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Yoga and Pregnancy

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  • Nova Scheidt
    Hello there, One of my students is expecting (not for awhile), but I was wondering what poses I should tell her to stay away from. I know certainly to stay
    Message 1 of 8 , Nov 17, 2003
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      Hello there,
      One of my students is expecting (not for awhile), but I was wondering what
      poses I should tell her to stay away from.

      I know certainly to stay away from the shoulder stand and shirsha asana.
      (which I am not teaching anyway). I know that crawling is good and I
      beleive that nava asana is good...BUT, I was wondering about poses on the
      belly (like bhujanga), and also, even lying in Shava asana--in the further
      stages of pregnancy, because a friend of mine said that she couldn't lay on
      her back when she was 8 to 9 months because it cut off some nerve to her
      legs or something.

      I know nothing first hand. I was wondering if you could give me some
      guidelines, especially as too what month to stay away from what pose.

      To give you a little more information about what I am doing. This group, I
      am focussing on the samasthithi group and the loma-viloma group. Would any
      of those be bad?

      Thanks
      ---Nova

      _________________________________________________________________
      The new MSN 8: advanced junk mail protection and 2 months FREE*
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    • Dr.Ananda Bhavanani
      Divine World Yoga Family: Namastey! The sun is out and shining bright at noon, and this is very strange for it is the middle of monsoon! (To paraphrase Alice
      Message 2 of 8 , Nov 18, 2003
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         Divine World Yoga Family: Namastey!

         The sun is out and shining bright at noon, and this is very strange for it is the middle of monsoon! (To paraphrase Alice in Wonderland ideas!) We have had some heavy monsoon rains this year, for the first time in several years. Actually, we have had almost a drought state for three-four years and the land has been dry and the earth forlorn. This year we have had some good rains, not daily as is usual in monsoon, but here and there. Al least it has been enough to give some nourishment to the earth. But, this also has a bad side effect, as the sun will be shining in great heat one moment and then, we shiver in cold as big black clouds suddenly cover the sky. One extreme to another! The weather patterns have changed world wide. Many people living in Germany told me that this year the heat was so great, they felt to be in India! Mankind tries to manipulate Nature for his own convenience and pleasure, but She will not long tolerate this. She shows Her own power when the time comes, and then, we can only stand and gaze in awe as her fury expressed in heat waves, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural catastrophes. Knowing all this, we continue to meddle blissfully, trying to change the environment instead of attempting to adjust to it. The ancient Rishis created a culture which was cored in a deep respect and reverence for Nature. Nature was God: Agni, fire; Indra, lightning, thunder and rains; Varuna, the water and the sea; Vayu, the air; Bhumi Devi, the earth Herself; Surya, the sun. Delicate, sensitive rituals and Pujas reinforced that natural awe and reverence and served as a means of communion between man and the natural forces. Man�s mind and mental attitude had the power to placate natural fury. Now, humans merrily �devour the earth� as though there is no future generation who will need a place to stay! We talk in conferences of �blowing up segments of the earth on which other people live� as though that will have no effect on us! The poet said, �You cannot pluck a flower without disturbing a star.� Who realises this deep in their hones? If we did, could we indulge in such greedy consumerism, or fight wars in the name of love? Food for thoughts! Necessary! thoughts. Aurobindo said a good thing when a disciple complained to him that �everyone was selfish and mean.� Aurobindo replied: �Well, we have our work cut out for us, don�t we. We must make certain we ourselves are not selfish and mean.�!

