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Yoga (Sanskrit, Pāli: योग, /ˈjəʊɡə/, yoga) is commonly known as a generic term for a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline originating in ancient India[1][2] and found in Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.[3][4][5] Specifically, Yoga is one of the six orthodox schools in Hindu philosophy. It is based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and aims to use meditation to attain spiritual insight and tranquility.



[edit] Terminology

In Vedic Sanskrit, the more commonly used, literal meaning of the Sanskrit word yoga which is “yoke”, “to join”, “to unite”, or “to attach” from the root yuj, already had a much more figurative sense, where the yoking or harnessing of oxen or horses takes on broader meanings such as “employment, use, application, performance” (compare the figurative uses of “to harness” as in “to put something to some use”). All further developments of the sense of this word are post-Vedic. More prosaic moods such as “exertion”, “endeavour”, “zeal” and “diligence” are also found in Epic Sanskrit.

There are very many Compound words containing yog in Sanskrit. Yoga can take on meanings such as “connection”, “contact”, “method”, “application”, “addition” and “performance”. For example, guṇá-yoga means “contact with a cord”; chakrá-yoga has a medical sense of “applying a splint or similar instrument by means of pulleys (in case of dislocation of the thigh)”; chandrá-yoga has the astronomical sense of “conjunction of the moon with a constellation”; puṃ-yoga is a grammatical term expressing “connection or relation with a man”, etc. Thus, bhakti-yoga means “devoted attachment” in the monotheistic Bhakti movement. The term kriyā-yoga has a grammatical sense, meaning “connection with a verb”. But the same compound is also given a technical meaning in the Yoga Sutras (2.1), designating the “practical” aspects of the philosophy, i.e. the “union with the Supreme” due to performance of duties in everyday life.

The Bhagavad Gita introduces distinctions such as Jnana Yoga (“yoga based on knowledge”) and Karma Yoga (“yoga based on action”).

Elsewhere in Hindu philosophy, the word yoga is used to refer to one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy.[n 1]

In the 2nd century BC Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the term Rāja Yoga is used [7].

Someone who practices yoga or follows the yoga philosophy with a high level of commitment is called a yogi or yogini.[8]

[edit] Purpose

In a general sense, Yoga is a disciplined method utilized for attaining a goal.[9] In this sense, the purpose of Yoga depends on the philosophical or theological system it is conjugated with. Bhakti schools of Vaishnavism, combine yoga with devotion to enjoy an eternal presence of Vishnu.[10] In Shaiva theology, Yoga is used to unite kundalini with Shiva.[11] Mahabharata defines the purpose of yoga as the experience of Brahman or Ātman pervading all things.[12] In the specific sense of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the purpose of Yoga is defined as citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (the cessation of the transformation of awareness).[6] In contemporary times, the physical postures of Yoga are used to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple. Yoga is also used a complete exercise program and as a phsical therapy routine.[13]

[edit] History

[edit] Prehistory

Male figure in a crossed legs posture on a mold of a seal from the Indus valley civilization

Several seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization sites, dating to the mid 3rd millennium BC, depict figures in positions resembling a common yoga or meditation pose, showing “a form of ritual discipline, suggesting a precursor of yoga,” according to archaeologist Gregory Possehl.[14] Ramaprasad Chanda, who supervised Indus Valley Civilization excavations, states that, “Not only the seated deities on some of the Indus seals are in Yoga posture and bear witness to the prevalence of Yoga in the Indus Valley Civilization in that remote age, the standing deities on the seals also show Kayotsarga (a standing posture of meditation) position. It is a posture not of sitting but of standing.”[15] Some type of connection between the Indus Valley seals and later yoga and meditation practices is speculated upon by many scholars, though there is no conclusive evidence.[n 2]

Ascetic practices (“tapas“), concentration and bodily postures used by Vedic priests to conduct yajna (vedic ritual of fire sacrifice) might have been precursors to Yoga.[n 3] Vratya, a group of ascetics mentioned in the Atharvaveda, emphasized on bodily postures which probably evolved into yogic asanas.[23] Early Vedic Samhitas also contain references to other group ascetics such as, Munis, Kesins and Vratyas.[25] Techniques for controlling breath and vital energies are mentioned in the Brahmanas (ritualistic texts of the Vedic corpus, c. 1000–800 BCE) and the Atharvaveda.[26][23] Nasadiya Sukta of the Rig Veda suggests the presence of an early contemplative tradition.[n 4] Alexander Wynne, author of The Origin of Buddhist Meditation, observes that formless meditation and elemental meditation might have originated in the Upanishadic tradition.[29] The earliest reference to meditation is in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the oldest Upanishads.[25] Chandogya Upanishad describes the five kinds of vital energies (prana). Concepts used later in many Yoga traditions such as internal sound and veins (nadis) are also described in the Upanishad.[23] Taittiriya Upanishad defines Yoga as the mastery of body and senses.[30]

