Published on February 15th, 2014 | by Margaret Pardoe0
Philosophy of Yoga: The Deep Stuff!
Yoga is so much more than a set of physical exercises and some meditation!
It’s a system of philosophy originating in India about 5,000 years ago.
Yoga offers a holistic approach to body, mind and spirit, coordinating the breath, mind and body and so helping with balance – both internally and externally.
The Sanskrit word yoga is translated as ‘union’, and there are some forms which have no physical component at all
Yoga is not a religion, although it sometimes interweaves other philosophies such as Hinduism or Buddhism, but it is not necessary to study those paths in order to practice or study yoga.It is also not necessary to surrender your own religious beliefs to practice yoga.
The father of classical ashtanga yoga (the eight-limbed path – not to be confused with Sri K. Pattabhi Jois’ Ashtanga yoga) is said to be Pantanjali, who wrote the Yoga Sutra.
These scriptures provide a framework for spiritual growth and mastery over the physical and mental body.
There are four main paths of Yoga: Raja Yoga , Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga. Each path suits a different temperament or approach to life, with all leading in the end to the same destination – to union with the Divine / God.
RAJA (aka ASHTANGA) YOGA
Raja / Ashtanga Yoga is the science of physical and mental control and it is a part of this form of Yoga that has become popular in the West, in the form of Hatha Yoga, where the familiar postures (Asanas) and control of the breath (Pranayama) are practiced.
Hatha Yoga uses relaxation and other practices such as Yamas, Niyamas, Mudras and Bandhas to gain control of the physical body and the life force (Prana).
When body and energy are under control meditation comes naturally.
The whole of Raja Yoga offers a comprehensive method for controlling thoughts by turning mental and physical energy into spiritual energy. Raja Yoga is also called Ashtanga Yoga, referring to the eight limbs leading to absolute mental control. The main practice of Raja Yoga is meditation and it also includes all other methods which helps one to control body, energy, senses and mind.
Ashtanga – The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga
The Eight Limbs of Raja Yoga are a progressive series of disciplines designed to purify both mind and body. They were compiled by the Sage Patanjali Maharishi in the Yoga Sutras and are ultimately meant to lead to enlightenment.
The 8 limbs are:
Yamas – The Yamas (i.e. Don’ts / restraints) are divided into five moral rules which aim to destroy the lower nature. They should all be practiced in word, thought and deed.
Ahimsa (non violence)
Brahmacharya (control of the senses i.e. moderation in all things (can also refer to celibacy)
Niyamas – The Niyamas or observances (i.e. Do’s) are also divided into five. These qualities are:
Saucha (purity – i.e. both internal and external cleanliness).
Swadhyaya (study of sacred texts)
Ishwara Pranidhana (awareness of the divine Presence)
Asanas – Postures
Pranayama – regulation or control of the breath. Asanas and Pranayama form the sub-division of Raja/Ashtanga Yoga known as Hatha-Yoga
Pratyahara – withdrawal of the senses in order to still the mind.
Dharana – concentration. The last 3 steps constitute the internal practice of Raja/Ashtanga Yoga. When Dharana is achieved, it leads to the next step:
Dhyana – (meditation) When mastered Dhyana leads to the last step:
Samadhi (the superconscious state). In Samadhi oneness (non-duality) is experienced. This is the deepest and highest state of consciousness where body and mind have been transcended, becoming one with the Self or God.
KARMA YOGA – YOGA OF ACTION
Karma Yoga is the Yoga of Action and best suits those with an outgoing nature. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward. By detaching yourself from the results of your actions and offering them up to God, you learn to sublimate the ego.
To achieve this, it is helpful to keep your mind focused by repeating a mantra while engaged in any activity.
It’s not what you do that counts, it’s your attitude while that determines if a job is a karma yoga job, i.e. a liberating job, or a binding job.
Same as attitude – it’s not what you do that counts, but your real motive behind it.
Your motivation must be pure and always do your best. If you know of a better way to serve, you must use it and not hold back because of fear of effort or criticism.
And putting in the same effort and attitude even if no one is watching!
Or if you feel the type of work just doesn’t suit you.
Always trying to do actions that bring maximum good and minimum evil.
It is the detachment from action that will dissolve the karmic seeds. Detachment from results also means detachment from the type of job itself. There is no job that is inferior or superior to any other, so don’t become attached to your job and be ready to give it up if necessary.
Each job is a teacher of some sort.
You can learn different skills by doing different jobs and each has different requirements in terms of time, concentration, skills or experience, emotional input, physical energy and will.
Do to others what you would like to be done to yourself and “love thy neighbor as thyself”.
Adapt, adjust, accommodate and be tolerant of others.
In Karma Yoga you need to practice humility in action and beware of power and fame, praise and censure, always trying your best whatever the circumstances.
BHAKTI YOGA – The Path of Devotion or Divine Love
Bhakti Yoga appeals most to those with an emotional nature. The Bhakti Yogi is motivated mainly by the power of love and sees Source/God as the embodiment of love. Through prayer, worship and ritual the yogi surrenders to the Divine, channelling and transmuting emotions into unconditional love or devotion. Chanting or singing the praises of God forms a big part of Bhakti Yoga.
JNANA YOGA – The Yoga of Knowledge or Wisdom
Jnana Yoga is thought to be the most difficult path, requiring great strength of will and intellect. The Jnana Yogi takes the philosophy of Vedanta and uses the mind to inquire into its own nature, leading to unity with God directly by dissolving the veils of ignorance. Before practicing Jnana Yoga, the lessons of the other yogic paths will have been learned because without selflessness and love of God, strength of body and mind, the search for self-realization can become just idle speculation.
Vedanta is the philosophy that comes from scriptures called The Upanishads.
The Upanishads are the final part of the ancient texts known as the Vedas.
Veda means knowledge and Anta means end. Therefore Vedanta is said to be the philosophy which leads to the end of knowledge and also the ending part of the Vedas.
Three main schools of Vedanta arose: Dvaita – the dualistic approach, Advaita – the non-dualistic approach and Kevala Advaita – the pure non-dualistic school.
Vedanta goes beyond philosophy and intellectual concepts. It is an actual life experience, a philosophy in practice. This practice includes the many techniques of Jnana Yoga (The Yoga of will and intellect).