         Many come to ICYER to study Yoga with us, but few realise what Yoga really is. Most think it is a keep fit exercise, or will bestow peace of mind if we perform a few Asanas. Some hope it will cure disease. Some want to lose weight, some hope it will give meaning to their lives. Unhappy people expect Yoga to make them happy, undisciplined people expect Yoga to give them discipline. However, Yoga may have these things as �spin offs�. The essence of Yoga is its power to make us less selfish and reduce our petty, mean-mindedness. Many can perform Asanas and Pranayama to perfection. Many can sit for hours in �meditation.� But very few are �good people� � Strong, stable, sensitive, alert, skillful, capable, healthy, energetic, aware, open, happy, grateful, appreciative, quiet and controlled. Without those qualities of character, what kind of Yoga can we practice�? Our real job in Yoga is �Swadhyaya� (Self-Study) and the desire to develop �Yogic qualities� so beautifully summarized in the Yamas and Niyamas of Patanjali � non-harmfulness, truthfulness, non-stealing, control of sexual power and non-greed-restraining our animal nature, our mammalian brain, the deep powerful impulses of the animal�s intense urge to survive. Then the sculpting of the higher nature, Manas, consciousness, the cerebral cortex, the pre-frontal lobes � through the Niyama: cleanliness, contentment, spiritual discipline, self study and surrender to Divine Will. How basic these are to spiritual growth! How few embrace them or even care for them, cultivate them, nurture them! The bedrock of Yoga living, the very ground under our feet � the Yamas and Niyamas.

         A danger in spirituality is getting too tightly �wrapped up in the arms of ourselves.� Self-absorbed, but an absorption in the limited petty ego. Sage Vashishta in the Yoga Vashishta gave a beautiful description of the ego: �The ego is dull, inert and stupid.� Yet, we cling to this heavy, crude lump of stone and sink to the bottom of the sea of ignorance encumbered by its weight!

         How peculiar life is! How strange we humans are! We always yearn for something which can not exist! Like Sita�s yearning for the golden deer! The illusions of the world hypnotise us and in our mad passion to �grasp them� we become �ignorant, selfish and mean.�

         Just thoughts on a rainless, sunny monsoon day! May your Yoga Sadhana be based on virtue, may your Yoga Sadhana be based on strength, wisdom and awareness. May your Yoga Sadhana be successful and may the light of the Guru shine in your spirit!

         Affectionately in Yoga,

         AMMA



        Dr.Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani
        25,2nd cross,Iyyanar Nagar
        Pondicherry-605 013
        tel;0413 622902/241561
        abb@...,yognat2001@...
        Website: www.icyer.com


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      • Dr.Ananda Bhavanani
        The best poses during the early months are the loma viloma without any extra efforts chatushpada and vyagraha pranayama are great throughtout pregnancy and
        Message 3 of 8 , Nov 18, 2003
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          The best poses during the early months are the loma viloma without any extra efforts
          chatushpada and vyagraha pranayama are great throughtout pregnancy and post delivery also
          baddha kona and supta baddha kona where u lie down on the back with the feet in baddhakona are excellent to open the pelvis and prepare for the delivery
          avoid one leg standing and other balancing poses for there is the risk of falling due to change in the centre of gravity
          Savitri as well as  vibhaga pranayama are great
          shavasana is ok but long periods of rest and sleep are better off on the left lateral as the blood vessels supplying the uterus and legs may get pressurised by the heavy uterus in the supine pose
          face prone poses are better avoided for the pressure on the abdomen reason
          lots of fresh juices, salads,soups are great and avoid alcohol and tocacco in any form
          listening to soft music and sending positive vibrations to the child do wonders as we are seeing with dhivya priya!
           
          any more ideas are welcome
          ananda


          Nova Scheidt <nova_scheidt@...> wrote:
          Hello there,
          One of my students is expecting (not for awhile), but I was wondering what
          poses I should tell her to stay away from.

          I know certainly to stay away from the shoulder stand and shirsha asana.
          (which I am not teaching anyway).  I know that crawling is good and I
          beleive that nava asana is good...BUT, I was wondering about poses on the
          belly (like bhujanga), and also, even lying in Shava asana--in the further
          stages of pregnancy, because a friend of mine said that she couldn't lay on
          her back when she was 8 to 9 months because it cut off some nerve to her
          legs or something.

          I know nothing first hand.  I was wondering if you could give me some
          guidelines, especially as too what month to stay away from what pose.

          To give you a little more information about what I am doing.  This group, I
          am focussing on the samasthithi group and the loma-viloma group.  Would any
          of those be bad?

