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Yoga & Wellness
is a group of ancient spiritual practices originating in India. As a general term
in Hinduism it has been defined as referring to "technologies or disciplines
of asceticism and meditation which are thought to lead to spiritual experience
and profound understanding or insight into the nature of existence." Yoga
is also intimately connected to the religious beliefs and practices of the other
India, Yoga is mostly associated with the practice of asanas (postures) of Hatha
Yoga or as a form of exercise, although it has influenced the entire Indian religions
family and other spiritual practices throughout the world.
texts discussing different aspects of yoga include the Upanishads, the Bhagavad
Gita, the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita,
and many others.
branches of Yoga include: Hatha Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and
Raja Yoga. Raja Yoga, known simply as Yoga in the context of Hindu philosophy,
is one of the six orthodox (astika) schools of thought, established by the Yoga
Sutras of Patanjali.
Sanskrit term yoga has a wide range of different meanings. It is derived from
the Sanskrit root yuj, "to control", "to yoke", or "to
unite". Common meanings include "joining" or "uniting",
and related ideas such as "union" and "conjunction". Another
conceptual definition is that of "mode, manner, means" or "expedient,
means in general"
seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300–1700 BC) sites depict
figures in a yoga or meditation like posture. The most widely known of these was
named the "Pashupati seal" by its discoverer, John Marshall, who believed
that it represented a "proto-Shiva" figure. Many modern authorities
discount the idea that this "Pashupati" (Lord of Animals, Sanskrit pasupati)represents
a Shiva or Rudra figure.
is considerable evidence to support the idea that the image's posture "is
a form of ritual discipline, suggesting a precursor to yoga" according to
archaeologist Gregory Possehl (who also questions the proto-Shiva theory). He
points to sixteen other specific "yogi glyptics" in the corpus of Mature
Harappan artifacts as pointing to Harappan devotion to "ritual discipline
and concentration". These images show that the yoga pose "may have been
used by deities and humans alike". He suggests that yoga goes back to the
Indus Valley Civilization.
Flood characterizes these views as "speculative", saying that it is
not clear from the 'Pashupati' seal that the figure is seated in a yoga posture,
or even that the shape is intended to represent a human figure, though it is nevertheless
possible that there are echoes of Shaiva iconographic themes, such as half-moon
shapes resembling the horns of a bull. Other authorities do support the idea that
the 'Pashupati' figure shows a figure in a yoga or meditation posture. They include
Archaeologist Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, current Co-director of the Harappa Archaeological
Research Project in Pakistan and Indologist Heinrich Zimmer.
2007, terracotta seals were discovered in the Cholistan Desert in Pakistan. Punjab
University Archaeology Department Chairman Dr. Farzand Masih described one of
the seals as similar to the previously discovered Mohenjodaro seals, with three
pictographs on one side and a "yogi" on the other side.
practices (tapas) are referenced in the Brahma?as (900 BCE and 500 BCE), early
commentaries on the vedas. In the Upanishads, an early reference to meditation
is made in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the earliest Upanishads (approx. 900
BCE). The main textual sources for the evolving concept of Yoga are the middle
Upanishads, (ca. 400 BCE), the Mahabharata (5th c. BCE) including the Bhagavad
Gita (ca. 200 BCE), and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (200 BCE-300 CE).
Bhagavad Gita ('Song of the Lord'), uses the term yoga extensively in a variety
of senses. Of many possible meanings given to the term in the Gita, most emphasis
is given to these three:
* Karma yoga: The yoga of action
* Bhakti yoga: The yoga of devotion
Jnana yoga: The yoga of knowledge
influential commentator Madhusudana Sarasvati (b. circa 1490) divided the Gita's
eighteen chapters into three sections, each of six chapters. According to his
method of division the first six chapters deal with Karma yoga, the middle six
deal with Bhakti yoga, and the last six deal with Jnana (knowledge). This interpretation
has been adopted by some later commentators and rejected by others.
Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Raja Yoga and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
Indian philosophy, Yoga is the name of one of the six orthodox philosophical schools.
The Yoga philosophical system is closely allied with the Samkhya school. The Yoga
school as expounded by Patanjali accepts the Samkhya psychology and metaphysics,
but is more theistic than the Samkhya, as evidenced by the addition of a divine
entity to the Samkhya's twenty-five elements of reality. The parallels between
Yoga and Samkhya were so close that Max Müller says that "the two philosophies
were in popular parlance distinguished from each other as Samkhya with and Samkhya
without a Lord...." The intimate relationship between Samkhya and Yoga is
explained by Heinrich Zimmer:
These two are regarded in India as twins, the two aspects of a single discipline.
Sa?khya provides a basic theoretical exposition of human nature, enumerating and
defining its elements, analyzing their manner of co-operation in a state of bondage
(bandha), and describing their state of disentanglement or separation in release
(mok?a), while Yoga treats specifically of the dynamics of the process for the
disentanglement, and outlines practical techniques for the gaining of release,
or 'isolation-integration' (kaivalya).
sage Patanjali is regarded as the founder of the formal Yoga philosophy. The Yoga
Sutras of Patanjali are ascribed to Patanjali, who, may have been, as Max Müller
explains, "the author or representative of the Yoga-philosophy without being
necessarily the author of the Sutras." Indologist Axel Michaels is dismissive
of claims that the work was written by Patanjali, characterizing it instead as
a collection of fragments and traditions of texts stemming from the second or
third century. Gavin Flood cites a wider period of uncertainty for the composition,
between 100 BCE and 500 CE.
yoga is known as Raja yoga, which is a system for control of the mind. Patanjali
defines the word "yoga" in his second sutra, which is the definitional
sutra for his entire work:
- Yoga Sutras 1.2
terse definition hinges on the meaning of three Sanskrit terms. I. K. Taimni translates
it as "Yoga is the inhibition (nirodha?) of the modifications (v?tti) of
the mind (citta)". Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as "Yoga is
restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis)."
