The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yoke, join or unite. This implies joining or integrating all aspects of the individual – body with mind and mind with soul – to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life, and spiritually, uniting the individual with the supreme.
Legend has it that knowledge of Yoga was first passed by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati and from there into the lives of men.
There is a lot written about Yoga.
According to Tirumular Yoga is Tirumandiram (or Thirumandiram) written by the Yoga Siddhar Tirumular (or Thirumoolar) in Tamil, in more than three thousand verses, probably between the 4th and 6th centuries A.D., is the oldest and most important text of Yoga from south India, It is a work of Yoga, tantra, mysticism, mantra, kundalini and monistic theism. The 12th century philosophical school of Saiva Siddhantha traces its origins to it.
For the purpose of systematic study of the historical development of yoga, it may be divided in to three periods. They are
- Pre-Patanjali Period: [Before 500 B.C]
- Patanjali period: [500 BC to 800 A.C]
- Post Patanjali Period: [800 A.C onwards]
- Pre-Patanjali Period
The historical evidences of yoga were seen up to 4500 B.C. So the time before 4500 B.C. and after 4500 B.C. up to Patanjali period is considered as pre Patanjali period. The main sources which we can get during those times are Vedas, Upanishads, Smrti, Teaching of Buddha, Jainism, Panini, Epics and Puranas.
Vedas: Among the available Vedas four are important, namely Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda and Atharvaveda. There is no any direct explanation of word yoga in Vedas, whereas the word `dhira`, is mentioned in all Vedas. The meaning of dhira is self-realized. The sitting posture i.e., Asana, the Pranayama, the Mudras, Meditation techniques, the cleanliness Yama and Niyama, the Dharanas are explained in Vedas. The asanas explained in Vedas are mainly for the purpose of meditation. The sun salutation was the part of routine activity during that time. The Pranayama that is told in the Yajurveda, which is practiced during the regular practice, is same as Anuloma Viloma. The various types of meditation techniques are also explained in the Vedas. The practice of mudras is also explained in the Vedas. The Vedas also explain about the Tapas, Vratas and the ultimate aim of them are to attain Moksa (liberation).
Upanishads: Upanishads are the essences of the Vedas. Among the available Upanishads, 10 are important. The important Upanishads that have explanations about yoga are as follows. The Panchakosha theory is explained in Taittariya Upanishad is the main theory used in the treatment of diseases through yoga. Kathopanishad explains procedure to attain Samadhi. This Upanishad explains the qualities of soul. The Kenopanishad, the Ishavasya Upanishad, Shwetasvatara Upanishads are also gives details about yoga.
Smrti: The Smrits are the texts, which deal about the disciplines that one has to follow in his life. The main smrtis, which give details about yoga, are Manusmrti, Yajnavalkya Smrti, and Harita Smriti. According to the smrtis there are four stages in life, they are
The Smrtis also give details about the lifestyles that we have to follow during these different stages of life. According to smrtis one has to sit in a seat that is prepared from Darbha (one type of grass) for meditation. The asanas good for meditation are also explained in smrtis.
Jainism: In Jainism also yoga is explained. According to Jainism the movement of the mind and body towards the soul is called yoga.
Teachings of Buddha: According to Buddha body is a fit vehicle to get the tranquility of mind. For getting the steadiness of mind the body should become steady at first. The methods of meditation are also explained in teachings of Buddha. According to that there are two types of meditations, Suksma dhyana and Nirhara dhyana.
Panini: He was a famous grammarian of Sanskrit. He wrote 8 chapters lessons of grammar, Astadhyayi. The usage of word yoga is there in his work.
The Epics: The Ramayana and Mahabharata are the two main epics that give the details about yoga. Ramayana consists of 24,000 slokas distributed among seven chapters. The great book of yoga known as Yoga Vasistha was written in this time. In Ramayana the moral disciplines, Yama and Niyama are explained in detail. We can see the definition for Dharma in this book.
Mahabharata is another important epic, which gives details about yoga. The Bhagavad-Gita is known as jewel of Mahabharata gives the definition for yoga.
Puranas: Among the available puranas eighteen are important. Out of these few puranas give details about yoga. The Bhagavata purana explains Bhakti yoga. Linga Purana gives the details about Yama, Niyama and Pranayama. Vayu Purana gives details about Pratyahara, Dharana, and Dhyana.
Patanajali Period [500 BC – 800BC]
The period between 500 BC and 800 AD is considered as Patanjali’s period. Patanjali systematized yoga in the form of sutras. Patanjlai was the author of classics in three important fields. He wrote a treatise on grammar; the Mahabbhasya. He has also written book on Ayurveda. He has the credit of compiling Yoga sutra.
Patanjali’s yoga sutra consists of 196 sutras, it is divided into four chapters, and they are,
Samadhi pada: This chapter deals with the nature of Samadhi.
Sadhana Pada: This chapter deals with the methods for refining the body mind and senses.
Vibhuti Pada: In this chapter the properties of Yoga and art of integration through concentration, meditation and absorption. The manifestation of super natural power is discussed.
Kaivalya Pada: In this final section, Patanjali draws the attention of the Yogi to the soul. The various types of Samadhi are explained in this chapter.
These Yoga sutras explain every aspects of yoga in systematically.
According to Patanjali Yoga Sutras Yoga is Patañjali divided his Yoga Sutras into 4 chapters or books (Sanskrit pada), containing in all 196 aphorisms, divided as follows:
Samadhi Pada (51 sutras)
Samadhi refers to a blissful state where the yogi is absorbed into the One. The author describes yoga and then the nature and the means to attaining samādhi. This chapter contains the famous definitional verse: “Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ” (“Yoga is the restraint of mental modifications”).
Sadhana Pada (55 sutras)
Sadhana is the Sanskrit word for “practice” or “discipline”. Here the author outlines two forms of Yoga: Kriya Yoga (Action Yoga) and Ashtanga Yoga (Eightfold or Eightlimbed Yoga).
Kriya yoga, sometimes called Karma Yoga, is also expounded in Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, where Arjuna is encouraged by Krishna to act without attachment to the results or fruit of action and activity. It is the yoga of selfless action and service.
Ashtanga Yoga describes the eight limbs that together constitute Raja Yoga.
Vibhuti Pada (56 sutras)
Vibhuti is the Sanskrit word for “power” or “manifestation”. ‘Supra-normal powers’ (Sanskrit: siddhi) are acquired by the practice of yoga. The temptation of these powers should be avoided and the attention should be fixed only on liberation.
Kaivalya Pada (34 sutras)
Kaivalya literally means “isolation”, but as used in the Sutras stands for emancipation, liberation and used interchangeably with moksha (liberation), which is the goal of Yoga. The Kaivalya Pada describes the process of liberation and the reality of the transcendental ego.