          Thanks
          ---Nova

          _________________________________________________________________
          The new MSN 8: advanced junk mail protection and 2 months FREE* 
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          Dr.Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani
          25,2nd cross,Iyyanar Nagar
          Pondicherry-605 013
          tel;0413 622902/241561
          abb@...,yognat2001@...
          Website: www.icyer.com


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        • Leena Elo
          ... From: Dr.Ananda Bhavanani To: rishiculture@yahoogroups.com Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2003 9:17 AM Subject: [rishiculture] Re: Random thoughts from Amma
          Message 4 of 8 , Nov 18, 2003
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            ----- Original Message -----
            Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2003 9:17 AM
            Subject: [rishiculture] Re: Random thoughts from Amma

             Divine World Yoga Family: Namastey!

             The sun is out and shining bright at noon, and this is very strange for it is the middle of monsoon! (To paraphrase Alice in Wonderland ideas!) We have had some heavy monsoon rains this year, for the first time in several years. Actually, we have had almost a drought state for three-four years and the land has been dry and the earth forlorn. This year we have had some good rains, not daily as is usual in monsoon, but here and there. Al least it has been enough to give some nourishment to the earth. But, this also has a bad side effect, as the sun will be shining in great heat one moment and then, we shiver in cold as big black clouds suddenly cover the sky. One extreme to another! The weather patterns have changed world wide. Many people living in Germany told me that this year the heat was so great, they felt to be in India! Mankind tries to manipulate Nature for his own convenience and pleasure, but She will not long tolerate this. She shows Her own power when the time comes, and then, we can only stand and gaze in awe as her fury expressed in heat waves, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods and other natural catastrophes. Knowing all this, we continue to meddle blissfully, trying to change the environment instead of attempting to adjust to it. The ancient Rishis created a culture which was cored in a deep respect and reverence for Nature. Nature was God: Agni, fire; Indra, lightning, thunder and rains; Varuna, the water and the sea; Vayu, the air; Bhumi Devi, the earth Herself; Surya, the sun. Delicate, sensitive rituals and Pujas reinforced that natural awe and reverence and served as a means of communion between man and the natural forces. Man’s mind and mental attitude had the power to placate natural fury. Now, humans merrily “devour the earth” as though there is no future generation who will need a place to stay! We talk in conferences of “blowing up segments of the earth on which other people live” as though that will have no effect on us! The poet said, “You cannot pluck a flower without disturbing a star.” Who realises this deep in their hones? If we did, could we indulge in such greedy consumerism, or fight wars in the name of love? Food for thoughts! Necessary! thoughts. Aurobindo said a good thing when a disciple complained to him that “everyone was selfish and mean.” Aurobindo replied: “Well, we have our work cut out for us, don’t we. We must make certain we ourselves are not selfish and mean.”!

             Many come to ICYER to study Yoga with us, but few realise what Yoga really is. Most think it is a keep fit exercise, or will bestow peace of mind if we perform a few Asanas. Some hope it will cure disease. Some want to lose weight, some hope it will give meaning to their lives. Unhappy people expect Yoga to make them happy, undisciplined people expect Yoga to give them discipline. However, Yoga may have these things as “spin offs”. The essence of Yoga is its power to make us less selfish and reduce our petty, mean-mindedness. Many can perform Asanas and Pranayama to perfection. Many can sit for hours in “meditation.” But very few are “good people” – Strong, stable, sensitive, alert, skillful, capable, healthy, energetic, aware, open, happy, grateful, appreciative, quiet and controlled. Without those qualities of character, what kind of Yoga can we practice”? Our real job in Yoga is “Swadhyaya” (Self-Study) and the desire to develop “Yogic qualities” so beautifully summarized in the Yamas and Niyamas of Patanjali – non-harmfulness, truthfulness, non-stealing, control of sexual power and non-greed-restraining our animal nature, our mammalian brain, the deep powerful impulses of the animal’s intense urge to survive. Then the sculpting of the higher nature, Manas, consciousness, the cerebral cortex, the pre-frontal lobes – through the Niyama: cleanliness, contentment, spiritual discipline, self study and surrender to Divine Will. How basic these are to spiritual growth! How few embrace them or even care for them, cultivate them, nurture them! The bedrock of Yoga living, the very ground under our feet – the Yamas and Niyamas.

