|Doctrines|| ||The word yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, to yoke or bind together, and is related to the English yoke. Yoga is the joining of the jiva, the soul, with God. The term yoga has acquired other connotations such as 'method,' 'activity,' 'force,' 'meditation,' and 'renunciation.' Bernard gives seventeen meanings of yoga. Yoga does mean many things as it is many things. This is reflected in the many schools of yoga that exist.|
Over time an immense body of yogic practices and theories grew. Numerous schools started their own traditions and there were split-ups within schools and reformations. Yoga is not therefore a homogeneous whole. Practices and doctrines vary from school to school and are sometimes irreconcilable. All schools, though, have the same goal of samadhi, cosmic consciousness.
However, most schools are based on the classical astanga, eight-limbed, yoga of Patanjali, which is defined in Sanskrit as yogas cittvritti nirodha, meaning: yoga is (yogas) the restraint (nirodha) of the modifications or whirlings (vritti) of the mind-stuff (citta). Thus yoga is a stilling of the mind. To accomplish this there is an eightfold path to follow. Before the actual yogic practices there are the yama, restraints, and niyama, disciplines. Moral integrity is a basic prerequisite of successful yogic practice. The five yama are ahimsa, non-violence in thought and deed, satya, truthfulness, asteya, non-stealing, brahmacarya, abstention from sexual activity in deed, thought, and verbally, and aparigraha, restraint from avarice. The niyama are the bodily and psychic disciplines of cleanliness, serenity, asceticism, study of yoga metaphysics, and making Isvara, the Lord, the motive of one's actions. The yogic techniques of asana strengthen and perfect the body, while pranayama, the control of prana or the life-force, energises and internalises the consciousness. This leads to pratyahara, which is the ability to free the senses from the domination of external objects. As a continuation of the withdrawal from external reality, then come the last three stages of dharana, concentration, dhyana, meditative absorption, and samadhi, cosmic consciousness, when the vritti, the whirlings of ordinary consciousness are fully stilled. Yoga is the ladder to spiritual liberation, a practical method of union with God.
Patanjali's yoga is also called Raja Yoga, the Royal Yoga, which includes all the types of yoga. In Sanskrit tradition and modern Hinduism there are three basic forms of yoga: Jnana Yoga, the yoga of knowledge, Karma Yoga, the yoga of good works, and Bhakti Yoga, the yoga of devotion. In practice the different schools of yoga are a blend of all three. It is a matter of emphasis, often difficult to define. Some yoga schools are an emphasis on parts of classical yoga. Thus Hatha Yoga is an elaborate psycho-somatic technique to transform the body into a 'diamond body' (vajra-deha) to achieve immortality. A complex knowledge of the subtle body is involved (see Gorakhnathis). Kundalini Yoga, the yoga of the serpent power, is the discipline of a number of Tantric and other schools. Integral Yoga is Sri Aurobindo's yogic vision of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Vedas, and Tantrism, but for him Hatha Yoga is inessential.
Other types of yoga are described in the Sanskrit texts, each emphasising a different aspect of yogic practice. Among these are Mantra Yoga, the reciting of sacred words, Nada Yoga, the yoga of inner sound, Laya Yoga, the dissolution of the mind, Sahaja Yoga, the yoga of spontaneity, Adhyatma Yoga, the yoga of the depth-self, Buddhi Yoga, the yoga of wisdom, Dhyana Yoga, the yoga of absorption, and Kriya Yoga, the yoga of ritual action.
Yoga and Samkhya philosophies are very much alike with two important differences. Samkhya is atheistic, while yoga has a Lord, Isvara, and Samkhya sees metaphysical knowledge as the only path to liberation while yoga emphasises purification and meditation.
|History|| ||The origins of yoga are lost in the obscurity of the past. The Bhagavad-Gita describes yoga as puratana, archaic. Eliade says "In the universal history of mysticism, classic Yoga occupies a place of its own, and one that is difficult to define. It represents a living fossil, a modality of archaic spirituality that has survived nowhere else" (Eliade 1958, 361).|
Figures on seals in the Indus civilisation are thought to be in yogic sitting postures. There is some evidence of yoga in the Rgveda and Artharvaveda. The mysterious Vratyas were sacred brotherhoods associated with the kingdom of Magadha in north-east India (where Buddhism and Jainism originated). The Artharvaveda mentions their practice of pranayama. The term yoga occurs in the Upanishads. In the Svetasvatara Upanishad it says ''No sickness, no old age, no death has he who has obtained a body made of the fire of yoga." In the Puranas, the Epics, and some later literature yoga is more frequently encountered. Certainly, yogic practices were known to Indian ascetics and mystics long before Patanjali codified yoga in his Yoga Sutra. Nothing is known of Patanjali, and even the time he lived is disputed. There are claims that he lived either in the second or third century BCE or the fifth century CE. Patanjali has transformed an archaic mystical and ascetic tradition into what is regarded as one of the six orthodox systems of Hinduism.. His own contribution to the theoretical and metaphysical foundation was small.