Gavin Flood translates the sutra as "yoga is the cessation of mental fluctuations".
A sculpture of a Hindu yogi in the Birla Mandir, Delhi
A sculpture of a Hindu
yogi in the Birla Mandir, Delhi
writing also became the basis for a system referred to it as "Ashtanga Yoga"
("Eight-Limbed Yoga"). This eight-limbed concept derived from the 29th
Sutra of the 2nd book became a feature of Raja yoga, and is a core characteristic
of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today. The Eight Limbs of yoga
(1) Yama (The five "abstentions"): nonviolence, truth, non-covetousness,
chastity, and abstain from attachment to possessions.
(2) Niyama (The five
"observances"): purity, contentment, austerities, study, and surrender
(3) Asana: Literally means "seat", and in Patanjali's Sutras
refers to seated positions used for meditation. Later, with the rise of Hatha
yoga, asana came to refer to all the "postures"
(4) Pranayama ("Lengthening
Prana"): Prana, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, "ayama",
to lengthen or extend
(5) Pratyahara ("Abstraction"): Withdrawal
of the sense organs from external objects.
(6) Dharana ("Concentration"):
Fixing the attention on a single object
(7) Dhyana ("Meditation"):
Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation
("Liberation"): merging consciousness with the object of meditation
details every aspect of the meditative process, and the preparation for it. The
book is available in as many as 40 English translations, both in-print and on-line.
Hatha Yoga Pradipika
Yoga is a particular system of Yoga described by Yogi Swatmarama, a yogic sage
of the 15th century in India, and compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Hatha
Yoga is a development of — but also differs substantially from — the
Raja Yoga of Patanjali, in that it focuses on shatkarma, the purification of the
physical as leading to the purification of the mind (ha) and prana, or vital energy
(tha). In contrast, the Raja Yoga posited by Patanjali begins with a purification
of the mind (yamas) and spirit (niyamas), then comes to the body via asana (body
postures) and pranayama (breath). Hatha yoga contains substantial tantric influence,
and marks the first point at which chakras and kundalini were introduced into
the yogic canon. Compared to the seated asanas of Patanjali's Raja yoga which
were seen largely as a means of preparing for meditation, it also marks the development
of asanas as full body 'postures' in the modern sense.
Yoga in its many modern variations is the style that most people actually associate
with the word "Yoga" today. Because its emphasis is on the body through
asana and pranayama practice, many western students are satisfied with the physical
health and vitality it develops and are not interested in the other six limbs
of the complete Hatha yoga teaching, or with the even older Raja Yoga tradition
it is based on.
Yoga in other traditions
is intimately connected to the religious beliefs and practices of the Indian religions.
The influence of Yoga is also visible in Buddhism, which is distinguished by its
austerities, spiritual exercises, and trance states.
(Sanskrit: "Practice of Yoga [Union]" ), also spelled yogachara, is
a school of philosophy and psychology that developed in India during the 4th to
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 in order
to reach enlightenment.
Ch`an (Zen) Buddhism
(the name of which derives from the Sanskrit "dhyana" 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 the Zen Buddhist school of meditation
has some of its roots in yogic practices. Certain essential elements of Yoga are
important both for Buddhism in general and for Zen in particular.
is central to Tibetan Buddhism. In the Nyingma tradition, practitioners progress
to increasingly profound levels of yoga, starting with Maha yoga, continuing to
Anu yoga and ultimately undertaking the highest practice, Ati yoga. In the Sarma
traditions, the Anuttara yoga class is equivalent. Other tantra yoga practices
include a system of 108 bodily postures practiced with breath and heart rhythm.
Timing in movement exercises is known as Trul khor or union of moon and sun (channel)
prajna energies. The body postures of Tibetan ancient yogis are depicted on the
walls of the Dalai Lama's summer temple of Lukhang.
Yoga and Tantra
is a practice that is supposed to alter the relation of the individual practitioner
of Tantrism to the ordinary social, religious, and logical reality in which he
or she lives. Through Tantric practice an individual perceives reality as maya,
illusion, and the individual achieves liberation from it.
particular path to salvation among the several offered by Hinduism, links Tantrism
to those practices of Indian religions, such as yoga, meditation, and social renunciation,
which are based on temporary or permanent withdrawal from social relationships
tantric practices and studies, the student is instructed further in meditation
technique, particularly chakra meditation. This is often in a limited form in
comparison with the way this kind of meditation is known and used by Tantric practitioners
and yogis elsewhere, but is more elaborate than the initiate's previous meditation.
It is considered to be a kind of Kundalini Yoga for the purpose of moving the
Goddess into the chakra located in the "heart,"
for meditation and worship.
Goal of Yoga
are numerous opinions on what the goal of Yoga may be, although generally they
involve some kind of union, either of a personal or a non-personal nature.
the monist schools of Advaita Vedanta and Shaivism this perfection takes the form
of Moksha, which is a liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth
and death (Samsara) at which point there is a cessation of thought and an experience
of blissful union with the Supreme Brahman. For the dualistic bhakti schools of
Vaishnavism, bhakti itself is the ultimate goal of the yoga process, wherein perfection
culminates in an eternal relationship with Vishnu or one of his associated avatars
such as Krishna or Rama.
Body and Spirit