             A danger in spirituality is getting too tightly “wrapped up in the arms of ourselves.” Self-absorbed, but an absorption in the limited petty ego. Sage Vashishta in the Yoga Vashishta gave a beautiful description of the ego: “The ego is dull, inert and stupid.” Yet, we cling to this heavy, crude lump of stone and sink to the bottom of the sea of ignorance encumbered by its weight!

             How peculiar life is! How strange we humans are! We always yearn for something which can not exist! Like Sita’s yearning for the golden deer! The illusions of the world hypnotise us and in our mad passion to “grasp them” we become “ignorant, selfish and mean

             Just thoughts on a rainless, sunny monsoon day! May your Yoga Sadhana be based on virtue, may your Yoga Sadhana be based on strength, wisdom and awareness. May your Yoga Sadhana be successful and may the light of the Guru shine in your spirit!

             Affectionately in Yoga,

             AMMA



            Dr.Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani
            25,2nd cross,Iyyanar Nagar
            Pondicherry-605 013
            tel;0413 622902/241561
            abb@...,yognat2001@...
            Website: www.icyer.com


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          • Leena Elo
            ... From: Dr.Ananda Bhavanani To: rishiculture@yahoogroups.com Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2003 9:30 AM Subject: Re: [rishiculture] Yoga and Pregnancy The best
            Message 5 of 8 , Nov 18, 2003
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              ----- Original Message -----
              Sent: Tuesday, November 18, 2003 9:30 AM
              Subject: Re: [rishiculture] Yoga and Pregnancy

              The best poses during the early months are the loma viloma without any extra efforts
              chatushpada and vyagraha pranayama are great throughtout pregnancy and post delivery also
              baddha kona and supta baddha kona where u lie down on the back with the feet in baddhakona are excellent to open the pelvis and prepare for the delivery
              avoid one leg standing and other balancing poses for there is the risk of falling due to change in the centre of gravity
              Savitri as well as  vibhaga pranayama are great
              shavasana is ok but long periods of rest and sleep are better off on the left lateral as the blood vessels supplying the uterus and legs may get pressurised by the heavy uterus in the supine pose
              face prone poses are better avoided for the pressure on the abdomen reason
              lots of fresh juices, salads,soups are great and avoid alcohol and tocacco in any form
              listening to soft music and sending positive vibrations to the child do wonders as we are seeing with dhivya priya!
               
              any more ideas are welcome
              ananda


              Nova Scheidt <nova_scheidt@...> wrote:
              Hello there,
              One of my students is expecting (not for awhile), but I was wondering what
              poses I should tell her to stay away from.

              I know certainly to stay away from the shoulder stand and shirsha asana.
              (which I am not teaching anyway).  I know that crawling is good and I
              beleive that nava asana is good...BUT, I was wondering about poses on the
              belly (like bhujanga), and also, even lying in Shava asana--in the further
              stages of pregnancy, because a friend of mine said that she couldn't lay on
              her back when she was 8 to 9 months because it cut off some nerve to her
              legs or something.

              I know nothing first hand.  I was wondering if you could give me some
              guidelines, especially as too what month to stay away from what pose.

              To give you a little more information about what I am doing.  This group, I
              am focussing on the samasthithi group and the loma-viloma group.  Would any
              of those be bad?

              Thanks
              ---Nova

              _________________________________________________________________
              The new MSN 8: advanced junk mail protection and 2 months FREE* 
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              Dr.Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani
              25,2nd cross,Iyyanar Nagar
              Pondicherry-605 013
              tel;0413 622902/241561
              abb@...,yognat2001@...
              Website: www.icyer.com


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            • Dr.Ananda Bhavanani
              Divine Yoga Family: Namastey! November is coming to a close and as usual, the recent months have been eventful and full. The Six Month International Yoga
              Message 6 of 8 , Nov 19, 2003
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                 Divine Yoga Family: Namastey!