The Yogabhasya by Vyasa, who lived in the seventh to eighth century CE, is the earliest commentary on the Yoga Sutra. Vacaspatimisra in the ninth century annotated Vyasa's work in his Tattvavaisaradi.
Gorakhnath, who lived sometime between 900 and 125 CE is known as the founder of Hatha Yoga. His history is elusive and legendary (see Gorakhnathis). The Goraksa-Samhita is perhaps the oldest text on Hatha Yoga. Gorakhnath's text Hathayoga is lost.
Jnana Yoga derives from Vedanta and the commentaries of Shankara. Bhakti Yoga probably originated in South India before the time of Buddha and grew into the great religious movement of the ninth to the eighteenth centuries. Karma Yoga is recommended in the Bhagavad Gita and is expounded in the Yoga-Vasistha of Valmiki.
Besides the classical yoga of Patanjali and the associated Hatha Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, and Karma Yoga, there developed Buddhist Yoga and Jain Yoga. As Indian religions spread there developed Tibetan Yoga and Taoist Yoga. With the rise of the great religious movements of Shaivism and Vaishnavism, yoga became increasingly popular and was assimilated into countless religious schools and sects. There were Siddhas, Pasupatas, Kapalikas, Kalamukhas, Virashaivas, Nathas, Bauls, and other sects that practised yoga. Tantric Yoga was an important influence throughout India.
In the modern period, Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and the Ramakrishna Mission (karma yoga), Ramana Maharshi and the Tiruvannamalai ashram (jnana yoga), Shivananda at Rishikesh and disciples such as Vishnudevananda in North America (hatha yoga), Aurobindo in Pondicherry (integral yoga), and Gitananda at Ananda Ashram in Pondicherry (raja yoga) have developed important yoga schools (see entries on Ramakrishna Mission, Ramana Maharshi, Shivananda Ashram, Aurobindo Ashram, Small Yoga Ashrams). There are associated ashrams all over the world, as well as those of other schools. Iyengar has been an important influence in Hatha Yoga, especially in England.
|Symbols|| ||There is extensive use of symbols in yoga. It is said that in ancient times the rishis, holy men, observed the animals, birds, and other creatures, and developed the asanas, postures, from their movements. Many asanas are named after animals, such as simhasana, the lion posture, vatayanasana, the horse posture, bakasana, the crane posture, matsyasana, the fish posture, and shalabhasana, the locust posture. Others are named after plants, such as padmasana, the lotus posture, or the sun, suryasana, the salute to the sun.|
In the geography of the subtle body, complex symbolism is used to describe the cakras, energy vortices. These are symbolised as lotuses and each cakra has a certain number of petals, a characteristic colour, its own geometric shape, and its own presiding deity. Sanskrit letters are inscribed on the petals of the lotuses, symbolising cosmic energy in the form of the revealed word. Large paintings of the cakras with all their symbols may be found on the walls of yoga ashrams. The spine is yogadanda, the staff of God, and up this comes the kundalini, the serpent power coiled at the base of the spine. Symbolism of the sun and moon is used for the major nadis, channels for prana to flow, for the upper and lower parts of the body, and in the name Hatha Yoga (ha, sun, tha, moon).
The different yoga schools use symbols that appertain more directly to the aspect of yoga with which they are concerned. Pictures of gurus are placed in ashrams as well as images of various Hindu gods and goddesses. The symbol OM is widely applied as are different mandalas, complex geometric designs filled with symbolism, such as the sri-yantra.
|Adherents|| ||Being essentially a practice, it is said that yoga can be followed with physical and spiritual benefit by adherents of all religions. This is true to a point. Many Christians practice yoga. There is a school of yoga called Christian Yoga, which is mainly Hatha Yoga, and there is even a Christian Yoga Church in California. But deeper involvement in yoga will come into conflict with Christian doctrine. However, it is undoubtedly the case that yoga as a method has crossed doctrinal, regional, linguistic, and geographical frontiers, and is now practised by millions of people all over the world (see also Small Yoga Ashrams).|
| ||There is no one main centre for each of the major yoga schools, though the smaller modern groups do have centres (see Small Yoga Ashrams).|