[edit] Preclassical Era

Diffused pre-philosophical speculations of Yoga begin to emerge in the texts of c. 500–200 BCE such as the middle Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and Mokshadharma of the Mahabharata. The terms samkhya and yoga in these texts refer to spiritual methodologies rather than the philosophical systems which developed centuries later.[31]

[edit] Upanishads

The term “yoga” first appears in the Hindu scripture Katha Upanishad (a primary Upanishad c. 400 BCE) where it is defined as the steady control of the senses, which along with cessation of mental activity, leads to the supreme state.[25][n 5] Katha Upanishad integrates the monism of early Upanishads with concepts of Samkhya and Yoga. It defines various levels of existence according to their proximity to the innermost being Ātman. Yoga is therefore seen as a process of interiorization or ascent of consciousness.[33][34] It is the earliest literary work that highlights the fundamentals of yoga. Shvetashvatara Upanishad (c. 400-200 BCE) elaborates on the relationship between thought and breath, control of mind, and the benefits of Yoga.[34] Like the Katha Upanishad the transcendent Self is seen as the goal of Yoga. This text also recommends meditation on Om as a path to liberation.[35] Maitrayaniya Upanishad (c. 300 BCE) formalizes the sixfold form of Yoga.[34] Physiological theories of later Yoga make an appearance in this text.[36][37] Further systematization of Yoga is continued in the Yoga Upanishads of the Atharvaveda.[38] The concepts of Chakra and Kundalini are first mentioned in these Upanishads.[39]

[edit] Bhagavad Gita

Krishna narrating the Gita to Arjuna.

Main article: 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,[40] it introduces three prominent types of yoga:[n 6]

In Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna explains to Arjuna about the essence of Yoga as practiced in daily lives:

योगस्थ: कुरु कर्माणि सङ्गं त्यक्त्वा धनंजय ।
सिद्ध्यसिद्ध्यो: समो भूत्वा समत्वं योग उच्यते ।।
(yoga-sthaḥ kuru karmani sanyugam tyaktvā dhananjay
siddhy-asiddhyoḥ samo bhutvā samatvam yoga ucyate)

Bhagavad Gita 2.48

A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translates it as “Be steadfast in yoga (yoga-sthaḥ), O Arjuna. Perform your duty (kuru karmani) and abandon all attachment (sangam) to success or failure (siddhy-asiddhyoḥ). Such evenness of mind (samatvam) is called yoga.”[45]

Madhusudana Sarasvati (b. circa 1490) divided the Gita into three sections, with the first six chapters dealing with Karma yoga, the middle six with Bhakti yoga, and the last six with Jnana (knowledge).[46] Other commentators ascribe a different ‘yoga’ to each chapter, delineating eighteen different yogas.[47] Aurobindo, a freedom fighter and philosopher, describes the Yoga of the Gita as “a large, flexible and many-sided system with various elements, which are all successfully harmonized by a sort of natural and living assimilation”.[48]

[edit] Mahabharata

Description of an early form of Yoga called nirodha–yoga (Yoga of cessation) is contained in the Mokshadharma section of the 12th chapter (Shanti Parva) of the Mahabharata epic. The verses of the section are dated to c. 300–200 BCE. Nirodha–yoga emphasizes progressive withdrawal from the contents of empirical consciousness such as thoughts, sensations etc. until Purusha (Self) is realized. Terms like vichara (subtle reflection), viveka (discrimination) and others which are similar to Patanjali’s terminology are mentioned, but not described.[49] There is no uniform goal of Yoga mentioned in the Mahabharata. Separation of self from matter, perceiving brahman everywhere, entering into brahman etc. are all described as goals of Yoga. Samkhya and Yoga are conflated together and some verses describe them as being identical.[50]

[edit] Classical Yoga

During the period between the Mauryan and the Gupta era (c. 200 BCE–500 CE) philosophical schools of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism were taking form and a coherent philosophical system of Yoga began to emerge.[51]

[edit] Buddhism

The Buddha depicted in yogic meditation, Kamakura, Japan

Early Buddhist Pali (c. 29–17 BCE)[52] canons are the oldest surviving texts to describe a systematic and comprehensive Yoga discipline. The only other Indian texts with an antiquity comparable to the Pali canons are the Yoga sutras of Patanjali. Most of the other contemporary Yoga systems alluded in the Upanishads and some Pali canons are lost to time. Another yoga system that pre-dated the Buddhist school is Jain Yoga, however since Jain sources postdate Buddhist ones, it is difficult to distinguish between the true nature of the early Jain school and derived elements from other schools.[53]