                 November is coming to a close and as usual, the recent months have been eventful and full. The Six Month International Yoga Teacher Training Course got off to a good start on October 2nd, with nine persons enrolled. The students went through their �Ordeal by Salt Water� the end of October and their three day �water fast� preceded and followed by one day on fruit. They also simultaneously took up the Eka Dasa Pranayama routine to �clean up� the sub-conscious mind. This period is always a difficult part of the journey, but everyone managed to �cross over�. We are now at the part of the course where we are �building up� the system, with good Hatha Yoga Practices, Mantra, Bhajana and Satsangha. Many of the ideas presented in the course are truly �the opposite� to what our students, especially those from the West, have been brought up to believe. It is almost a total �de-conditioning� process. But Lord Krishna had foretold all of this when He said in the Gita: �What is night to the Yogi is day to the man of the world. What is day to the man of the world, is night to the Yogi.� When one rises in expanded Yogic consciousness, the viewpoint is quite different from the perspective of the followers of the mundane life.

                 Little Dhivya Priya is growing beautifully and giving us a lot of joy. She has a great sense of humour and likes to laugh. That is a good sign that she chose the right family to be born into. She can �roll� with mad abandon and we have to barricade the bed. She has already �rolled off� once but fortunately, with a baby�s flexibility, she escaped unhurt.  She doesn�t crawl yet, but performs Nagapuchi Kriya, crawling on her belly like a worm. She also has discovered that she has hands and that she can �grab� things with those hands.

                 Ananda successfully conducted the 18th Annual Pondicherry State Yoga Asana Competition with about 400 competitors participating. It was held November 8th and 9th. Our in-residence students also served as judges and score keepers and had a good experience. The quality of the Yoga Asanas displayed was quite mind boggling. Children as young as three years old participated. We will be giving a full report with photos in YOGA LIFE. We are also busy editing the beautiful video of the Dance Drama Ramavathara which will be broadcast over SKY SAT television on November 30th. The camera work is quite good and has caught the spirit of the production. The music has also come out beautifully clear. We will make CD�s of this beautiful dance drama available to those of you who might like to view a �music and dance� production of this great story.

                 The new residential quarters are complete and it is a beautiful building which upgrades our campus look to a high degree. The rooms are aesthetic, sunny, airy, roomy, comfortable and beautiful. I am satisfied with them and also feel confident to go ahead now with further construction. We �turned on the lights� for the first time on Diwali Night, and the first person, Dr. Nalini Devi, will move into her �new room� on November 24th. We will be publishing some photos in YOGA LIFE. I feel now more confidence that I can oversee the construction at our City Centre as well as the new house we will purchase in January (with God�s Grace).

                 I am happy to announce that �Yantra Course� taught by Swami Ananda Kapila (Dr. Jonn Mumford) of Australia will be held again this year February 1st to February 10th, 2004 at ICYER. This gives participants a chance to participate in the Annual Jayanthi (Birthday) Celebrations of Sri Swami Kanakananda as well. This year is the 130th Birth Anniversary of Swami Gitananda�s Guru Swami Kanakananda. We always celebrate it by holding an �All-Night Om Chanting Session� starting at 9 pm on February 2nd and culminating in a Homa on February 3rd. We will welcome all senior students to return to the Mother Ashram February 1st to 10th to participate in this unique course conducted by a �Master Teacher� Swami Ananda Kapila is a great, jovial and humorous teacher who enlivens any subject he teaches. The Yantra sessions will be held daily from 3:30 pm to 6 pm and regular Ashram Schedule will be held for the remainder of the day. Swamiji often said that only one of his students ever mastered the science of Yantra, and that was Dr. Jonn Mumford (Swami Ananda Kapila). Dr. Jonn is planning this year to devote this course to the study of the Namakarana, or the significance of names and sounds. We would love to have you join us. It is a great boost for us in every way to have senior students return to the Ashram. It is also great for everyone to meet members of their Yoga family. Do your best to arrange your schedules to come.

