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|Pada (Chapter)||English meaning||Sutras|
|Samadhi Pada||On being absorbed in spirit|
|Sadhana Pada||On being immersed in spirit|
|Vibhuti Pada||On supernatural abilities and gifts|
|Kaivalya Pada||On absolute freedom|
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Yoga (Sanskrit: योग pronunciation (help·info)) is the physical, mental, and spiritual practices or disciplines which originated in ancient India with a view to attain a state of permanent peace of mind in order to experience one's true self. The term yoga can be derived from either of two roots, yujir yoga (to yoke) or yuj samādhau (to concentrate). The Yoga Sūtras of Patañjali defines yoga as "the stilling of the changing states of the mind" (Sanskrit: योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:). Yoga has also been popularly defined as "union with the divine" in other contexts and traditions.
Various traditions of yoga are found in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. In Hinduism, yoga is one of the six āstika schools (accepts authority of Vedas) of Hindu philosophy. Yoga is also an important part of Vajrayana and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.
Pre–philosophical speculations and diverse ascetic practices of first millennium BCE were systematized into a formal philosophy in early centuries CE by the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. By the turn of the first millennium, hatha yoga emerged from tantra. It, along with its many modern variations, is the style that many people associate with the word yoga today. Vajrayana Buddhism, founded by the Indian Mahasiddhas, has a parallel series of asanas and pranayamas, such as caṇḍālī and trul khor.
Gurus from India later introduced yoga to the west, following the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century. In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world. This form of yoga is often called Hatha yoga. Many studies have tried to determine the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma, and heart disease. In a national survey, long-term yoga practitioners in the United States reported musculo–skeletal and mental health improvements.
In Vedic Sanskrit, the more commonly used, literal meaning of the Sanskrit word yoga which is "to add", "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". In simpler words, Yoga also means "combined". 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
In Hindu philosophy, the word yoga is used to refer to one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy.[note 1] The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are often labelled as Rāja yoga. According to Pāṇini, a 6th-century BCE Sanskrit grammarian, the term yoga can be derived from either of two roots, yujir yoga (to yoke) or yuj samādhau (to concentrate). In the context of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the root yuj samādhau (to concentrate) is considered by traditional commentators as the correct etymology. In accordance with Pāṇini, Vyasa (c. 4th or 5th century CE), who wrote the first commentary on the Yoga Sutras, states that yoga means samādhi (concentration). In other texts and contexts, such as the Bhagavad Gītā and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the word yoga has been used in conformity with yujir yoge (to yoke).
The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation) though the exact definition of what form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated. In Shaiva theology, yoga is used to unite kundalini with Shiva. Mahabharata defines the purpose of yoga as the experience of uniting the individual Ātman with the universal Brahman that pervades all things.
In the specific sense of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, yoga is defined as citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (the cessation of the perturbations of the mind). This is described by Patanjali as the necessary condition for transcending discursive knowledge and to be one with the divinely understood "spirit" ("purusha"): "Absolute freedom occurs when the lucidity of material nature and spirit are in pure equilibrium." In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali indicates that the ultimate goal of yoga is a state of permanent peace or Kaivalya in order to experience one's true self.
Apart from the spiritual goals, the physical postures of yoga are used to alleviate health problems, reduce stress and make the spine supple in contemporary times. Yoga is also used as a complete exercise program and physical therapy routine.
The origins of yoga are a matter of debate. It may have pre-Vedic origins. Several seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization sites depict figures in positions resembling a common yoga or meditation pose. Ascetic practices, concentration and bodily postures used by Vedic priests to conduct Vedic ritual of fire sacrifice may have been precursors to yoga. Pre-philosophical speculations of yoga begin to emerge in the texts of c. 500–200 BCE. Between 200 BCE–500 CE philosophical schools of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism were taking form and a coherent philosophical system of yoga began to emerge. The Middle Ages saw the development of many satellite traditions of yoga. Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the mid 19th century along with other topics of Indian philosophy.