The early Buddhist texts describe meditative practices and states, some of which the Buddha borrowed from the ascetic (Shramana) tradition.[54][55][56] One key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative absorption must be combined with liberating cognition.[57] Meditative states alone are not an end, for according to the Buddha, even the highest meditative state is not liberating. Instead of attaining a complete cessation of thought, some sort of mental activity must take place: a liberating cognition, based on the practice of mindful awareness.[58] The Buddha also departed from earlier yogic thought in discarding the early Brahminic notion of liberation at death.[59] Liberation for the Brahmin was thought to be the realization at death of a nondual meditative state anticipated in life. In fact, old Brahminic metaphors for the liberation at death (“becoming cool,” “going out”) were given a new meaning by the Buddha; their point of reference became the sage who is liberated in life.[60]

The Pali canon contains three passages in which the Buddha describes pressing the tongue against the palate for the purposes of controlling hunger or the mind, depending on the passage.[61] However there is no mention of the tongue being inserted into the nasopharynx as in true khecarī mudrā. The Mahāsīhanadāsutta (Majjhima Nikaya 1:78) mentions the Buddha using a posture where pressure is put on the perineum with the heel, similar to even modern postures used to stimulate Kundalini.[62]

[edit] Samkhya

Further information: 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.[63]

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.”[64]

[edit] Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Traditional Hindu depiction of Patanjali as an avatar of the divine serpent Shesha.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali[65]
Pada (Chapter) English meaning Sutras
Samadhi Pada On being absorbed in spirit 51
Sadhana Pada On being immersed in spirit 55
Vibhuti Pada On supernatural abilities and gifts 56
Kaivalya Pada On absolute freedom 34

In Hindu philosophy, Yoga is the name of one of the six orthodox (which accept the testimony of Vedas) philosophical schools[66][67] founded by Patanjali. Professor Karel Werner writes that the process of systemization of Yoga which began in the middle and Yoga Upanishads culminated with the Yoga sutras of Patanjali.[n 10] Werner also notes the influence of Buddhist ideas on the sutras.[n 11] The Yoga school 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.[70][71] 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….”[72] 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. Sāṅkhya 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 (“mokṣa“), 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”).

Patanjali is widely regarded as the compiler of the formal Yoga philosophy.[74] Patanjali’s yoga is known as Raja yoga, which is a system for control of the mind.[75] Patanjali defines the word “yoga” in his second sutra, which is the definitional sutra for his entire work:

योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
(yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ)
Yoga Sutras 1.2

This terse definition hinges on the meaning of three Sanskrit terms. I. K. Taimni translates it as “Yoga is the inhibition (nirodhaḥ) of the modifications (vṛtti) of the mind (citta)”.[76] The use of the word nirodhaḥ in the opening definition of yoga is an example of the important role that Buddhist technical terminology and concepts play in the Yoga Sutra; this role suggests that Patanjali was aware of Buddhist ideas and wove them into his system.[77] Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as “Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).”[78]

A sculpture of a Hindu yogi in the Birla Mandir, Delhi

Patanjali’s writing also became the basis for a system referred to as “Ashtanga Yoga” (“Eight-Limbed Yoga”). This eight-limbed concept derived from the 29th Sutra of the 2nd book, and is a core characteristic of practically every Raja yoga variation taught today. The Eight Limbs are:

  1. Yama (The five “abstentions”): Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (Truth, non-lying), Asteya (non-covetousness), Brahmacharya (non-sensuality, celibacy), and Aparigraha (non-possessiveness).
  2. Niyama (The five “observances”): Shaucha(purity), Santosha(contentment), Tapas (austerity), Svadhyaya (study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul), and Ishvara-Pranidhana (surrender to God).
  3. Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
  4. Pranayama (“Suspending Breath”): Prāna, breath, “āyāma”, to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
  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.

In the view of this school, the highest attainment does not reveal the experienced diversity of the world to be illusion. The everyday world is real. Furthermore, the highest attainment is the event of one of many individual selves discovering itself; there is no single universal self shared by all persons.[79]

[edit] Jainism

Tirthankara Parsva in Yogic meditation in the Kayotsarga posture.

According to “Tattvarthasutra,” 2nd century CE Jain text, “Yoga,” is the sum total of all the activities of mind, speech and body.[5] Umasvati calls yoga the cause of “asrava” or karmic influx[80] as well as one of the essentials—samyak caritra—in the path to liberation.[80] In his “Niyamasara,” Acarya Kundakunda, describes yoga bhakti—devotion to the path to liberation—as the highest form of devotion.[81] 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.[82] 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.[83][n 12]

[edit] Yogacara school

Main article: Yogacara

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.[85] The Yogacara sect teaches “yoga” as a way to reach enlightenment.[86]

[edit] Middle Ages

The practice of Yoga remained in development in Classical Hinduism, and cognate techniques of meditation within Buddhism, throughout the medieval period.