The eight limbs of Yoga
Ashtanga yoga consists of the following limbs: The first five are called external aids to Yoga (bahiranga sadhana)
Yama refers to the five abstentions. These are the same as the five vows of Jainism.
Ahimsa: Ahimsa: non-violence, inflicting no injury or harm to others or even to one’s own self, it goes as far as nonviolence in thought, word and deed.
Satya: Satya truth in word and thought.
Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is his own.
Brahmacharya: abstinence, particularly in the case of sexual activity. It does not necessary imply celibacy. Rather, responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. It suggests that we should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths. “Practicing brahmacharya means that we use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that we don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others.”
Niyama refers to the five observances
Shaucha: cleanliness of body and mind.
Santosha: satisfaction; satisfied with what one has.
Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline and thereby mental control.
Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within,
Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.
Discipline of the body: rules and postures to keep it disease-free and for preserving vital energy. Correct postures are a physical aid to meditation, for they control the limbs and nervous system and prevent them from producing disturbances.
Pranayama: control of breath. Beneficial to health, steadies the body and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind.
Pratyahara: withdrawal of senses from their external objects.
The last three levels are called internal aids to Yoga (antaranga sadhana).
Dharana: concentration of the Chitta upon a physical object, such as a flame of a lamp, the mid point of the eyebrows, or the image of a deity.
Dhyana: steadfast meditation. Undisturbed flow of thought around the object of meditation (pratyayaikatanata). The act of meditation and the object of meditation remain distinct and separate.
Samadhi: oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation. Samadhi is of two kinds:
A. Samprajnata Samadhi conscious samadhi. The mind remains concentrated (ekagra) on the object of meditation, therefore the consciousness of the object of meditation persists. Mental modifications arise only in respect of this object of meditation.
This state is of four kinds:
Savitarka: the Chitta is concentrated upon a gross object of meditation such as a flame of a lamp, the tip of the nose, or the image of a deity.
Savichara: the Chitta is concentrated upon a subtle object of meditation, such as the tanmatras
Sananda: the Chitta is concentrated upon a still subtler object of meditation, like the senses.
Sasmita: the Chitta is concentrated upon the ego-substance with which the self is generally identified.
B. Asamprajnata Samadhi supraconscious. The Chitta and the object of meditation are fused together. The consciousness of the object of meditation is transcended. All mental modifications are checked (niruddha), although latent impressions may continue.
Combined simultaneous practice of Dhāraṇā, Dhyāna and Samādhi is referred to as Samyama and is considered a tool of achieving various perfections, or Siddhis. But as stated above, siddhis are but distractions from Kaivalaya and are to be discouraged. Siddhis are but Maya. The purpose of using samadhi is not to gain siddhis but to achieve Kaivalya.
Post Patanjali Period:
The time after Patanjali up to today is known as post Patanjali Period. The yoga developed gradually after the period of Patanjali. Many classical texts about yoga were written during these periods. The great personalities of yoga and their texts on yoga are as follows.
Shankaracharya (8th Century): Sri Shankaracharya proposed Advaita Philosophy. He has written Yoga Taravali, which tells about Hatha Yoga and Saundarya lahari that explains Kundalini Yoga. He has also written commentary on Patanjala Yoga Sutras.
Ramanujacarya (11th Century): He has written the book Tantra Sara that explains Kundalini yoga. He proposed Vishistadvaita philosophy.
Bhakti Yoga Period:
Bhakti Yoga was popular during 12th century to 16th century. Narada Bhakti sutra, the famous text on Bhakti became popular at that time.
Surdasa, Tulasidasa, Purandara dasa, Kanaka dasa, Vittala dasa, Merabai were some of the famous Bhakti Yogis. They popularized the Bhakti Yoga through devotional songs. They have also written devotional songs.
Hatha Yoga period:
The Hatha Yoga period is from 9th century to 18th century. The development was at its peak during the 14th century. Adinatha was the founder of Hatha Yoga.
The various Hatha yogis and the books written by them on Yoga are as follows.
Matsyendranatha (9th Century) — Kala jnana nirnaya.
Goraksanatha (9th Century) — Goraksa Shataka
Chauranginatha (11th century) — Chaurangi Shataka.
Svatmarama (14th Century) — Hatha Pradipika
Gheranda (15th Century) —- Gheranda Samhita
Shrinivasa Bhatta (17th Century) — Hatha Ratnavali. After the hatha yogis period Yoga was popularized by some great personalities’. The famous personalities and their contributions for popularizing Yoga during this period are as below.
Sadashiva Brahmendra Saraswati: He has written‘Shiva Yoga dipika’, which tells about Yama, Niyama, Asanas, and Adharas of the body.
Ramana Maharshi, Ramakrishna Parama hamsa, Parama hamsa yogananda gave their contributions for Raja Yoga. The great disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, has written commentary on Patanjala Yoga Sutras. He was also a great Sadhaka.
According to Hatha Yoga Pradeepika Yoga is The Hatha Yoga.
Pradipika (Sanskrit: Haṭhayoga Pradīpikā, हठ योग प्रदीपिका) is a classic Sanskrit manual on hatha yoga, written by Svami Svatmarama, a disciple of Swami Gorakhnath. Said to be the oldest surviving text on the hatha yoga, it is one of the three classic texts of hatha yoga, the other two being the Gheranda Samhita and the Shiva Samhita.
The text was written in 15th century CE. The work is derived from older Sanskrit texts and Swami Svatamarama’s own yogic experiences. Many modern English translations of the text are available.
The book consists four Upadeśas (chapters) which include information about asanas, pranayama, chakras, kundalini, bandhas,kriyas, shakti, nadis and mudras among other topics. It runs in the line of Hindu yoga (to distinguish from Buddhist and Jainyoga) and is dedicated to Lord Adinatha, a name for Lord Shiva (the Hindu god of destruction and renewal), who is believed to have imparted the secret of hatha yoga to his divine consort Parvati.
Panini: He was a famous grammarian of Sanskrit. He wrote 8 chapters lessons of grammar, Astadhyayi. The usage of word yoga is there in his work.
The Epics: The Ramayana and Mahabharata are the two main epics that give the details about yoga. Ramayana consists of 24,000 slokas distributed among seven chapters. The great book of yoga known as Yoga Vasistha was written in this time. In Ramayana the moral disciplines, Yama and Niyama are explained in detail. We can see the definition for Dharma in this book.