The origins of yoga are a matter of debate. According to Crangle, Indian researchers have generally favoured a linear theory, which attempts "to interpret the origin and early development of Indian contemplative practices as a sequential growth from an Aryan genesis",[note 2] just like traditional Hinduism regards the Vedas to be the source of all spiritual knowledge.[note 3] Other scholars acknowledge the possibility of non-Aryan components. Some argue that yoga originates in the Indus Valley Civilization. According to Zimmer, Yoga is part of the pre-Vedic heritage, which also includes Jainism, Samkhya and Buddhism.[note 4][note 5] Samuel argues that yoga derives from the Śramana tradition.[note 6] Gavin Flood notes that such "dichotomization is too simplistic":
[T]his dichotomization is too simplistic, for continuities can undoubtedly be found between renunciation and vedic Brahmanism, while elements from non-Brahmanical, Sramana traditions also played an important part in the formation of the renunciate ideal.[note 7]
Several seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization sites, dating to the mid 3rd millennium BCE, 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. 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.
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.[note 8] Many scholars associate the Pashupati seal with Shiva.[note 9] Yet, White notes:
[P]rior to the end of the first millennium CE, detailed descriptions of āsanas were nowhere to be found in the Indian textual record. In the light of this, any claim that sculpted images of cross-legged figures—including those represented on the famous clay seals from third millennium BCE Indus Valley archeological sites—represent yogic postures are speculative at best.
According to White, the first use of the word "yoga" is in the Rig Veda, where it denotes a yoke, but also a war chariot. Yoga is discussed quite frequently in the Upanishads, many of which predate Patanjali's Sutras. The actual term "yoga" first occurs in the Katha Upanishad and later in the Shvetasvatara Upanishad. White states:
The earliest extant systematic account of yoga and a bridge from the earlier Vedic uses of the term is found in the Hindu Kathaka Upanisad(Ku), a scripture dating from about the third century BCE[...] [I]t describes the hierarchy of mind-body constituents—the senses, mind, intellect, etc.—that comprise the foundational categories of Sāmkhya philosophy, whose metaphysical system grounds the yoga of the YS, Bhg, and other texts and schools (Ku3.10–11; 6.7–8).
Seers of the vast illumined seer yogically [yunjante] control their minds and their intelligence
show that "at least the seed of the entire Yoga teaching is contained in this most ancient Aryan text".
An early reference to meditation is made in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the earliest Upanishad (c. 900 BCE).[note 10] In the Mahabarata yoga comes to mean "a divine chariot, that carried him upward in a burst of light to and through the sun, and on to the heaven of gods and heroes."
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.[note 11] Vratya, a group of ascetics mentioned in the Atharvaveda, emphasized on bodily postures which probably evolved into yogic asanas. Early Vedic Samhitas also contain references to other group ascetics such as, Munis, the Keśin, and Vratyas. 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. Nasadiya Sukta of the Rig Veda suggests the presence of an early contemplative tradition.[note 12]
The Vedic Samhitas contain references to ascetics, and ascetic practices known as (tapas) are referenced in the Brāhmaṇas (900 BCE and 500 BCE), early commentaries on the Vedas. The Rig Veda, the earliest of the Hindu scripture mentions the practice. Robert Schneider and Jeremy Fields write,
Diffused pre-philosophical speculations of yoga begin to emerge in the texts of c. 500–200 BCE such as the middle Upanishads, the 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.
Alexander Wynne, author of The Origin of Buddhist Meditation, observes that formless meditation and elemental meditation might have originated in the Upanishadic tradition. The earliest reference to meditation is in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the oldest Upanishads. 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. Taittiriya Upanishad defines yoga as the mastery of body and senses.
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.[note 13] 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. 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. 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. Maitrayaniya Upanishad (c. 300 BCE) formalizes the sixfold form of yoga. Physiological theories of later yoga make an appearance in this text.
