an aromatic herb that is great in booth cooking and essential oils. It requires
an ample amount of pruning, sunlight, and water to thrive. Though this particular plant may need
regular attention, its mere presence near a home is known to bring forth health and prosperity.

Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia)

A much larger plant than the last three examples is the Angel’s Trumpet tree, Brugmansia. It is
the perfect reflection of the combination of all paths for Raja Yoga , or the royal path. The
wisdom referred to in this description is the ability to have integrated and mastered the previous
paths so that Raja Yoga may lead the yogi to a union with their higher self. Moreover, this yoga
path allows a person to see their true nature. In our true nature, we may dissolve the veil that
keeps us from what we consider to be the divine. The Angel’s Trumpet gives me a feeling of
awe and wonder when I admire it. It is plants like this one that help me realize my

In the evening, this tree has 6 to 10 inch fragrant blooms. The tree itself often grows to 20 feet
tall and 20 feet wide. It is a woody tree or shrub with large, beautiful flowers that hang
upside-down, which resembles the bell of a trumpet. At the nursery, this plant is available in the
colors of white, pink, and peach.

Mahatma Ghandi once said “Truth is one, paths are many”. Though plants grow in different
ways with different needs along the way, their existence is intertwined and connected all along
the way. In the same way, there are many different paths in yoga but they all guide to the truth,
this is the essence of the Yoga of Synthesis.


This blog was written by Abigail Naaykens.

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