According to Vedvyas Yoga is Vyasa (Devanagari: व्यास, vyāsa) is a central and revered figure in most Hindu traditions. He is also sometimes called Veda Vyasa (वेद व्यास, veda vyāsa), (the one who classified the Vedas in to four parts) or Krishna Dvaipayana (referring to his complexion and birthplace). He is the author as well as a character in the Mahabharata and considered to be the scribe of both the Vedas, and the supplementary texts such as the Puranas. A number of Vaishnava traditions regard him as an Avatar ofVishnu. Vyasa is sometimes conflated by some Vaishnavas with Badarayana, the author of the Vedanta Sutras. Vyāsa is also considered to be one of the seven Chiranjivins (long lived, or immortals), who are still in existence according to general Hindu belief. He is also the fourth member of the Rishi Parampara of the Advaita Guru Paramparā of which Adi Shankara is the chief proponent. He is believed to be the grand guru of Adi Shankara’s grand guru Gaudapada.
The festival of Guru Purnima, is dedicated to him, and also known as Vyasa Purnima as it is the day, which is believed to be his birthday and also the day he divided the Vedas.
According to Gita Yoga is “SAMATVAMYOGAUCHYATE” – yoga is balance. BhagwadGita
“YOGAKARMASUKAUSHALAM” – yoga is skilled action. BhagwadGita
Yoga is union between “Purush&Prakriti”, “Shiva&Shakti”, Realizing “Bramhan”.
Swami Satyananda Saraswati, founder of Bihar School of Yoga, Bihar, India, describes the modern situation of Yoga quite well in the Introduction of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika commentary by Swami Muktibodhananda Saraswati, where he writes:
“In ancient times hatha Yoga was practiced for many years as a preparation for higher states of consciousness. Now however, the real purpose of this great science is being altogether forgotten . The hatha Yoga practices which were designed by the rishis and sages of old, for the evolution of mankind, are now being understood and utilized in a very limited sense. Often we hear people say, ‘Oh, I don’t practice meditation, I only practice physical Yoga, hatha Yoga.’ Now the time has come to correct this view point. Hatha Yoga is a very important science for man today….
“The main objective of hatha Yoga is to create an absolute balance of the interacting activities and processes of the physical body, mind and energy. When this balance is created, the impulses generated give a call of awakening to the central force (sushumna nadi) which is responsible for the evolution of human consciousness. If hatha Yoga is not used for this purpose, its true objective is lost .”
Swami Rama of Himalayas writes about the situation of traditional Yoga and modern Yoga in his text, Path of Fire and Light:
“The majority of people view Yoga as a system of physical culture.Very few understand that Yoga science is complete in itself, and deals systematically with body, breath, mind, and spirit.”
“When one understands that a human being is not only a physical being, but a breathing being and a thinking being too, then his researchdoes not limit itself to the body and breath only.”
“For him, gaining control over the mind and its modifications, and the feelings and emotions, become more important than practicing a few postures or breathing exercises . Meditation and contemplation alone can help the aspirant in understanding, controlling, and directing the mind.”
In the opening paragraph of Lectures on Yoga, Swami Rama explains:
The word Yoga is much used and much misunderstood these days, for our present age is one of faddism, and Yoga has often been reduced to the status of a fad. Many false and incomplete teachings have been propagated in its name, it has been subject to commercial exploitation, and one small aspect of Yoga is often taken to be all of Yoga. For instance, many people in the West think it is a physical and beauty cult, while others think it is a religion. All of this has obscured the real meaning of Yoga.
In the second volume of Path of Fire and Light, Swami Rama goes even further, where he flatly declares:
“The word ‘Yoga’ has been vulgarized and does not mean anything now.
According to Krishnamacharya Yoga is YOGA IN THE PRESENT WORLD:
It’s very happy to see that present day ‘Yoga’ has become famous in the whole world. Till 1960, its value was not known to the outer world. After realizing its importance for the healthy peaceful life, Europeans started to follow Yoga, then whole world addicted to yoga. Now one can find every countries lot of yoga centers. Soldiers, children’s, IT professional, farmers, sick peoples, older people etc.., like this each and all category, parts of the society following yoga. The Yoga spread all over the world by the great personalities likeSwami shivananda,swami Rama,shri kuvalayananda, sri Krishnamacharya, Osho rajanish, Maharshi Mahesh yogi, Yogi arabindo, Prof Pattabhi jois, Sri B.K.S Iyyengar, Baba ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar,.etc..Nowadays one can find most places of the world different types of yoga centers, mediation centers. Millions of people got benefited by following yoga. There is no doubt in future, to get a healthy future generation and for the formation of peaceful world yoga will play a major role.
According to Indra Devi Yoga is Indra Devi, the daughter of European nobility who introduced the ancient discipline of yoga to the Kremlin leadership, Hollywood stars like Gloria Swanson and even students in India, died on Thursday in Buenos Aires. She was 102.
In Buenos Aires, where she had lived for several years, she formed a yoga foundation that was named after her.
Known to her followers as Mataji, which means mother, she was a student of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, the legendary guru who gained worldwide attention for stopping his heartbeat for two minutes. At a time when yoga was almost an exclusively masculine pursuit, she was his first female student.
Like two of his other students, B.K.S. Ayengar and K. Pattabhi Jois, both men, she took his essential teachings and built a style of yoga accessible to Westerners. It was characterized by gentleness.
”She herself became a kind of seminal figure,” said Phil Catalto, a senior editor of Yoga Journal. ”She was an ambassador of yoga.”
Swami Chidananda Saraswati, head of the internationally known Sivananda Ashram (Divine Life Society) in Rishikesh, India explains that:
“Yoga is not mere acrobatics. Some people suppose that Yoga is primarily concerned with the manipulation of the body into various queer positions, standing on the head, for instance, or twisting about the spine, or assuming any of the numerous odd poses which are demonstrated in the text-books on Yoga. These techniques are correctly employed in one distinct type of Yoga practice, but they do not form an integral part of the most essential type. Physical posture serve at best as an auxiliary, or a minor form of Yoga.”
According to David Frawley Yoga is “As yoga was introduced to the West, it was presented without ayurveda, more as a movement toward yoga therapy, or yoga chikitsa. Traditionally, yoga was not a physical therapy. Yoga is a sadhana, or spiritual practice, for realizing your purusha (greater consciousness). The therapy side originated more in the field of ayurveda as treatment for the body and mind.”
According To Swami Gitananda yoga is TAPAH SWADHAYAYA ISHWAR PIZANIDHANANI KRIYA YOGA.
Austerity, study of self and scriptures, dedication of the fruits of one’s works to God and surrender to Higher Will is called “Kriya Yoga” and is the first step towards Yoga.
According to Swami Dhirendra Brahamchari Yoga is also Sukshma Vyayam.
Sukshma Vyayama is an ancient component of yoga not known to most of the schools of yoga today in the world. This was developed, designed and propagated originally by his His Holiness Maharishi Karthikeyaji Maharaj of the Himalaya. He had great kindness and compassion for humanity and taught Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari, who in turn propagated it to the modern world, including the Nehru family. Dhirendra Brahmachari also produced books and established institutions in Delhi and travelled throughout the country to teach a large number of people.