While breath channels (nāḍis) of yogic practices had already been discussed in the classical Upanishads, it was not until the eighth-century Buddhist Hevajra Tantra and Caryāgiti, that hierarchies of chakras were introduced. Further systematization of yoga is continued in the Yoga Upanishads of the Atharvaveda (viz., Śāṇḍilya, Pāśupata, Mahāvākya)[clarification needed].
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, it introduces three prominent types of yoga:[note 14]
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."
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). Other commentators ascribe a different 'yoga' to each chapter, delineating eighteen different yogas. 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".
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. 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. Mokshadharma also describes an early practice of elemental meditation.
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.
Werner notes that "only with Buddhism itself as expounded in the Pali Canon" do we have the oldest preserved comprehensive yoga practice:
"But it is only with Buddhism itself as expounded in the Pali Canon that we can speak about a systematic and comprehensive or even integral school of Yoga practice, which is thus the first and oldest to have been preserved for us in its entirety"
Another yoga system that predated the Buddhist school is Jain yoga. But since Jain sources postdate Buddhist ones, it is difficult to distinguish between the nature of the early Jain school and elements derived from other schools.
The early Buddhist texts describe meditative practices and states, some of which the Buddha borrowed from the ascetic (shramana) tradition. One key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative absorption must be combined with liberating cognition. 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. The Buddha also departed from earlier yogic thought in discarding the early Brahminic notion of liberation at death. While the Upanishads thought liberation to be a realization at death of a nondual meditative state where the ontological duality between subject and object was abolished, Buddha's theory of liberation depended upon this duality because liberation to him was an insight into the subject's experience.
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. However there is no mention of the tongue being inserted into the nasopharynx as in true khecarī mudrā. The Buddha used a posture where pressure is put on the perineum with the heel, similar to even modern postures used to stimulate Kundalini.
Samkhya emerged in the first century CE. When Patanjali systematized the conceptions of yoga, he 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 together with the samkhya ideas. Vyasa's commentary on the Yoga Sutras, also called the Samkhyapravacanabhasya (Commentary on the Exposition of the Sankhya Philosophy), brings out the intimate relation between the two systems. 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.
|Pada (Chapter)||English meaning||Sutras|
|Samadhi Pada||On being absorbed in spirit|
|Sadhana Pada||On being immersed in spirit|
|Vibhuti Pada||On supernatural abilities and gifts|
|Kaivalya Pada||On absolute freedom|
In Hindu philosophy, yoga is the name of one of the six orthodox (which accept the testimony of Vedas) philosophical schools. The yoga school was founded by Patanjali. Karel Werner, author of Yoga And Indian Philosophy, believes that the process of systematization of yoga which began in the middle and Yoga Upanishads culminated with the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.[note 19] Scholars also note the influence of Buddhist and Samkhyan ideas on the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali's Yoga Sutras reminds us of Buddhist formulations from the Pāli Canon, Sarvāstivāda Abhidharma and Sautrāntika. 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. 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...." 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. The verses of Yoga Sutras are terse and are therefore read together with the Vyasa Bhashya (c. 350–450 CE), a commentary on the Yoga Sutras. Patanjali's yoga is known as Raja yoga, which is a system for control of the mind. Patanjali defines the word "yoga" in his second sutra, which is the definitional sutra for his entire work:
योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
- 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)". 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 Sutras; this role suggests that Patanjali was aware of Buddhist ideas and wove them into his system. Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as "Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis)."
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:
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.
The Yoga Yajnavalkya is a classical treatise on yoga attributed to the Vedic sage Yajnavalkya. It takes the form of a dialogue between Yajnavalkya and his wife Gargi, a renowned female philosopher. The text contains 12 chapters and its origin has been traced to the period between the second century BCE and fourth century CE. Many 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. In the Yoga Yajnavalkya, yoga is defined as jivatmaparamatmasamyogah, or the union between the individual self (jivatma) and the Divine (paramatma).