[edit] Bhakti movement

Main article: Bhakti Yoga

The Bhakti movement was a development in medieval Hinduism which advocated the concept of a personal God (or “Supreme Personality of Godhead“). The movement was initiated by the Alvars of South India in the 6th to 9th centuries, and it started gaining influence throughout India by the 12th to 15th centuries.[87] Saiva and Vaishnava bhakti traditions integrated aspects of Yoga Sutras, such as the practical meditative exercises, with devotion.[88] Bhagavata Purana elucidates the practice of a form of Yoga called viraha (separation) bhakti. Viraha bhakti emphasizes one pointed concentration on Krishna.[89]

[edit] Vajrayana

Main article: Vajrayana

While breath channels (nāḍis) of yogic practices had already been discussed in the classical Upanishads, it was not until Tantric works, such as the eighth-century Buddhist Hevajra Tantra and Caryāgiti, that hierarchies of chakras were introduced.[90]

[edit] Hatha Yoga

Main articles: Hatha yoga and Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Basic tenets of Hatha Yoga was were formulated by Saiva ascetics Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath c. 900 CE. Hatha Yoga synthesizes elements of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras with posture and breathing exercises.[91] Hatha Yoga is also defined in the 11th century Buddhist text Vimalaprabha, which defines it in relation to the center channel, bindu etc.[92] Hatha Yoga, sometimes referred to as the “psychophysical yoga”,[93] was further elaborated by Yogi Swatmarama, compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in 15th century CE. This 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).[94][95] Compared to the seated asana, or sitting meditation posture, of Patanjali’s Raja yoga,[96] it marks the development of asanas (plural) into the full body ‘postures’ now in popular usage[97] and, along with its many modern variations, is the style that many people associate with the word “Yoga” today.[98]

संयोगो योग इत्युक्तो जीवात्मपरमात्मनोः॥
saṁyogo yoga ityukto jīvātma-paramātmanoḥ॥
Union of the self (jivātma) with the Divine (paramātma) is said to be yoga.

The Yoga Yajnavalkya is a classical treatise on Hatha Yoga attributed to the Vedic sage Yajnavalkya. It takes the form of a dialogue between Yajnavalkya and his wife Gargi, a renowned female philosopher.[100] The text contains 12 chapters and it probably originated c. 13th century CE.[101] Many Hatha yoga texts like the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Yoga Kundalini and the Yoga Tattva Upanishads have borrowed verses from or make frequent references to the Yoga Yajnavalkya.[102] In the Yoga Yajnavalkya, yoga is defined as jivatmaparamatmasamyogah, or the union between the individual self (jivatma) and the Divine (paramatma).[99]

Hatha Yoga exercises have resulted in severe bodily dysfunction or injury. Practitioners suggest that this is primarily the case when individuals push themselves or are pushed beyond what their physical condition will support.[103]

[edit] Sikhism

Various yogic cults had become prominent in Punjab in the 15th and 16th century, when Sikhism was in its nascent stage. Compositions of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, describe many dialogues he had with Jogis, a Hindu community which practiced Yoga.[104] Guru Nanak rejected the austerities, rites and rituals connected with the Hatha Yoga.[105] He propounded the path of Sahaja Yoga or Nama Yoga (meditation on the name) instead.[106] The Guru Granth Sahib states:

Listen O Yogi, Nanak tells nothing but the truth. You must discipline your mind. The devotee must meditate on the Word Divine. It is His grace which brings about the union. He understands, he also sees. Good deeds help one merge into Divination.[107]

[edit] Modern history

[edit] Hindu revivalism

Question book-new.svg This section does not cite any references or sources. (August 2012)

New schools of Yoga were introduced in the context of Hindu revivalism towards the end of the 19th century.

The asanas (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 Tirumalai Krishnamacharya in south India, Swami Sivananda in the north, Yogendra in Bombay, and Swami Kuvalyananda in Lonavla, Maharashtra.

Numerous asanas seem modern in origin, and strongly overlap 19th and early 20th century Western exercise traditions.[108]

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 Swāmī Śrīyukteśwara Giri and Syāmacaran Lahiri “Mahasaya” from Mahāvatār Bābājī. Also influential in the development of modern Yoga were Tirumalai Krishnamacharya, and his disciple K. 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 B.K.S. Iyengar.

[edit] Reception in the West

A western style Hatha Yoga class.

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.[109]

In the West, the term “yoga” is today typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its asanas (postures) or as a form of exercise.[110] 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 B.K.S. Iyengar, K. Pattabhi Jois, and Swami Vishnu-devananda, and Swami Satchidananda.[111][112][113] Kundalini Yoga, considered an advanced form of yoga and meditation, was brought to the United States by Yogi Bhajan in 1969.[114]

Artwork showing adaptive yoga performed by a wheelchair user.