He inspired by reading the Bhagavad Gita, he left home at the age of thirteen and went to Varanasi. His guru was Maharshi Kartikeya whose ashram was at Gopal-Khera, about twelve miles from Lucknow. Dhirendra Brahmachari studied yoga and associated subjects there. In the 1960s he was invited to travel to the U.S.S.R. as a Hatha Yoga expert to train Soviet cosmonauts. Jawaharial Nehru later invited him to teach yoga to his daughter, Indira Gandhi.
According to Shivani from Brahamkumaris yoga is Raja Yoga meditation.
According to Pattabhi Jois Yoga is The definition of yoga is “the controlling of the mind” [citta vrtti nirodhah] (Jois 2003 10). The first two steps toward controlling the mind are the perfection of yama and niyama (Jois 2003 10). However, it is “not possible to practice the limbs and sub-limbs of yama and niyama when the body and sense organs are weak and haunted by obstacles” (Jois 2002 17). A person must first take up daily asana practice to make the body strong and healthy (Jois 2003 10). With the body and sense organs thus stabilized, the mind can be steady and controlled (Jois 2002 16). With mind control, one is able to pursue and grasp these first two limbs (Flynn).
To perform asana correctly in Ashtanga yoga, one must incorporate the use of vinyasa and tristhana. “Vinyasameans breathing and movement system. For each movement, there is one breath. For example, in Surya Namskarthere are nine vinyasas. The first vinyasa is inhaling while raising your arms over your head, and putting your hands together; the second is exhaling while bending forward, placing your hands next to your feet, etc. In this way allasanas are assigned a certain number of vinyasas” (“Ashtanga Yoga”).
“The purpose of vinyasa is for internal cleansing” (“Ashtanga Yoga”). Synchronizing breathing and movement in theasanas heats the blood, cleaning and thinning it so that it may circulate more freely. Improved blood circulation relieves joint pain and removes toxins and disease from the internal organs. The sweat generated from the heat ofvinyasa then carries the impurities out of the body. Through the use of vinyasa, the body becomes healthy, light and strong (“Ashtanga Yoga”).
According to BKS Iyengar, a well known teacher and author writes in his discussions on the Yoga Sutras:
“… Through the discipline of Yoga, both actions and intelligence go beyond these qualities [gunas] and the seer comes to experience his own soul with crystal clarity, free from the relative attributes of nature and actions. This state of purity is samadhi. Yoga is thus both the means and the goal. Yoga is samadhi and samadhi is Yoga….”
“… Usually the mind is closer to the body and to the gross organs of action and perception than to the soul. As asanas are refined they automatically become meditative as the intelligence is made topenetrate towards the core of being. Each asana has five functions to perform. These are conative, cognitive, mental, intellectual andspiritual….”
According to Anusara Yoga a modern school of hatha yoga started by American-born yoga teacher John Friend in 1997, who derived his style from the Iyengar style of yoga and reintroduced elements of Hindu spirituality into a more health-oriented Western approach to Yoga.
The emphasis of Anusara is on a set of Universal Principles of Alignment which underlie all the physical asanas and are connected to philosophical aspects of the practice. According to the official Anusara Yoga website, the school’s ideology is “grounded in a Tantric philosophy of intrinsic goodness”. Friend states that the term “Anusara (a-nu-sar-a), means ‘flowing with Grace,’ ‘flowing with Nature’ and ‘following your heart,'” as interpreted from the Sanskrit anusāra, meaning “custom, usage, natural state or condition”.
He practice of Anusara Yoga is broadly categorized into three parts, known as the Three A’s:
Attitude, writes Friend, is the “power of the heart as the force behind every action or expression in an asana.” It is “the aspiration to reawaken to our divine nature, and the celebration of life.”
Alignment, according to John Friend, is the “mindful awareness of how various parts of ourselves are integrated and interconnected.” Anusara’s Universal Principles of Alignment (see below) are refinements of this principle.
Action, according to Friend, is the “natural flow of energy in the body, which provides both stability and joyful freedom.”
Universal Principles of Alignment
Anusara Yoga works with five major alignment principles. When assuming a yoga pose, Anusara practitioners make refinements on the pose’s alignment by performing the principles in order. Within each principle, there are further refinements.
1. Opening to Grace
The practitioner intends to place him/herself in alignment with the flow of Supreme Consciousness. For asana practice, this includes having an attitude of soft-hearted devotion, and open-mindedness. Refinements of this principle include, “inner body bright”, “outer body soft” and “side body long.”
2. Muscular Energy
A drawing of energy from the periphery of the body into a central location in the body, called a Focal Point. Muscular Energy seeks to increase stability, strength, and physical integration in the pose.
3. Inner Spiral
An expanding energy spiral. In the legs it runs from the feet up through the pelvis into the waistline area to rotate the legs inward, move the thighs backward, and widen the thighs and pelvis. In the arms Inner Spiral spins the forearms inward from anatomical neutral.
4. Outer Spiral
A contracting energy spiral. In the legs it runs from the waistline area down through the tailbone and out through the legs and feet to draw the pelvis and thighs closer together, move the tailbone and thighs forward, and rotate the legs outward. In the arms, Outer Spiral spins the upper arms out and away from each other from anatomical neutral, refining the heart-opening action of the Anusara Yoga practice.
5. Organic Energy
An outward extension of energy from the Focal Point through the core lines of the body to the body’s periphery, which increases expansion, flexibility, and freedom in the pose.
1. Anusara’s alignment principles highlight three Focal Points in the body:
2. Pelvic Focal Point, located in the core of the pelvis.
3. Heart Focal Point, situated at the bottom of the heart.
4. Upper Palate Focal Point, found at the roof of the mouth.
In any given pose, only one Focal Point is active, that being the one nearest the most weight-bearing part of the pose. Muscular Energy draws into the active Focal Point, and Organic Energy extends out from it. In a pose where more than one Focal Point is equally weight-bearing, the pelvic Focal Point becomes the active one by default.
Anusara’s three Focal Points correspond roughly to the three main bandhas found in many systems of hatha yoga, though the exact position of each is slightly different.
In creating his style of yoga, John Friend noticed that there were further alignment refinements that corresponded to loop-shaped movements in the body. Looking at one’s body in profile, each of these loops has its origin in the vertical center line of the legs, trunk, or head, rotating toward the back plane of the body and looping either upward or downward and back in the other direction (down or up) along the front plane of the body. Each loop intersects with adjacent loops above and below it and has a right and left component.
The seven energy loops are:
Ankle Loop, starting from the center of the ankle bone, running down to the heel, under the sole of the foot and back up to the ankle.
Shin Loop, starting from the center of the ankle bone, moving up the calf to just below the knee, then returning down the front of the shin.
Thigh Loop, starting at the pelvic focal poin, running down the back of the thigh to just below the knee and back up the front of the thigh.