Main Article: Jainism
According to Tattvarthasutra, 2nd century CE Jain text, yoga is the sum of all the activities of mind, speech and body. Umasvati calls yoga the cause of "asrava" or karmic influx as well as one of the essentials—samyak caritra—in the path to liberation. In his Niyamasara, Acarya Kundakunda, describes yoga bhakti—devotion to the path to liberation—as the highest form of devotion. 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. 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.[note 20]
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. The yogacara sect teaches "yoga" as a way to reach enlightenment.
Middle Ages saw the development of many satellite traditions of yoga. Hatha yoga emerged as a dominant practice of yoga in this period.
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. Shaiva and Vaishnava bhakti traditions integrated aspects of Yoga Sutras, such as the practical meditative exercises, with devotion. Bhagavata Purana elucidates the practice of a form of yoga called viraha (separation) bhakti. Viraha bhakti emphasizes one pointed concentration on Krishna.
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. Both Tantra and 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. 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.
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.
While breath channels (nāḍis) of yogic practices had already been discussed in the classical Upanishads, it was not until the eighth-century Buddhist Hevajra Tantra and Caryāgiti, that hierarchies of chakras were introduced.
The earliest references to hatha yoga are in Buddhist works dating from the eighth century. The earliest definition of hatha yoga is found in the 11th century Buddhist text Vimalaprabha, which defines it in relation to the center channel, bindu etc. The basic tenets of Hatha yoga were formulated by Shaiva ascetics Matsyendranath and Gorakshanath c. 900 CE. Hatha yoga synthesizes elements of Patanjali's Yoga Sutras with posture and breathing exercises. Hatha yoga, sometimes referred to as the "psychophysical yoga", 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). Compared to the seated asana, or sitting meditation posture, of Patanjali's Raja yoga, it marks the development of asanas (plural) into the full body 'postures' now in popular usage and, along with its many modern variations, is the style that many people associate with the word yoga today.
It is similar to a diving board – preparing the body for purification, so that it may be ready to receive higher techniques of meditation. The word "Hatha" comes from "Ha" which means Sun, and "Tha" which means Moon.
Various yogic groups 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. Guru Nanak rejected the austerities, rites and rituals connected with Hatha Yoga. He propounded the path of Sahaja yoga or Nama yoga (meditation on the name) instead. 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."
Yoga came to the attention of an educated western public in the mid-19th century along with other topics of Indian philosophy. In the context of this budding interest, N. C. Paul published his Treatise on Yoga Philosophy in 1851.
The first Hindu teacher to actively advocate and disseminate aspects of yoga to a western audience, Swami Vivekananda, toured Europe and the United States in the 1890s. The reception which Swami Vivekananda received built on the active interest of intellectuals, in particular the New England Transcendentalists, among them R. W. Emerson (1803-1882), who drew on German Romanticism and the interest of philosophers and scholars like G. F. W. Hegel (1770-1831), the brothers August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767-1845) and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel (1772-1829), Max Mueller (1823-1900), A. Schopenhauer (1788-1860) and others who had (to varying degrees) interests in things Indian.
Theosophists also had a large influence on the American public's view of Yoga. Esoteric views current at the end of the 19th century provided a further basis for the reception of Vedanta and of Yoga with its theory and practice of correspondence between the spiritual and the physical. The reception of Yoga and of Vedanta thus entwined with each other and with the (mostly Neoplatonism-based) currents of religious and philosophical reform and transformation throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. M. Eliade, himself rooted in the Romanian currents of these traditions, brought a new element into the reception of Yoga with the strong emphasis on Tantric Yoga in his seminal book: Yoga: Immortality and Freedom.[note 21] With the introduction of the Tantra traditions and philosophy of Yoga, the conception of the "transcendent" to be attained by Yogic practice shifted from experiencing the "transcendent" ("Atman-Brahman" in Advaitic theory) in the mind to the body itself.
The modern scientific study of yoga began with the works of N. C. Paul and Major D. Basu in the late 19th century, and then continued in the 20th century with Sri Yogendra (1897-1989) and Swami Kuvalayananda. Western medical researchers came to Swami Kuvalayananda’s Kaivalyadhama Health and Yoga Research Center, starting in 1928, to study Yoga as a science.