A second “yoga boom” followed in the 1980s, as Dean 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.[109]

Since 2001, the popularity of yoga in the USA has been on the constant rise. The number of people who practiced some form of yoga has grown from 4 million (in 2001) to 20 million (in 2011). While a great number of people benefit from their yoga practice, certain health problems associated with yoga have been brought to the attention of the vast masses. Yoga has been criticised for being potentially dangerous and being a cause for a range of serious medical conditions including thoracic outlet syndrome, degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine, spinal stenosis, retinal tears, etc. As of January 2012, there were about 20 million yoga followers in the USA.[115]

Among the main reasons that can cause the negative effects of yoga, experts name beginners’ competitiveness and instructors’ lack of qualification. As the demand for yoga classes grows, many people get trained and certified to become yoga instructors. However, not every newly certified instructor can evaluate the condition of every new trainee in their class and recommend refraining from doing certain poses to avoid injuries. In their turn, yoga students overestimate the abilities of their body and strive to do the advanced poses before their body is flexible enough to perform them. At the same time, experts agree that yoga is of great use if it’s taught by a fully trained skilled instructor.[116][117]

[edit] Medicine

There has been an emergence of studies investigating yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer patients. Yoga is used for treatment of cancer patients to decrease depression, insomnia, pain, and fatigue and increase anxiety control.[118] Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) programs include yoga as a mind-body technique to reduce stress. A study found that after seven weeks the group treated with yoga reported significantly less mood disturbance and reduced stress compared to the control group. Another study found that MBSR had showed positive effects on sleep anxiety, quality of life, and spiritual growth.[119]

Yoga has also been studied as a treatment for schizophrenia[120]. Yoga is found to improve cognitive functions and reduce stress in schizophrenia, a condition associated with cognitive deficits and stress-related relapse. In one study, at the end of four months those patients treated with yoga were better in their social and occupational functions and quality of life.[121] The three main focuses of Hatha yoga (exercise, breathing, and meditation) make it beneficial to those suffering from heart disease. Overall, studies of the effects of yoga on heart disease suggest that yoga may reduce high blood pressure, improve symptoms of heart failure, enhance cardiac rehabilitation, and lower cardiovascular risk factors.[122]

Long-term yoga practitioners in the United States have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements, as well as reduced symptoms of asthma in asthmatics.[123] Regular yoga practice increases brain GABA levels and has been shown to improve mood and anxiety more than some other metabolically matched exercises, such as walking.[124] Implementation of the Kundalini Yoga Lifestyle has shown to help substance abuse addicts increase their quality of life according to psychological questionnaires like the Behavior and Symptom Identification Scale and the Quality of Recovery Index.[125]

[edit] Yoga compared with other systems of meditation

[edit] Tantra

Tantrism is a practice that is supposed to alter the relation of its practitioners to the ordinary social, religious, and logical reality in which they live. Through Tantric practice, an individual perceives reality as maya, illusion, and the individual achieves liberation from it.[126] Both Tantra & Yoga offer paths that relieve a person from depending on the world. Where Yoga relies on progressive restriction of inputs from outside; Tantra relies on transmutation of all external inputs so that one is no longer dependent on them, but can take them or leave them at will. They both make a person independent.[127] This 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 and modes.[126]

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.[127]

During 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.[128]

[edit] Buddhism

Further information: Dhyāna in Buddhism

[edit] Zen Buddhism

Zen (the name of which derives from the Sanskrit “dhyaana” via the Chinese “ch’an”[n 13] is a form of Mahayana Buddhism. The Mahayana school of Buddhism is noted for its proximity with Yoga.[130] In the west, Zen is often set alongside Yoga; the two schools of meditation display obvious family resemblances.[131] This phenomenon merits special attention since yogic practices have some of their roots in the Zen Buddhist school.[n 14] Certain essential elements of Yoga are important both for Buddhism in general and for Zen in particular.[133]

[edit] Tibetan Buddhism

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.[134] The last six are described as “yoga yanas”: “Kriya yoga,” “Upa yoga,” “Yoga yana,” “Mahā yoga,” “Anu yoga” and the ultimate practice, “Ati yoga.”[135] The Sarma traditions also include Kriya, Upa (called “Charya”), and Yoga, with the Anuttara yoga class substituting for Mahayoga and Atiyoga.[136]

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.[137] 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.”[138] Chang also claims that Tibetan Yoga involves reconciliation of apparent polarities, such as prana and mind, relating this to theoretical implications of tantrism.