Pelvic Loop, originating in the core of the lumbar spine, looping down the back to the pelvic focal point and back up the belly.
Kidney Loop, beginning at the lumbar, running up the back ribs to the heart focal point and back down the front to draw floating ribs in.
Shoulder Loop, originates at the upper palette, runs down the back of neck and shoulder blades, through the heart focal point and back up across front upper ribs and throat.
Skull Loop, starts from the upper palette and drows over the back of the skull and down the face.
According to Erich Schiffman yoga is Freedom Style Yoga is an intuitive approach to life and yoga that can be summarized as, “Do not decide in advance about what to do or not do. Instead, listen inwardly for guidance and trust into what you find yourself Knowing.”
This is not an inherently strenuous practice, but it is advanced. It requires that you be brave enough to follow your deepest impulses about what feels right and what doesn’t. This is not always easy. It involves the development of self-trust based on the growing conviction that YOU are the specific and unique self-expression of that which is ultimately trustworthy: Life, Love, Truth, Presence, GOD.
According to Vanda Scaravelli Yoga is From her training in the anatomical precision of Iyengar Yoga and the emphasis on breath and ease in Desikachar’s Viniyoga, Vanda developed her own distinctive way of working with breath and gravity to free the spine. She distilled movement to a few essential principles: the surrender of the lower part of the body to gravity gives back a lightness that liberates the upper part of the body. Like flowers, she said, we send down roots and grow up toward the sun to blossom. The division between the lower and upper parts of the spine is in an area she called the “back of the waist” or the “middle of the spine,” around the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae. The release of the spine is not something the practitioner does, she maintained, but something that is given when the body coalesces into a harmony and wholeness of movement that comes in response to deep resting into the earth. At bottom, the work of every pose is the same–allowing gravity to rest the body so the spine’s suppleness is engaged.
Vanda believed that poses required “undoing,” having no goal, and going with the body rather than pushing or telling the body what to do in a linear fashion (which causes movement to be fragmented). Although Vanda’s principles may appear simple, she insisted that they could not be structured as a method; the practitioner must always find a new way to begin again.
According to Anna Forest Yoga is It uses intense pose sequences, compassionately taught, to develop skills in awakening each of the senses. Forrest Yoga pays special attention to abdominal work and breathing. Vigorous sequences of poses are intended to build heat in order to sweat out toxins and release emotions stored in the body. The main difference from “regular” yoga…the physicial and emotional tie. You are asked to go inside yourself and work through your personal issues while working your body.
Ana Forrest invented this type of yoga by drawing upon her personal history of abuse, epilepsy, alcoholism, and bulimia to create an intensely physical vinyasa-style (the type of yoga people think of when they do typical yoga) practice that aims to heal psychic wounds. Thus the emotional aspect to this type of practice.
According to Thich Nath Yoga is His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live in the present moment instead of in the past and in the future. Dwelling in the present moment is, according to Nhat Hanh, the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.
According to Dalai Lama Yoga is “Human intelligence is really precious, a calm mind very important . If the mind is disturbed by emotions then the basis of life is also disturbed and then the whole view becomes biased, so we can’t see reality clearly. In order to see reality the mind must be calm, then we can investigate reality and see clearly. Once mind is disturbed then you can’t see.” ~ Dalai Lama,
According to Osho Yoga is described as follows. If you want to live a more fulfilled life, first you will want to know your potential, who you really are.Meditation is the route to that knowing. It is the methodology of the science of awareness.
The beauty of the inner science is that it enables whoever wants to explore and to experiment within, to do so alone. This eliminates dependence on an outer authority, the need to be affiliated with any organization and the obligation to accept a certain ideology. Once you understand the steps, you walk the walk in your own, individual way. Many meditative techniques require one to sit still and silent. But for most of us accumulated stress in our bodymind makes that difficult. Before we can hope to access our inner powerhouse of consciousness, we need to let go of our tensions.
According to Rumi Yoga is poetry in motion.
According to Harish Johari Yoga is Yoga of Nine emotions.
Calmness is neutral to Anger because it remains unnoticed by the angry person.On the contrary one minute of anger can eat the peace of one year of Yoga.Courage is also neutral to anger. Courage can be supported by anger but anger does not need it and is not reduced by it. Disgust contains a kind of anger that is directed at everybody including oneself.In real anger ones ego is so inflated that they cannot tolerate disgust toward themselves. The angry person does not see anything wrong in them, neither does the angry person condemn the disgust in other so the relationship is neutral. In Anger,compassion or sadness only becomes an option after the fire has burned itself out.Karuna is the Rasa produced most often following anger,but mostly as sadness.
According to Kaulantakpeeth Satyendranathji maharaj Yoga is making inaccessible information on yoga accessible to people so more can practice and embrace the real path of yoga.
According to Rodney Yee Yoga is being centered. As the founder of DKNY, fashion diva Donna Karan has to balance her design creativity with the pressures of running a multi-million dollar business. But instead of coming unraveled at the seams, Karan enlists yoga expert Rodney Yee to keep her centered.
Karan says most mornings she practices her yoga postures, breathing and meditation for an hour.
“I use yoga to prepare me for the day ahead which is usually total chaos,” says Karan. “I don’t drink coffee so yoga is my wakeup. If I miss my morning practice, I definitely feel different. I miss the sense of aliveness and the ability to deal with the unanticipated stresses that can and do come up in my day at any time.”
Ever appreciative of her instructor, Karan recently threw a party for Yee to celebrate the launch of his book Yoga: The Poetry of the Body.
According to Deepak Chopra Yoga is he Sanskrit word yoga means union – union of environment, the senses, body, mind, and soul. This union is described in an ancient text known as the Yoga Sutras, written by the sage Patanjali who explains that yoga is the progressive settling down of the mind in the field of pure silence, which is usually overshadowed by the activity of the mind.
History Of Yoga
Just like the “punctuated equilibrium” model of evolution, it appears yoga has evolved in substantial leaps from time to time. While we may often hear talk of preserving the ancient traditions of yoga “untouched” — the real history might not uncover itself quite in this light.
The Beginning. About 5,000 years ago, yoga was invented. We think this happened in the Indus Valley. It’s worth noting that this is well before Hinduism came into being.
Vedic Period. Between 3,500 and 2,500 years ago the Vedas were written, which formed the basis for Hinduism. Yogis at this time were often solitary types, living in forests.
Pre-Classical Yoga. About 2,500 years ago, the Upanishads were written. The Bhagavad Gita is left as the oldest known yoga scripture, dating to 500 BCE. Yoga practice seems to soften a bit, becoming more meditative.
Tirumular Indian Antiquity
Classical Yoga as a system of contemplation with the aim of uniting the human spirit with Ishvara, the “Supreme Being” developed in early Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainismduring Indian Antiquity, between the Mauryan and the Gupta era (roughly the 2nd century BCE to the 5th century CE).