The West,[clarification needed] in the early 21st century typically associates the term "yoga" with Hatha yoga and its asanas (postures) or as a form of exercise. During the 1910s and 1920s in the USA, yoga suffered a period of bad publicity due largely to the backlash against immigration, a rise in puritanical values, and a number of scandals. In the 1930s and 1940s yoga began to gain more public acceptance as a result of celebrity endorsement. In the 1950s the United States saw another period of paranoia against yoga, but by 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. During this period, most of the influential Indian teachers of yoga came from two lineages, those of Sivananda Saraswati (1887–1963) and of Tirumalai Krishnamacharya (1888–1989). Teachers of Hatha yoga who were active in the west in this period included B.K.S. Iyengar (1918- ), K. Pattabhi Jois (1915-2009), Swami Vishnu-devananda (1927-1993), and Swami Satchidananda (1914-2002). Yogi Bhajan brought Kundalini Yoga to the United States in 1969.
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 any religious denomination. Numerous asanas seemed modern in origin, and strongly overlapped with 19th and early-20th century Western exercise traditions.
Since 2001, the popularity of yoga in the USA has risen constantly. The number of people who practiced some form of yoga has grown from 4 million (in 2001) to 20 million (in 2011).
|“||Yoga has become a universal language of spiritual exercise in the United States, crossing many lines of religion and cultures,... Every day, millions of people practice yoga to improve their health and overall well-being. That's why we're encouraging everyone to take part in PALA (Presidential Active Lifestyle Award), so show your support for yoga and answer the challenge.||”|
The American College of Sports Medicine supports the integration of yoga into the exercise regimens of healthy individuals as long as properly-trained professionals deliver instruction. The College cites yoga's promotion of "profound mental, physical and spiritual awareness" and its benefits as a form of stretching, and as an enhancer of breath control and of core strength.
While much of the medical community views the results of yoga research to be significant, others argue that there were many flaws that undermine results. Much of the research on yoga has been in the form of preliminary studies or clinical trials of low methodological quality, including small sample sizes, inadequate blinding, lack of randomization, and high risk of bias. Long-term yoga users in the United States have reported musculoskeletal and mental health improvements, as well as reduced symptoms of asthma in asthmatics. There is evidence to suggest that 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. 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. For chronic low back pain, specialist Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs has been found 30% more beneficial than usual care alone in a UK clinical trial. Other smaller studies support this finding. The Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs programme is the dominant treatment for society (both cheaper and more effective than usual care alone) due to 8.5 fewer days off work each year. A research group from Boston University School of Medicine also tested yoga’s effects on lower back pain. Over twelve weeks, one group of volunteers practiced yoga while the control group continued with standard treatment for back pain. The reported pain for yoga participants decreased by one third, while the standard treatment group had only a five percent drop. Yoga participants also had a drop of 80% in pain medication use.
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. 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 in cancer patients.
Yoga has also been studied as a treatment for schizophrenia. Some encouraging, but inconclusive, evidence suggests that yoga as a complementary treatment may help alleviate symptoms of schizophrenia and improve health-related quality of life.
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.
Since a small percentage of yoga practitioners each year suffer physical injuries analogous to sports injuries; caution and common sense are recommended. Yoga has been criticized 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, damage to the common fibular nerve, so called "Yoga foot drop," etc. An exposé of these problems by William Broad published in January, 2012 in The New York Times Magazine resulted in controversy within the international yoga community. Broad, a science writer, yoga practitioner, and author of The Science of Yoga: The Risks and the Rewards, had suffered a back injury while performing a yoga posture. Torn muscles, knee injuries, and headaches are common ailments which may result from yoga practice.