[edit] Christian meditation

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.[139] The Roman Catholic Church, and some other Christian organizations have expressed concerns and disapproval with respect to some eastern and New Age practices that include yoga and meditation.[140][141][142]

In 1989 and 2003, the Vatican issued two documents: Aspects of Christian meditation and “A Christian reflection on the New Age,” that were mostly critical of eastern and New Age practices. The 2003 document was published as a 90 page handbook detailing the Vatican’s position.[143] The Vatican warned that concentration on the physical aspects of meditation “can degenerate into a cult of the body” and that equating bodily states with mysticism “could also lead to psychic disturbance and, at times, to moral deviations.” Such has been compared to the early days of Christianity, when the church opposed the gnostics’ belief that salvation came not through faith but through a mystical inner knowledge.[139] The letter also says, “one can see if and how [prayer] might be enriched by meditation methods developed in other religions and cultures”[144] but maintains the idea that “there must be some fit between the nature of [other approaches to] prayer and Christian beliefs about ultimate reality.”[139] Some fundamentalist Christian organizations consider yoga to be incompatible with their religious background, considering it a part of the New Age movement inconsistent with Christianity.[145]

[edit] Sufism

The development of Sufism was considerably influenced by Indian yogic practises, where they adapted both physical postures (asanas) and breath control (pranayama).[146] 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.[147]

[edit] Sunni Islam

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.”[148] Sisters in Islam, a women’s rights group in Malaysia, also expressed disappointment and said that its members would continue with their yoga classes.[149]

The fatwa states that yoga practiced only as physical exercise is permissible, but prohibits the chanting of religious mantras,[150] and states that teachings such as the uniting of a human with God is not consistent with Islamic philosophy.[151] In a similar vein, the Council of Ulemas, an Islamic body in Indonesia, passed a fatwa banning yoga on the grounds that it contains “Hindu elements”[152] These fatwas have, in turn, been criticized by Darul Uloom Deoband, a Deobandi Islamic seminary in India.[153]

In May 2009, Turkey’s head of the Directorate of Religious Affairs, Ali Bardakoğlu, discounted personal development techniques such as yoga as commercial ventures that could lead to extremism. His comments were made in the context of yoga possibly competing with and eroding participation in Islamic practice.[154]

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] Notes

  1. ^Jacobsen writes, “Yoga has five principal meanings:
    • yoga as a disciplined method for attaining a goal
    • yoga as techniques of controlling the body and the mind
    • yoga as a name of one of the schools or systems of philosophy (darśana)
    • yoga in connection with other words, such as “hatha-, mantra-, and laya-,” referring to traditions specialising in particular techniques of yoga
    • yoga as the goal of yoga practice.”[6]

    Monier-Williams includes “it is the second of the two Sāṃkhya systems,” and “abstraction practised as a system (as taught by Patañjali and called the Yoga philosophy)” in his definitions of “yoga.”