Classical Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras form the defining text here, outlining the Eightfold Path of yoga. Patanjali defines the word “yoga” in his second sutra, which is the definitional sutra for his entire work:
योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
– Yoga Sutras 1.2
Most later yoga texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Yoga Kundalini and Yoga Tattva Upanishads have borrowed verses almost verbatim from or make frequent references to the Yoga Yajnavalkya. The Yoga Yajnavalkya is regarded to be the most important and authentic classical text on yoga after the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. In the Yoga Yajnavalkya, yoga is defined as jivatmaparamatmasamyogah, or the union between the individual self (jivatma) and the Divine (paramatma).
Yoga and Samkhya
Patanjali systematized the conceptions of Yoga and set them forth on the background of the metaphysics of Samkhya, which he assumed with slight variations. In the early works, the Yoga principles appear along with the Samkhya ideas. Vyasa’s commentary on the Yoga Sutras, also called the “Samkhyapravacanabhasya,” brings out the intimate relation between the two systems.
Yoga agrees with the essential metaphysics of Samkhya, but differs from it in that while Samkhya holds that knowledge is the means of liberation, Yoga is a system of active striving, mental discipline, and dutiful action. Yoga also introduces the conception of God. Sometimes Patanjali’s system is referred to as “Seshvara Samkhya” in contradistinction to Kapila’s “Nirivara Samkhya.”
The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita (‘Song of the Lord’), uses the term “yoga” extensively in a variety of ways. In addition to an entire chapter (ch. 6) dedicated to traditional yoga practice, including meditation, it introduces three prominent types of yoga:
Karma yoga: The yoga of action.
Bhakti yoga: The yoga of devotion, note Krishna had also specified devotion itself was action similar to above.
Jnana yoga: The yoga of knowledge.
In Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna about the essence of Yoga as practiced in daily lives:
Yoga and Jainism
According to “Tattvarthasutra”, 2nd century CE Jain text, “Yoga,” is the sum total of all the activities of mind, speech and body. Umasvati calls yoga the cause of “asrava” or karmic influx as well as one of the essentials: samyak caritra – in the path to liberation. In his “Niyamasara,” Acarya Kundakunda, describes yoga bhakti: devotion to the path to liberation – as the highest form of devotion. Acarya Haribhadra and Acarya Hemacandra mention the five major vows of ascetics and 12 minor vows of laity under yoga. This has led certain Indologists like Prof. Robert J. Zydenbos to call Jainism, essentially, a system of yogic thinking that grew into a full-fledged religion.
The five yamas or the constraints of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali bear a resemblance to the five major vows of Jainism, indicating a history of strong cross-fertilization between these traditions.
In the late phase of Indian antiquity, on the eve of the development of Classical Hinduism, the Yogacara movement arises during the Gupta period (4th to 5th centuries). Yogacara received the name as it provided a “yoga,” a framework for engaging in the practices that lead to the path of the bodhisattva. The Yogacara sect teaches “yoga” as a way to reach enlightenment.
The practice of Yoga remained in development in Classical Hinduism, and cognate techniques of meditation within Buddhism, throughout the medieval period.
The Bhakti movement was a development in medieval Hinduism advocating the concept of a personal God (or “Supreme Personality of Godhead”), initiated by the Alvars of South India in the 6th to 9th centuries, and gaining influence throughout India by the 12th to 15th centuries, giving rise to sects such as Gaudiya Vaishnavism. The Bhagavata Purana is an important text of the Bhakti movement withinVaishnavism. It focusses on the concept of bhakti (devotion to God) in the theological framework of Krishnaism.
The Bhagavata Purana discusses religious devotion as a kind of yoga, called bhaktiyoga. It also emphasizes kriyāyoga, i.e. the devotion to the deity in everday life (4.13.3).
The Bhagavata Purana is a commentary and elaboration on the Bhagavadgita, an older text of the Mahabharata epic which rose to great importance in Vaishnavism during the Bhakti movement. In the Bhagavadgita (3.3), jñānayoga is the acquisition of true knowledge, as opposed to karmayoga, the performance of the proper religious rites.
This terminology involving various yogas has given rise to the concept of the Four Yogas in modern Hinduism from the 1890s. These are
Hatha Yoga, sometimes referred to as the “psychophysical yoga”, is a particular system of Yoga described by Yogi Swatmarama, compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in 15th century India. Hatha Yoga differs substantially from the Raja Yoga of Patanjali in that it focuses on “shatkarma,” the purification of the physical body as leading to the purification of the mind (“ha”), and “prana,” or vital energy (tha). Compared to the seated asana, or sitting meditation posture, of Patanjali’s Raja yoga, it marks the development of asanas (plural) into the full body ‘postures’ now in popular usage and, along with its many modern variations, is the style that many people associate with the word “Yoga” today.
Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as “Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).”
New schools of Yoga were introduced in the context of Hindu revivalism towards the end of the 19th century.
The physical poses of Hatha Yoga have a tradition that goes back to the 15th century, but they were not widely practiced in India prior to the early 20th century. Hatha Yoga was advocated by a number of late 19th to early 20th century gurus in India, including Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in south India, Swami Sivananda in the north, Sri Yogendra in Bombay, and Swami Kuvalyananda in Lonavala.
In 1946, Paramahansa Yogananda in his Autobiography of a Yogi introduced the term Kriya Yoga for the tradition of Yoga transmitted by his lineage of gurus, deriving it via Yukteswar Giri and Lahiri Mahasaya from Mahavatar Babaji (fl. 1860s). Also influential in the development of modern Yoga were Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, and his disciple. Pattabhi Jois, who introduced his style of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga in 1948. Most systems of Hatha Yoga which developed from the 1960s in the “yoga boom” in the West are derived from Jois’ system.
Reception in the West
Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the mid 19th century along with other topics of Hindu philosophy. The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of Yoga to a western audience was Swami Vivekananda, who toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s.
In the West, the term “yoga” is today typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its asanas (postures) or as a form of exercise. In the 1960s, western interest in Hindu spirituality reached its peak, giving rise to a great number of Neo-Hindu schools specifically advocated to a western public. Among the teachers of Hatha yoga who were active in the west in this period were Swami Rama Of Himalayas, B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Swami Vishnu-devananda, and Swami Satchidananda. A second “yoga boom” followed in the 1980s, asDean Ornish, a follower of Swami Satchidananda, connected yoga to heart health, legitimizing yoga as a purely physical system of health exercises outside of counter culture or esotericism circles, and unconnected to a religious denomination.
Kundalini Yoga, considered an advanced form of yoga and meditation, was on the whole a secretive and misunderstood technology – it was not widely taught by any master teachers outside of India until Yogi Bhajan(Siri Singh Sahib) brought his understanding of the teachings to the United States in 1969.
