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Yoga Philosophy and History- A Simple Guide to Practice

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The central principle of Yoga's philosophy is the development of mental discernment, detachment, spiritual knowledge, and self-awareness.

Medically reviewed by

Shakti Mishra

Published At November 30, 2022
Reviewed AtDecember 5, 2022

Introduction

Yoga's core belief is that the mind, body, and spirit are all interconnected and cannot be clearly distinguished from one another. Nevertheless, the deeper aspects of the body, mind, and energy can be explored using many philosophical concepts. Studying and comprehending these concepts is crucial to change our perception of ourselves as distinct and to realize the unitive condition.

According to yoga philosophy, misery is caused by spiritual ignorance, which keeps us trapped on the wheel of Samsara (cycle of rebirth). Yoga offers a variety of ways and paths for eradicating our ignorance.

What Is Hindu Philosophy?

Hindu philosophy refers to the worldviews, ideologies, and teachings that originated in historical India. These include six systems.

  1. Sankhya.

  2. Yoga.

  3. Nyaya.

  4. Vaisheshika.

  5. Mimamsa.

  6. Vedanta.

What Is Yoga Philosophy?

  • One of Hinduism's six primary orthodox schools is the philosophy of Yoga. Still, Indian writings first referred to Yoga as a separate school of thought from Samkhya at the end of the first millennium CE.

  • Yoga philosophy is frequently referred to as "Yoga" in ancient, medieval, and most modern literature.

  • In contrast to other ideologies, the yoga philosophy values the body highly and does not view it as unimportant.

  • This philosophy believes that the mind can be pure only when the body is healthy, and the purity of the mind will lead to a mental process.

What Is the History of Yoga?

It needs to be clarified when Yoga first emerged. Ecstatics are mentioned in the earliest Vedic scriptures; they could have been the forerunners of later Yogis (followers of Yoga). Although some academics believe that Yoga may be up to 10,000 years old, the development of the practice may be dated back more than 5,000 years.

What Are Karma and Rebirth?

The philosophy of Yoga revolves around the concept of Karma. Karma holds us to the wheel of Samsara, which prolongs our suffering and the illusion of Maya like glue. Maya, described as "illusion or ignorance," stands between our ego and our unitive awareness of the universe.

Westerners may find these fundamental worldviews perplexing, but they can help us realign our thinking to recognize and feel the interconnectedness of all things.

What Is Patanjali Yoga Sutra?

  • The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, a crucial yoga classic that has inspired all other schools of Indian philosophy, are a systematic collection of yoga concepts.

  • Some people refer to the "yoga philosophy" as the "Patanjali philosophy" because Maharshi Patanjali first put it forward.

  • This philosophy's distinctive advantage is that, in contrast to other philosophies, it is both theoretical and practical.

What Is Ashtanga Yoga?

To still our mind, Patanjali, the great Sage who wrote the Yoga Sutra, presented an Ashtanga Yoga system. It is also called the eight limbs of Yoga. In Sanskrit, Ashtanga means 'Eight Limb Path.

Ashta= Eight.

anga= Limb.

The eight limbs, or steps to Yoga, should be pursued in the order they are presented as they build upon one another.

What Are the Eight Limbs or Eight Fold Paths of Yoga?

The eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga are:

  1. Yamas.

  2. Niyamas.

  3. Asanas.

  4. Pranayama.

  5. Pratyahara.

  6. Dharana.

  7. Dhyana.

  8. Samadhi.

  • Yamas:

    • Yamas can be interpreted as "attitude" or "behavior." It deals with one's ethical standards, Universal morality, restraints, and sense of integrity. There are 5 Yamas.

      • Ahimsa- It denotes lack of harm. This idea entails acting in a way that promotes development and adds to the life energy around us. Therefore, there is no aggression against any life.

      • Satya- Sincerity in thought and speech.

      • Asteya- Steya refers to "steal," whereas Asteya implies taking nothing that is not ours.

      • Aparigraha- Non-hoarding or never having animosity.

  • Niyamas:

    • Personal observances or internal disciplines. There are five rules of Niyama,

      • Saucha- Cleanliness, clarity, or purity.

      • Santosha- Contentment.

      • Tapas- It is a discipline and nature of sacrifice for others.

      • Svadhyaya- It is mainly about self-study.

      • Ishvara Pranidhana- Itis the service to something bigger, the self of surrender.

  • Asanas:

    • A bodily posture is an asana, which was initially and is still used to refer to a seated meditation pose. Later, in Hatha Yoga and modern Yoga as fitness, Asanas were expanded to include any position, including reclining, standing, inverted, twisting, and balancing postures.

  • Pranayama:

    • The regulation of breath is called Pranayama. So it is a Breathing exercise. There are three processes in the management of breath.

      • Puraka- Inhalation /breathing in air.

      • Kumbaga- retention /control of the air.

      • Rechaka- Exhalation /breathing out air. When people attend their first yoga class, they will be instructed to "focus on their breath." Everything begins with awareness and mindfulness. Moreover, by strengthening their yoga practice by paying more attention to their breathing, it is noticed that they are getting more relaxed and joyful. Their anxiety and stress will be a thing of the past.

  • Pratyahara:

    • It is Control of all the five senses like the eyes, nose, ear, tongue, and skin, and withdrawal from external attraction. So this fifth limb essential means sensory withdrawal from the outer world and drawing it inwards.

  • Dharana:

    • Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness.

  • Dhyana:

    • Devotion is a meditation on the divine. This seventh stage of meditation is an intense phase of meditation that comes only after years of practice of the first six limbs.

  • Samadhi:

    • Union with the divine, integration. Samadhi is the last aid of Yoga. There are two types of Samadhi.

      • Savikalpa Samadhi- Self-conscious state.

      • Nirvikalpa Samadhi- Super-conscious state.

    • Energy permeates all things. The soul achieves Samadhi, and the object of focused concentration vibrates simultaneously. In Samadhi, people are still conscious of their own identity.

What Are the Educational Implications of Yoga Philosophy?

  • Yoga aims to train sensory organs and strike for self-development.

  • Meditation helps to attain liberation and achieve a peaceful world.

  • Helps to preserve culture through observances.

  • It suggests self-discipline purely to attain proper knowledge about the authentic self.

  • Encourages self-love and self-care.

  • However, regardless of the type of Yoga practiced, its fundamental goal is encouraging a balance between the body, mind, and soul—remains the same.

  • Nowadays, Yoga is acknowledged as a complete exercise regimen that benefits much more than just physical fitness.

Conclusion

Yoga has developed into a contemporary exercise form and diversified into various philosophy schools. However, a sustained state of pure awareness known as Moksha or Samadhi is the ultimate aim of Yoga. To achieve one's "true self" or "highest self," one does Yoga. All philosophical and mental structures disintegrate in this independent state. Therefore, learning about yogic philosophy is essential for developing one's yoga practice and realizing enlightenment.

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Shakti Mishra
Shakti Mishra

Nutritionist

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