Body and Spirit
Kym Patricia Coon, Yoga Practitioner and Social and
Community Entrepreneur - 20th April 2008
Charlotte Dodson, Yoga Practitioner - June 2008
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 Indian religions.
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
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
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
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'
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
A sculpture of a Hindu yogi in the Birla Mandir,
A sculpture of a Hindu yogi in the Birla Mandir,
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 practice are:
(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
(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
(8) Samadhi ("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
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 5th centuries.
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
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