Chakrology or Kundalini Yoga
As Robert Svoboda attempts to summarize the three major paths of the Vedic knowledge, he exclaims:
Because every embodied individual is composed of a body, a mind and a spirit, the ancient Rishis of India who developed the Science of Life organized their wisdom into three bodies of knowledge: Ayurveda, which deals mainly with the physical body; Yoga, which deals mainly with spirit; and Tantra, which is mainly concerned with the mind. The philosophy of all three is identical; their manifestations differ because of their differing emphases. Ayurveda is most concerned with the physical basis of life, concentrating on its harmony of mind and spirit. Yoga controls body and mind to enable them to harmonize with spirit, and Tantra seeks to use the mind to balance the demands of body and spirit.
During tantric practices and studies, the student is instructed further in meditation technique, particularly chakra meditation.
Even though the roots of Yoga date back to a period of time contemporaneous with early Buddhism and its interaction with Vedanta, Buddhist meditation or dhyana in the medieval period took a separate development from Yoga as laid down by Patanjali and its descendants.
(the name of which derives from the Sanskrit “dhyaana” via the Chinese “ch’an”) is a form of Mahayana Buddhism. The Mahayana school of Buddhism is noted for its proximity with Yoga. In the west, Zen is often set alongside Yoga; the two schools of meditation display obvious family resemblances. This phenomenon merits special attention since yogic practices have some of their roots in the Zen Buddhist school. Certain essential elements of Yoga are important both for Buddhism in general and for Zen in particular.
Yoga is central to Tibetan Buddhism. In the Nyingma tradition, the path of meditation practice is divided into nine yanas, or vehicles, which are said to be increasingly profound. The last six are described as “yoga yanas”: “Kriya yoga,” “Upa yoga,” “Yoga yana,” “Mahā yoga,” “Anu yoga” and the ultimate practice, “Ati yoga.” The Sarma traditions also include Kriya, Upa (called “Charya”), and Yoga, with the Anuttara yoga class substituting for Mahayoga and Atiyoga.
Other tantra yoga practices include a system of 108 bodily postures practiced with breath and heart rhythm. The Nyingma tradition also practices Yantra yoga (Tib. “Trul khor”), a discipline that includes breath work (or pranayama), meditative contemplation and precise dynamic movements to centre the practitioner. The body postures of Tibetan ancient yogis are depicted on the walls of the Dalai Lama’s summer temple of Lukhang. A semi-popular account of Tibetan Yoga by Chang (1993) refers to caṇḍalī (Tib. “tummo”), the generation of heat in one’s own body, as being “the very foundation of the whole of Tibetan Yoga.” Chang also claims that Tibetan Yoga involves reconciliation of apparent polarities, such as prana and mind, relating this to theoretical implications of tantrism.
Some Christians integrate yoga and other aspects of Eastern spirituality with prayer and meditation. This has been attributed to a desire to experience God in a more complete way. The Roman Catholic Church, and some other Christian organizations have expressed concerns and disapproval with respect to some eastern and New Agepractices that include yoga and meditation.
The development of Sufism was considerably influenced by Indian yogic practises, where they adapted both physical postures (asanas) and breath control (pranayama). The ancient Indian yogic text Amritakunda (“Pool of Nectar)” was translated into Arabic and Persian as early as the 11th century. Several other yogic texts were appropriated by Sufi tradition, but typically the texts juxtapose yoga materials alongside Sufi practices without any real attempt at integration or synthesis. Yoga became known to Indian Sufis gradually over time, but engagement with yoga is not found at the historical beginnings of the tradition.
Malaysia’s top Islamic body in 2008 passed a fatwa, which is legally non-binding, against Muslims practicing yoga, saying it had elements of “Hindu spiritual teachings” and that its practice was blasphemy and is therefore haraam. Muslim yoga teachers in Malaysia criticized the decision as “insulting.” Sisters in Islam, a women’s rights group in Malaysia, also expressed disappointment and said that its members would continue with their yoga classes.
The fatwa states that yoga practiced only as physical exercise is permissible, but prohibits the chanting of religious mantras, In May 2009, Turkey’s head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Bardakoğlu, discounted personal development techniques such as yoga as commercial ventures. The only sect of the Islam community that has successfully incorporated yoga into its practice is the Jogi Faqir, whose followers are Muslim converts from the Hindu Jogicaste.
Yoga became popular in Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan and a lot of Yoga schools have sprung up there due to its strength in healing the body and the mind.
In UAE because of foresight and vision of the leaders and health benefit of Yoga, it became a popular sports because of benefits it accrued to the body and mind and as it was customized to suit the cultural sensitivities and the fabric of country. Yoga taught as a physical sport to deal with obesity, therapy like back pain, loss of energy, to deal with depression became popular and accepted. Gems Of Yoga being the first accredited Yoga and meditation center of UAE saw different changes and its evolution from 2000 – 2012 in terms of its growing popularity of yoga.
Yoga in the Present World
As per Iyengar I am very happy to see that present day ‘Yoga’ has become famous in the whole world. Till 1960, its value was not known to the outer world. After realizing its importance for the healthy peaceful life, Europeans started to follow Yoga, then whole world addicted to yoga. Now one can find every countries lot of yoga centers. Soldiers, children’s, IT professional, farmers, sick peoples, older people etc.., like this each and all category, parts of the society following yoga .The Yoga spread all over the world by the great personalities likeSwami shivananda,swami Rama,shri kuvalayananda, sri Krishnamacharya, Osho rajanish, Maharshi Mahesh yogi, Yogi arabindo, Prof Pattabhi jois, Sri B.K.S Iyyengar, Baba ramdev, Sri Sri Ravishankar etc.. Nowadays one can find most places of the world different types of yoga centers, mediation centers. Millions of people got benefited by following yoga. There is no doubt in future, to get a healthy future generation and for the formation of peaceful world yoga will play a major role.
Much, if not most of today’s yoga can be called “gymnastic yoga” as it has emerged from the gymnastic practices of the late 1800s and early 1900s, not from the ancient traditions of yoga. Other “styles” of modern yoga are simply gross distortions.
Yoga in Your Life
You may ask, “Is Yoga for me?”
Definitely, yes! Yoga is for anyone who is willing to learn its ways and ideas. It does not actually require any special equipment or clothing. What it requires is your will to have a healthier, stress-free self.
You may first approach Yoga as a way to achieve a great body or to keep fit and that is perfectly alright. Yoga really does help in improving your health for stretching can tone your muscles and exercise your spine and your entire skeletal system.
Do not just take advantage of what Yoga can offer. Yoga encourages you to reflect on yourself and to find your inner peace. It exercises not just your body but your mind as well. With a healthy body and mind, you’re on your way to a more fulfilling life.