  2. ^See:
    • Jonathan Mark Kenoyer describes one figure as “seated in yogic position.”[16]
    • Karel Werner writes that “Archeological discoveries allow us therefore to speculate with some justification that a wide range of Yoga activities was already known to the people of pre-Aryan India.”[17]
    • Heinrich Zimmer describes one seal as “seated like a yogi.”[18]
    • Thomas McEvilley writes that “The six mysterious Indus Valley seal images…all without exception show figures in a position known in hatha yoga as mulabhandasana or possibly the closely related “utkatasana” or “baddha konasana….”[19]
    • Dr. Farzand Masih, Punjab University Archaeology Department Chairman, describes a recently discovered seal as depicting a “yogi.”[20]
    • Gavin Flood disputes the idea regarding one of the seals, the so-called “Pashupati seal,” writing that it isn’t clear the figure is seated in a yoga posture, or that the shape is intended to represent a human figure.[21]
    • Geoffrey Samuel, regarding the Pashupati seal, believes that we “do not actually “know” how to interpret the figure, nor do we know what he or she represent.”[22]
  3. ^See:
    • Jacobsen writes that “Bodily postures are closely related to the tradition of tapas, ascetic practices in the Vedic tradition. The use by Vedic priests of ascetic practices in their preparations for the performance of the sacrifice might be precursor to yoga.”[23]
    • Whicher believes that “the proto-Yoga of the Vedic rishis is an early form of sacrificial mysticism and contains many elements characteristic of later Yoga that include: concentration, meditative observation, ascetic forms of practice (tapas), breath control…”[24]
  4. ^See:^ For the date of this Upanishad see also Helmuth von Glasenapp, from the 1950 Proceedings of the “Akademie der Wissenschaften und Literatur”[32]
    • Wynne states that “The Nasadiyasukta, one of the earliest and most important cosmogonic tracts in the early Brahminic literature, contains evidence suggesting it was closely related to a tradition of early Brahminic contemplation. A close reading of this text suggests that it was closely related to a tradition of early Brahminic contemplation. The poem may have been composed by contemplatives, but even if not, an argument can be made that it marks the beginning of the contemplative/meditative trend in Indian thought.”[27]
    • Miller suggests that the composition of Nasadiya Sukta and Purusha Sukta arises from “the subtlest meditative stage, called absorption in mind and heart” which “involves enheightened experiences” through which seer “explores the mysterious psychic and cosmic forces…”.[28]
    • Jacobsen writes that dhyana (meditation) is derived from Vedic term dhih which refers to “visionary insight”, “thought provoking vision”.[28]
  5. ^ Flood writes, “…Bhagavad Gita, including a complete chapter (ch. 6) devoted to traditional yoga practice. The Gita also introduces the famous three kinds of yoga, ‘knowledge’ (jnana), ‘action’ (karma), and ‘love’ (bhakti).” [41]
  6. ^ Karma yoga involves performance of action without attachment to results.[42]
  7. ^ The yoga of devotion is similar to the yoga of action, but the fruits of action, in yoga of devotion, are surrendered to Krishna.[43]
  8. ^ Jnana yoga is the path of wisdom, knowledge, and direct experience of Brahman as the ultimate reality. The path renounces both desires and actions, and is therefore depicted as being steep and very difficult in the Bhagavad Gita.[44]
  9. ^ Werner writes, “The word Yoga appears here for the first time in its fully technical meaning, namely as a systematic training, and it already received a more or less clear formulation in some other middle Upanishads….Further process of the systematization of Yoga as a path to the ultimate mystic goal is obvious in subsequent Yoga Upanishads and the culmination of this endeavour isrepresented by Patanjali’s codification of this path into a system of the eightfold Yoga.”[68]
  10. ^ Werner writes, “Patanjali’s system is unthinkable without Buddhism. As far as its terminology goes there is much in the Yoga Sutras that reminds us of Buddhist formulations from the Pāli Canon and even more so from the Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma and from Sautrāntika.”[69]
  11. ^ Worthington writes, “Yoga fully acknowledges its debt to Jainism, and Jainism reciprocates by making the practice of yoga part and parcel of life.”[84]
  12. ^ “The Meditation school, called ‘Ch’an’ in Chinese from the Sanskrit ‘dhyāna,’ is best known in the West by the Japanese pronunciation ‘Zen’ “[129]
  13. ^ Exact quote: “This phenomenon merits special attention since yogic roots are to be found in the Zen Buddhist school of meditation.”[132]