An extensive survey of yoga practitioners in Australia showed that about 20% had suffered some physical injury while practicing yoga. In the previous 12 months 4.6% of the respondents had suffered an injury producing prolonged pain or requiring medical treatment. Headstands, shoulder stands, lotus and half lotus (seated cross-legged position), forward bends, backward bends, and handstands produced the greatest number of injuries.
Some yoga practitioners do not recommend certain yoga exercises for women during menstruation, for pregnant women, or for nursing mothers. However, meditation, breathing exercises, and certain postures which are safe and beneficial for women in these categories are encouraged.
Among the main reasons that experts cite for causing negative effects from yoga are beginners' competitiveness and instructors' lack of qualification. As the demand for yoga classes grows, many people get certified to become yoga instructors, often with relatively little training. Not every newly certified instructor can evaluate the condition of every new trainee in their class and recommend refraining from doing certain poses or using appropriate props to avoid injuries. In turn, a beginning yoga student can overestimate the abilities of their body and strive to do advanced poses before their body is flexible or strong enough to perform them.
Vertebral artery dissection, a tear in the arteries in the neck which provide blood to the brain can result from rotation of the neck while the neck is extended. This can occur in a variety of contexts, for example, in a beauty shop while your hair is being rinsed, but is an event which could occur in some yoga practices. This is a very serious condition which can result in a stroke.
It is claimed that yoga can be an excellent training for children and adolescents, both as a form of physical exercise and for breathing, focus, mindfulness, and stress relief: Many school districts have considered incorporating yoga into their P.E. programs. The Encinitas, California school district gained a San Diego Superior Court Judge's approval to use yoga in P.E., holding against the parents who claimed the practice was intrinsically religious and hence should not be part of a state funded program.
Zen, the name of which derives from the Sanskrit "dhyaana" via the Chinese "ch'an"[note 22] is a form of Mahayana Buddhism. The Mahayana school of Buddhism is noted for its proximity with yoga. In the west, Zen is often set alongside yoga; the two schools of meditation display obvious family resemblances. This phenomenon merits special attention since yogic practices have some of their roots in the Zen Buddhist school.[note 23] Certain essential elements of yoga are important both for Buddhism in general and for Zen in particular.
In the Nyingma tradition, the path of meditation practice is divided into nine yanas, or vehicles, which are said to be increasingly profound. The last six are described as "yoga yanas": "Kriya yoga," "Upa yoga," "Yoga yana," "Mahā yoga," "Anu yoga" and the ultimate practice, "Ati yoga." The Sarma traditions also include Kriya, Upa (called "Charya"), and Yoga, with the Anuttara yoga class substituting for Mahayoga and Atiyoga.
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. 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." Chang also claims that Tibetan yoga involves reconciliation of apparent polarities, such as prana and mind, relating this to theoretical implications of tantrism.
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. 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.
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. 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. The letter also says, "one can see if and how [prayer] might be enriched by meditation methods developed in other religions and cultures" but maintains the idea that "there must be some fit between the nature of [other approaches to] prayer and Christian beliefs about ultimate reality." 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.
Another view holds that Christian meditation can lead to religious pluralism. This is held by an interdenominational association of Christians that practice it. "The ritual simultaneously operates as an anchor that maintains, enhances, and promotes denominational activity and a sail that allows institutional boundaries to be crossed." 
The development of Sufism was considerably influenced by Indian yogic practises, where they adapted both physical postures (asanas) and breath control (pranayama). 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.
Yoga is a growing industry in Islamic countries (Two Bikram Yoga studios in Iran). Also, yoga is used in developing countries like Palestine to help the population manage stress. This article is a comparative study of yoga and Islam, showing their similarities.
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." Sisters in Islam, a women's rights group in Malaysia, also expressed disappointment and said that its members would continue with their yoga classes.
The fatwa states that yoga practiced only as physical exercise is permissible, but prohibits the chanting of religious mantras, and states that teachings such as the uniting of a human with God is not consistent with Islamic philosophy. 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" These fatwas have, in turn, been criticized by Darul Uloom Deoband, a Deobandi Islamic seminary in India.
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.
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