Names and Modern styles of Yoga
Recent inventions: The nature of Yoga is even further confused in the public eye by the way the methods are promoted. Reviewing almost any list of the best known 10-12 modern Yoga “styles” will quickly reveal that almost all of the modern Yoga styles have been invented in the last few decades. Very few Yoga teachers today will simply teach “Hatha Yoga,” the physical Yoga system of the past (that actually had spiritual goals), let alone the true spiritual Yoga.
Most of the modern “styles” of Yoga did not exist a few decades ago, while Yoga itself is thousands of years old.
Many use a man’s name: In addition, many, if not most of the modern “styles” of Yoga have the surname of a currently living man in front of the word Yoga, as if that man, himself, has invented Yoga. This is not to say that these teachers are not competent or even superb in their physical abilities. They may do a very good job within the scope of their teachings.
Distorting Sanskrit terms: Several other modern systems have taken an ancient Sanskrit word or phrase that has a specific spiritual meaning, and then adapted that terminology to some set of postures or practices that were not part of the original intent.
Trademark of ancient names: In addition, these modern teachers have then trademarked these ancient, traditional names, further misleading an unsuspecting public. This leaves the would-be students with the impression that the current day founder of this brand name system is somehow linked to the original teachings associated with that word or phrase. It further leads people to believe that the new teachers certified by that founder also have some expertise or familiarity with the traditional practice or level of attainment authentically associated with that word or phrase.
Modern styles are very suspect: If you were to turn the clock back a hundred years, maybe even fifty, twenty, or less, few, if any of these current styles, systems, or methods of Yoga even existed. Most of the founders of these modern, so-called Yoga styles were not even born. Therefore, these modern styles are very suspect when, at the same time, we say that Yoga is thousands of years old. This is not a mere call to go back in time to some theoretically more pristine era of Yoga. Here, it really has been a case of throwing away the baby with the bath water.
What kind of Yoga do you do?
Four traditional schools of Yoga: Traditionally, there are four schools of Yoga. If asked, “What kind of Yoga do you do?” the answer would be one of these four, or a combination of them. Briefly, the four schools of Yoga are:
Karma Yoga: The Yoga of action, doing the practices while fulfilling one’s duties in the external world.
Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of knowledge or self-enquiry, knowing oneself at all levels through a process of contemplation and introspection.
Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of devotion, of surrender to the divine force or God, practiced in ways consistent with one’s own religion.
Raja Yoga: The meditative school of Yoga, such as systematized byPatanjali in the Yoga Sutras.
Six classical schools: In addition, it is important to note that Yoga itself has been classically considered to be one of six schools of Indian philosophy.
However, now, when one asks, “What kind of Yoga do you do?” the question is almost impossible to answer. The question now is an inquiry as to which of the many modern adaptations of postures that one practices, as referred to in the last section.
Only Yoga: A true Yogi, one who sincerely practices authentic Yoga, may do just Yoga, meaning some combination of Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, and Raja Yoga, in the context of the six systems of Indian philosophy and practice. The mere asking of the question, “What kind of Yoga do you do?” is, itself, a sign of confusion, as one Yogi encountering another Yogi would not likely ask such a meaningless question.
Paramahansa Yogananda, the well-known author of Autobiography of a Yogi, responds to the question “What is Yoga?” in the text The Essence of Self-Realization:
“Yoga means union”. Etymologically, it is connected to the English word, yoke. Yoga means union with God, or, union of the little, ego-self with the divine Self, the infinite Spirit. Most people in the West, and also many in India, confuse Yoga with Hatha Yoga, the system of bodily postures.
But Yoga is primarily a spiritual discipline . I don’t mean to belittle the Yoga postures. Hatha Yoga is a wonderful system. The body, moreover, is a part of our human nature, and must be kept fit lest it obstruct our spiritual efforts. Devotees, however, who are bent on finding God give less importance to the Yoga postures. Nor is it strictly necessary that they practice them. Hatha Yoga is the physical branch of Raja Yoga, the true science of Yoga. Raja Yoga is a system of meditation techniques that help to harmonize human consciousness with the divine consciousness.
When is Yoga no longer Yoga?
Think of a car with missing parts: Imagine you see a car, and your friend says, “What’s that?” You say, “It’s a car”. Imagine that the car is missing a wheel, and your friend asks you the same question. Still, you say, “It’s a car”. But what if all four wheels were gone, and the doors were gone, and the engine was gone. Then, what would you say when your friend asked, “What’s that?” You might say something like, “Junk”. We may not know the exact point of change, but somewhere along the way, in removing the parts, you’d naturally stop saying, “It’s a car”.
Without the higher goals, can it still be called Yoga?
Think of Yoga with missing parts: At what point, and after how much adaptation to modern culture, does Yoga cease to be Yoga? When Yoga is stripped of its higher goals and methods, can it still be called Yoga?
Bricks and houses: Imagine that you hold a brick in your hand, and say to a person, “This is a house!” To hold out asanas (postures) and say, “This is Yoga!” makes as much sense as saying that a single brick is a house. Both are confusing a minor, though useful part with the whole.
“But it’s useful! It helped me!”
One of the most common comments used to justify the modern devolutions of Yoga is in saying something like, “But it’s useful! It helped me!” It is as if they think that pointing out the true nature of Yoga is somehow in opposition to doing other activities that are of benefit to human beings. The argument is that if people become flexible and less stressed, the method is therefore called Yoga.
The fact that physical postures (or modern revisions) are effective is not the question. Doing asanas is beneficial, but calling it Yoga is a different matter. The fact that the brick is useful does not make it a house. Any physical exercise, such as walking or playing tennis is useful, but that does not make it Yoga. Aerobics, calisthenics, jazzercise, and kickboxing may also be useful, but that does not make them Yoga.
Massage therapy, physical therapy, and respiratory therapy are useful, but that does not make them Yoga. Psychotherapy and counseling are useful, but that does not make them Yoga.
The argument that the tiny piece of Yoga called asana is useful is not a legitimate justification to reverse the part and the whole, and thus claim that Yoga, when stripped of its higher goals and practices, is still Yoga.
What to do if you are seeking authentic Yoga?
Recognize the authentic and the adaptations: There are many challenges faced by those who are seeking authentic Yoga as the path to Enlightenment or Self-realization that it is intended to be. As with many endeavors in life, progress begins with understanding. Understanding the current situation within the modern Yoga community will help tremendously in sharpening one’s ability to recognize the difference between modern adaptations and authentic Yoga of the ancients.
The authentic seeker of authentic Yoga will find an authentic path.
Cultivate determination: Once seeing the difference between the adaptations and the authentic, it then requires the determination to be in a minority, to not just get caught up in the flow of the latest fad. That determination, followed by action will lead the authentic student of authentic Yoga to an authentic path.
Help will come: It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher will come. It is also said that the ideal teacher will come for each student, depending on the aspirations the seeker holds in the heart.