[edit] Citations

  1. ^ Baptiste, Sherri; Scott, Megan (2005-12-16). Yoga with Weights for Dummies. ISBN 978-0-471-74937-0.
  2. ^ Yogani (2010-12-01). Advanced Yoga Practices – Easy Lessons for Ecstatic Living. ISBN 978-0-9819255-2-3.
  3. ^ Denise Lardner Carmody, John Carmody, Serene Compassion. Oxford University Press US, 1996, page 68.
  4. ^ Stuart Ray Sarbacker, Samādhi: The Numinous and Cessative in Indo-Tibetan Yoga. SUNY Press, 2005, pp. 1–2.
  5. ^ a b Tattvarthasutra [6.1], see Manu Doshi (2007) Translation of Tattvarthasutra, Ahmedabad: Shrut Ratnakar p. 102
  6. ^ a b Jacobsen, p. 4.
  7. ^ Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, Indian Philosophy, London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1971 edition, Volume II, pp. 19–20.
  8. ^ American Heritage Dictionary: “Yogi, One who practices yoga.” Websters: “Yogi, A follower of the yoga philosophy; an ascetic.”
  9. ^ Jacobsen, p. 4.
  10. ^ “Vaishnavism” Britannica Concise “Characterized by an emphasis on bhakti, its aim is to escape the cycle of birth and death in order to enjoy the presence of Vishnu.”
  11. ^ Larson, p. 142.
  12. ^ Jacobsen, p. 9.
  13. ^ Dupler, Douglas; Frey, Rebecca. Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed (2006). Retrieved 30 August 2012.
  14. ^ Possehl (2003), pp. 144–145
  15. ^ In his article “Mohen-jo-Daro: Sindh 5000 Years Ago” in Modern Review (August, 1932)
  16. ^ “Around the Indus in 90 Slides” by Jonathan Mark Kenoyer
  17. ^ Werner, p. 103.
  18. ^ Zimmer, p. 168.
  19. ^ McEvilley, pp. 219-220
  20. ^ Rare objects discovery points to ruins treasure
  21. ^ Flood, pp. 28–29.
  22. ^ Samuel, p. 4.
  23. ^ a b c d Jacobsen, p. 6.
  24. ^ Whicher, p. 12.
  25. ^ a b c Flood, p. 94–95.
  26. ^ Whicher, p. 13.
  27. ^ Wynne, p. 51.
  28. ^ a b Whicher, p. 11.
  29. ^ Wynne, p. 51,58.
  30. ^ Whicher, p. 17.
  31. ^ Larson, p. 34–35.
  32. ^ Vedanta and Buddhism, A Comparative Study. Retrieved 29 August 2012.
  33. ^ Whicher, p. 18–19.
  34. ^ a b c Jacobsen, p. 8.
  35. ^ Whicher, p. 20.
  36. ^ Whicher, p. 21.
  37. ^ Feuerstein, Georg (January-February 1988). “Introducing Yoga’s Great Literary Heritage”. Yoga Journal (78): 70-5.
  38. ^ Werner, p. 24.
  39. ^ Varenne, Jean (1989). Yoga and the Hindu Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass Publ.. p. 197. ISBN 978-81-208-0543-9.
  40. ^ Jacobsen, p. 10.
  41. ^ Flood, p. 96.
  42. ^ Fowler, p. xliv.
  43. ^ Jacobsen, p. 11.
  44. ^ Folwer, p. xli.
  45. ^ “Ch. 2.48” “Bhagavad-Gita As It Is” by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Bhaktivedanta Book Trust International.
  46. ^ Gambhirananda, p. 16.
  47. ^ Jacobsen, p. 46.
  48. ^ Fowler, p. xlv.
  49. ^ Whicher, p. 25–26.
  50. ^ Jacobsen, p. 9.
  51. ^ Larson, p. 36.
  52. ^ Datta, Amaresh (1988). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: devraj to jyoti. Sahitya Akademi. p. 1809. ISBN 978-81-260-1194-0.
  53. ^ Werner p. 119-20
  54. ^ Wynne, p. 50.
  55. ^ Richard Gombrich, “Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo.” Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988, p. 44.
  56. ^ Barbara Stoler Miller, “Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: the Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali; a Translation of the Text, with Commentary, Introduction, and Glossary of Keywords.” University of California Press, 1996, p. 8.
  57. ^ Wynne, p. 73.
  58. ^ Wynne, p. 105.
  59. ^ Wynne, p. 96.
  60. ^ Wynne, p. 109.
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  62. ^ James Mallinson, Sāktism and Hathayoga, pp. 20-21. Published 6 March 2012. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  63. ^ Radhankrishnan, Indian Philosophy, London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1971 edition, Volume II, p. 342.
  64. ^ Radhankrishnan, Indian Philosophy, London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1971 edition, Volume II, p. 344.
  65. ^ Stiles 2001, p. x.
  66. ^ For an overview of the six orthodox schools, with detail on the grouping of schools, see: Radhakrishnan and Moore, “Contents,” and pp. 453–487.
  67. ^ For a brief overview of the Yoga school of philosophy see: Chatterjee and Datta, p. 43.
  68. ^ Werner, p. 24.
  69. ^ Werner, p. 27.
  70. ^ For Yoga acceptance of Samkhya concepts, but with addition of a category for God, see: Radhakrishnan and Moore, p. 453.
  71. ^ For Yoga as accepting the 25 principles of Samkhya with the addition of God, see: Chatterjee and Datta, p. 43.
  72. ^ Müller (1899), Chapter 7, “Yoga Philosophy,” p. 104.
  73. ^ Zimmer (1951), p. 280.
  74. ^ For Patanjali as the founder of the philosophical system called Yoga see: Chatterjee and Datta, p. 42.
  75. ^ For “raja yoga” as a system for control of the mind and connection to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as a key work, see: Flood (1996), pp. 96–98.
  76. ^ For text and word-by-word translation as “Yoga is the inhibition of the modifications of the mind.” See: Taimni, p. 6.
  77. ^ Barbara Stoler Miller, “Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: the Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali; a Translation of the Text, with Commentary, Introduction, and Glossary of Keywords.” University of California Press, 1996, page 9.
  78. ^ Vivekanada, p. 115.
  79. ^ Stephen H. Phillips, “Classical Indian Metaphysics: Refutations of Realism and the Emergence of “New Logic.” Open Court Publishing, 1995., pages 12–13.
  80. ^ a b Tattvarthasutra [6.2]
  81. ^ Niyamasara [134-40]
  82. ^ Zydenbos, Robert. “Jainism Today and Its Future.” München: Manya Verlag, 2006. p.66
  83. ^ Zydenbos (2006) p.66
  84. ^ Worthington, p. 35.
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  88. ^ Larson, p. 137.
  89. ^ Jacobsen, p. 22.
  90. ^ White, David Gordon. Yoga in Practice. Princeton University Press 2012, page 14.
  91. ^ Larson, p. 140.
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  96. ^ “Mindfulness Yoga: The Awakened Union of Breath Body & Mind” – Page 6 by Frank Jude Boccio
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[edit] Bibliography

[edit] Further reading