Philosophy of Yoga
Philosophy of Yoga
Yoga is so many things. These days, all of a sudden it seems yoga is a popular mode for exercise, a hot trend of physical postures (often performed by glamorous celebrities) that promise to lead us to greater fitness and ravishing beauty. But be assured, however, that there is a lot more to yoga than some passing fad.
The History of Yoga
The roots of yoga can be traced back over 5,000 years. Early writings of yoga were transcribed on palm leaves, but due to their fragile nature, little evidence of the beginnings of yoga remain.
The beginnings of yoga were developed by the Indus-Sarasvati civilization in Northern India. Yoga was mentioned in the Vedas, one of the oldest sacred texts. Over the years, Vedic priests refined and documented their practices of yoga in texts such as the Bhagavad-Gita, but it wasn't until Patanjali's Yoga Sutras that yoga was systematically presented.
Centuries after Patanjali, various yoga masters created a system of practices to rejuvenate the body and prolong life. They rejected the older teachings of the Vedas and promoted the physical-spiritual connections. These beliefs and practices led to the creation of Hatha yoga.
In the late 1800s, yoga masters began traveling to the West, but it wasn't until 1947, when Indra Devi opened a yoga studio in Hollywood, that the teachings and philosophies of yoga finally began to gain popularity.
The Philosophy of Yoga
What exactly IS yoga? The answer isn't simple. Yoga is part metaphysics and part philosophy, with a strong physical base. Yoga is about seeking the universal truth through simple practices, body rituals and techniques that tie in to its fundamental theme of yoking (connecting) the body with the infinite spirit of the universe. Indeed, the word "yoga" itself comes from the Sanskrit "yuj," which means to yoke or to join.
According to BKS Iyengar, proponent of a popular yoga form that bears his name, yoga is "the method by which the restless mind is calmed and the energy directed into constructive channels." Indeed, the Indian sage Patanjali, who is revered as the Father of Yoga by all practitioners, defines purpose of the eight limbs of yoga as "yogas citta vritti nirodhah." This Sanskrit phrase translates as "Yoga begins when thinking stops."
The Eight Limbs of Yoga
- Yama: Self-control or restraint from violence, lying, excessiveness, stealing, and coveting
- Niyama: Stresses things one should do-purity, contentment, austerity, study of the sacred texts, living with awareness of the divine
- Asana: Physical exercises, postures
- Pranayama: Breathing exercises
- Pratyahara: Drawing inward
- Dharana: Concentration
- Dhyana: Meditation
- Samadhi: Realization