                 

                 We will be offering the Ramayana dance drama on CD�s for those of you who would like to have a copy.  We are giving a special offer of the Ramayana CD (including an explanation of scenes) along with a copy of the Tenth Anniversary Souvenir issue of Yoganjali Natyalayam . The Souvenir contains biodata and articles by the young students who danced the leading roles in the drama.

                 

                 This is another way in which you can not only help us here in the Ashram, but also help yourself and your own students, by exposing them to the �cultural side� of Classical Yoga. The �cultural background� of Yoga is sadly missing in modern Yoga teachings, and the teachings lose much of their power because of it. We hope that your own Sadhana goes well and that you feel in good contact with us through Yoga Life and these general letters.

                 Affectionately in Yoga,

                 AMMA

                 

                YANTRA: The Science of Number, Name and Form

                A Ten Day Special Intensive Course

                Instructed by Swami Ananda Kapila (Dr. Jonn Mumford) at ICYER

                February 1st to 10th, 2004

                Open to Senior Students of

                Rishiculture Ashtanga (Gitananda) Yoga

                 

                Special CD Recording of the

                Spectacular Bharat Natyam Dance Drama

                RAMAVATHARA (The Story of Lord Rama)

                With Invitation Explanation Sheet  

                 

                 

                                                   Tenth Anniversary Souvenir of

                Yoganjali Natyalayam � Filled with

                beautiful Photos and articles

                on The Life Jubilant � A Yogic Life! 



                Dr.Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani
                25,2nd cross,Iyyanar Nagar
                Pondicherry-605 013
                tel;0413 622902/241561
                abb@...,yognat2001@...
                Website: www.icyer.com


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              • The Lotus Centre
                To Ananda: Who is the person from Australia shown at the top, far right of the backcover, in the latest Yoga Life? Thanks for reply. Eric Doornekamp
                Message 7 of 8 , Nov 20, 2003
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                  To Ananda:
                  Who is the person from Australia shown at the top, far right of the backcover, in the latest Yoga Life?
                  Thanks for reply.
                  Eric Doornekamp
                   
                • Dr.Ananda Bhavanani
                  THE HISTORY OF YOGA FROM ANCIENT TO MODERN TIMES By Puduvai Kalaimamani Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani Director: International Centre For Yoga Education and
                  Message 8 of 8 , Nov 21, 2003
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                    THE  HISTORY  OF  YOGA  FROM  ANCIENT

                    TO  MODERN  TIMES

                     

                    By Puduvai Kalaimamani Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani

                    Director: International Centre For Yoga Education and Research (ICYER)

                    16-A, Mettu St, Chinnamudaliarchavady, Kottakuppam � 605 104. Ph: 2622902

                    and

                    Yoganjali Natyalayam

                    25, 2nd Cross, Iyyanar Nagar, Pondicherry � 605 013. Ph: 2241561

                     

                    �YOGA� is an ancient Sanskrit word which, in only two syllables, encompasses the entire body of spiritual experiences and experiments of tens of thousands of Realised Masters. These Masters have discovered the Ultimate Reality, Sat, and in their infinite Karuna, compassion, have carefully marked a path for others to follow. The Upanishads exclaim: �Lo! Ye who suffer know! A way has been found! A way out of all this darkness!� That way �. is Yoga!

                     

                    Yoga is as old as the Universe, for it is both the Path and the Goal. The Goal is realisation of the Innate Nature of the Universe, the Highest Being: Atman, Purusha, Shiva, Devi, Sat� whatever word we wish to use to describe its essence. In Sankhya and Yoga, that Highest Being is called Purusha � and the manifestation of That Spirit in the world of matter and senses is called Prakrithi. It is through experiences in the Prakrithi, or manifested world, that the Jiva, individual soul, returns to the Paramatman, or Universal Soul. Hence, Purusha and Prakrithi are one and the same: Purusha is the Goal and Prakrithi, the path to that Goal.

