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Yoga History and Philosophy

Yoga's Asana (physical) practice is just the tip of the ice berg of the depth of Yoga's vast fields of study. On the onset of the pandemic (2.5+ years ago as I edit and add) I wanted to spend more time with texts I was introduced to during my trainings and workshops I've attended. I really wanted to study them. Alas, I didn't get to truly immerse myself due to an active and attached two year old. But, I did get to do some reading to further my deep love and appreciation for the wisdom that Yoga offers. Yoga is an encyclopedic wealth of information for life.

I offer you a look into my notes to start inquire together. My favorite practice in Yoga is Svadhyaya. "The term Svadhyaya literally means 'one's own reading' or 'self-study'. It is the fourth Niyama of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras and has the potential to deepen our yoga practice way beyond the mat."(definition taken from here)

I attempted to go back to the beginning. Rewind from modern yoga and head to classic texts that began Yoga. (Yoga with a capital Y is to signify a more holistic, vastness of Yoga versus just the physical practice that the US is obsessed with in terms of fitness which I reserve for yoga, with a lower case y). Yoga is said to be more than 5,000 years old. The sages would pass down the teachings through story telling. Then in about 1500BC years Yoga is mentioned in The Rig Veda, one of the most ancient texts of the world. Brahmans documented practices and observations in the Upandidads (which also were many, many volumes). The Bhagavad Gita was written around 500BC. Patanjali then wrote the Yoga Sutras to organize a Yoga practice from the more ancient varied practices. Patanjali is could be known as the father of modern Yoga. Much of the Vedas aren't used in modern Yoga. Tantric and Hatha Yoga linages are formed which focus more on the mind and body connection to enlightenment, balance and wellness during this era of Patanjali. There are currently so many different branches from the Hatha Yoga line! Each has its own focus, flavor and vibe.

Hatha simply refers to the practice of physical yoga postures, meaning your Ashtanga, vinyasa, Iyengar and Power Yoga classes are all Hatha Yoga. The word “hatha” can be translated two ways: as “willful” or “forceful,” or the yoga of activity, and as “sun” (ha) and “moon” (tha), the yoga of balance. Hatha practices are designed to align and calm your body, mind, and spirit in preparation for meditation. (From Yoga Journal)

I love a great session on my mat like the next yogi but, I've always been in awe of, the lack of a better word, magic of yoga and Yoga. When you practice on your mat there can be an awakening, a relief of suffering, and sparks of connection with the world around us, the magic around us. As a psychology major and a person that almost went down the track to become a therapist herself, I am always down to how healing our bodies can heal our minds, and souls. We have lots of studies on the benefits on exercise and movement for physical and mental health. But there is something special about Yoga. In a time of upheaval and trauma, I revisited the ancient texts of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, The Bhagavad Gita, and The Upanishads. Pantijuli's Sutras is where we find the 8 Limbs of Yoga. The Bhagavad Gita is concerned with is the struggle for self-mastery. It describes the spark of divinity that lies at the core of the human personality and offers a Handbook of Perennial Philosophy. The Upanishads delineate three ordinary states of consciousness: waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep. These concepts are used heavily in Yoga Nidra. If you decide to follow these three texts, you'll have some tools to live life by. The sutras a more or less code, or life style, The Bhagavad Gita, to help master these ways of life and then some, and The Upanishads also help guide you even in your sleep.

I love philosophy. Always have. I love the deep thought, the search for meaning and justice. It's one of the many reasons I was drawn to Yoga. I come from a non religious upbringing, hints of spirituality was sprinkled throughout my youth and they dazzled and sparkled with mystery. I recall agreeing with John Stuart Mill's Utilitian philosophy in school. Debating with Kant absolutes. I enjoyed attending Seattle University with their Jesuit philosophy courses, especially being curious about religion. I found Yoga during heartbreak as I entered my 30s to heal my soul and find my true love. I knew Yoga was great for stress and anxiety. As I did the physical practice I became more open to the spark and light inside of myself. I was so thirsty to understand more of the breadth of Yoga. I love how Yoga feeds my desire to never stop learning and exploring relationships, connections, and ourselves. These are the notes I found in my drafts that caught and still spark my attention. I hope you'll enjoy a taste of it's deep, profound observations.