                     

                    The word �Yoga� is often described as �union�. It implies that the individual is united with the Universe, the personality with the Universality. The root of the word �Yoga� is the Sanskrit Bija �Yuj� which means �to join together.� The English word �yoke� is directly derived from the Sanskrit �Yuj�. In fact, the English word �Union� has a sound similar to �Yuj�. Perhaps one could more correctly say, Yoga is �re-union�. The Upanishad says, �That which was One became the many.� Purusha unfolded into the multi-splendrous material creation through Prakrithi. The science of Yoga accelerates the �return of the many to the One�, the re-union of Purusha and Prakrithi, Shivan and Shakti, Ram and Sita. Thus, Yoga is both the Goal (Purusha) and the path to that Goal (Prakrithi).

                     

                    In this Cosmic Drama, Play, Leela, the sense of Dwaitam, the sense of separateness rose. From this Dwaitam (duality, two-ness) rose Bhayam, fear. The Upanishad says, �Where there are two, there is fear.� This primordial fear rising from the sense of separateness is the root cause of all man�s sufferings. That primordial fear can be destroyed when the Highest Sense of Oneness is once more achieved. The sages call this �reunion�, Moksha , Samadhi, Kaivalya, Jivana Mukta. This is the true goal of Yoga.

                     

                    Spurred by this miserable sense of separateness and its concomitant fear, the ancient Rishis delved deeply into the nature of the Universe and the cause of all suffering. They  discovered Essential Truths which enabled the embodied soul to enjoy again the Blissful Union or Re-union with that Highest Self. All these experiences and experiments of the Rishis through thousands of years are collectively referred to under the term �Yoga�.

                     

                    HISTORICAL UNFOLDING OF THE CONCEPTS AND PRACTICES OF YOGA

                    For the purpose of understanding the development of this great Yogic spiritual tradition, one may divide its unfoldment into three time frames:

                    I             :         PRE-HISTORIC: Teachings transmitted orally from Guru to disciple in forest hermitages. Before the written word.

                     

                    II           :         THE HISTORIC: Teachings transmitted from Guru to disciple in forest hermitages, using both oral and written traditions.

                     

                    III          :         MODERN: Spiritual teachings gleaned from many sources, indiscriminately, often only through the written word and without the guidance of Guru.

                     

                    I.      THE PRE-HISTORIC PERIOD

                     

                    The Indic Civilisation (the culture which grew up around the Indus Valley) is commonly accepted in modern times to be more than nine thousand years old. The town of Mehrgarh has been dated back to 6500 B.C. by Archeologists. But Western Indologists have dated Indian spiritual literature as originating in very recent times only. Why is this so? The early Sanskrit Scholars, even such famous and repected men as the German Max Mueller in the nineteenth century, were mostly financed by the Christian Church, which wanted its missionaries to understand the �pagan�s beliefs�, all the better to convert them to The True Faith, i.e., Christianity. The Christian Church at the time of Charles Darwin (1809-1882) believed that the earth was created by God about 6000 years earlier (about 4000 B.C.) This figure was arrived at by counting the generations since Adam and Eve. Darwin figured the earth to be at least 300 million years old. This was one reason why his Magnum Opus �THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES� published in 1859 was so violently opposed by the Church. It is important to note this when trying to �fix dates� in the history of Yoga. The Christian-funded Indologists certainly could not date any Hindu Scriptures earlier than 4000 B.C. (the date when God supposedly created the world)! In fact, they had to retain a respectable distance from that �sacred date� and hence, they fixed the dates of all Hindu scriptures, including the Vedas, as much later in time. Max Mueller set the date of the Vedas as 1500 B.C., a ridiculously late date. Max Muller himself admitted, however, it was impossible to know accurately when the Vedas were composed. Further more, the Judeo � Christian tradition thinks of time in a linear manner, as proceeding straight forward in an unending line. Hindu tradition sees time as cyclic. The Hindu mind has always conceived of time in great cycles called Yugas: These Yugas are four in number: Sat, the Golden Age when men were perfect; Treta, when men had lost a quarter of that perfection. This was the age of Rama. Dwapara Yuga, when men had lost half of their perfection and good and evil were equally mixed. This was the age of Krishna. Kali Yuga, the last �age cycle� is the age in which we now exist. It is believed that evil dominates, and men are only one quarter good and three-quarters evil. These cycles are conceived to be hundreds of thousands of years each in duration. It is important to understand this difference between the Judeo-Christian tradition and the Hindu tradition when trying to construct a historical development of Yoga, based in time and dates.