One day I'll have a Yoga bookclub. One day. :)

Keep growing out there. I will.

My Notes on the Upanishads

I went through a Yoga Nidra training with Rod Stryker (as part of my 500hr training) and I was blown away by the subtle body and how Yoga Nidra could be used deeply. I don't teach it often because of it's profound power if done well, understood and practiced. I am not a master of this therefore leave it to the masters. Definitely check it out.

The three states of consciousness (waking, dreaming, and dreamless sleep) is real, but each has a higher order of reality. There is also a state of consciousness called, TURIYA which is defined as a state similar to waking up out of dream sleep: the individual passes from a lower level of reality to a higher one. Sages called the dream of waking life, the the dream of separate, merely physical existence by a suggestive name. The text also defines MAYA which is magic. (pg 29, Ruysbroeck below)

"We behold what were are, and we are what we behold."

When we look at unity through the instruments of the mind, we see diversity; when the mind is transcended, we enter a either mode of knowing - turiya, the fourth state of consciousness - "in which duality disappears. This does not mean, however that the phenomenal world is an illusion or unreal. The illusion is the sense of separateness."

My notes on the Notes from The Bhagavad Gita translated by Eknath Easwaran

This text helps understand the mind vs emotion. And, intertwines Yoga and Buddhism Philosophy. Buddha was a yogi.

Perennial Philosophy - every age and civilization - 3000 yrs old - forces of light and dark in every human heart

  1. there is an infinite, changeless reality beneath the world of change

  2. this same reality lies at the core of every human personality

  3. the purpose of life is to discover this reality experientially: that is, to realize God while here on Earth.

Senses - the world of senses IS real, but it must be known for what it is: unity appearing as mulitipiclity. YOGA - state of union, yoke, bind together, experience, and then Samadhi -moksha or nirvana - beyond conditioning of Maya - time, space, and causality.

dharma = that which supports within: the essence of a thing, its virtue, that which makes it what it is. An integrity and harmony in the universe and the affairs of life that cannot be disturbed without courting chaos. Rightness, Justice, goodness, purpose rather than chance (I bold this to highlight for those like me who seek guidance and answers).

Sankhya = philosophical system whose practical counterpart is the school of meditation called Yoga. - Kapila, have much in common with Buddhist philosophy. Sankhyra philosophy two serrate categories: Purusha = spirit and prakriti = everything else

"There is no theory like Sankhya, no practice like Yoga."

Prakriti = is a field of what can be known objectively, the field of phenomena, the world of whatever has "name and form": that is, not only matter and energy but also the mind. Mind, energy, and matter all belong to a field of forces. = field of forces called gunas.

Purusha = pure spirit, is the knower of this field of phenomena, and belongs to a wholly different order of reality. Only purusha is conscious- or rather Purusha is consciousness itself. Atman. Purusha is the Self, beyond all change, the same in every creature.

Gunas = tamas, rajas, and sattva - matter in physics - solid, liquid, and gas - different levels of consciousness - all three always exist in a person, proportions change. The Self is not involved with the gunas.

Tamas = inertia -Jung's collective unconscious - person is sluggish, indifferent, insensitive

Rajas = activity - normally what we mean by mind - worrying, racing, frustration, power related - person is full of energy

Sativa = harmony or equilibrium - higher mind, detached, unruffled, self-controlled, unity of purpose, character and desire. Person is calm, resourceful, compassionate, selfless.

Thus the gunas are essentially born of the mind. When the mind's activity is stilled, we see life as it is.

Manas = mind

Buddhi = discriminating intellect

Ahamkara = "I" maker - ego


Yoga Basics Website

Texts mentioned above

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