                     

                    ORIGIN OF THE VEDAS: The origin of the Vedas is lost in antiquity. The Vedas were ancient hymns, sung in the forests, by Rishis who lived ascetic lives in hermitages. Yet, they were filled also with the joys and sorrows, gains and losses, fears and desires of worldly life. Originally, they were sung. They were not put in written form. Who knows for how many centuries or millennia these sacred chants were passed from Guru to disciple? Hindu tradition puts the Vedas as far back as 10,000 years. In this Vedic Period, the word �Yoga� was used occasionally, often in reference to Homas, fire ceremonies. The �practical aspects� of Yoga were not formalized, but were part and parcel of the Vedic seer�s life. To perform Homa, the sages had to sit immobile for days, weeks, even months in �Asanas�, straight, still, sitting positions of the body. The Mantras chanted required tremendous breath control (Pranayama).  The ritualistic accuracy and purity required intense Dharana (concentration). The senses had to be controlled, as fasting and other physical disciplines were part of the ritual. Hence, the ritualistic worship of the Vedic seers implied a very strong practice of Yoga Sadhana, even without the word �Yoga� being applied to this Sadhana.

                     

                    Even so, the word �Yoga� does appear in the Vedas.  According to Dr.K.H. Kumar Kaul, author of YOGA IN THE HINDU SCRIPTURES, in the prayers of the RIG VEDA to Indra, the Rishis advise the aspirant to follow the path of Yoga for obtaining energy from the �Divine Person�. In the RIGVEDA, (V, 81.1) the Mantra repeats the word �Yoga� and implies different types of Yoga related to all kinds of human existence. In YAJURVEDA according to Dr. Kaul, some references directly or indirectly related to Yogic systems are found. The same reference �Yujate man�� of the RIGVEDA is found in YAJURVEDA for the sake of putting emphasis on mental Yoga. Dr. Kaul says the ATHARVAVEDA is the most important for the study of Yoga practices. In the ATHARVAVEDA references are found to Prana, the vital energy of the Universe, and also to Chakras (eight Chakras in the Pranic body and nine aperatures (gates) in the body�. �Astachara navdvara devanam pruayodhya tasyam hiranyayah kosh o kosha svargo jyotisavrth� (ATHARVAVEDA 10.2.31). Pranavidya or the Science of Prana is referred to in the ATHARVAVEDA in which the meaning is that Prana is the essence of the Universe. According to the ATHARVAVEDA, all senses and motor organs can stop their functioning when they are tired, but only Prana is always working and active as long as the body lives. Further ATHARVA VEDA, to a large extent, carried similar references of RIG VEDA, in which �Yoga� has not yet acquired its technical meaning. However, ATHARVAVEDA gives importance to the practice of Yoga. Dr. Kumar Kaul observes:

                     

                    �All the four Vedic Samhitas refer directly or indirectly to the Yoga system and the Yoga traditions. In the first three Samhitas there are direct as well as indirect references to Yoga. But the ATHARAVAVEDA gives the clear conception of Yoga describing the eight mystical circles (Chakras) and the nine gates of the human body-the golden sheath and the mystical wheel containing the thousand spokes. Therefore, it may be held that the Vedic seers and sages were aware of the nature, importance and implication of the practical aspects of Yoga. Their supernatural knowledge also tells us they were practical Yogis. By following the path of Yoga, they had become successful in revealing divine knowledge within their minds. It is also suggested that even gods could not have achieved their divinity without the knowledge of Yoga.

                    The Vedas came to be written down, and passed from an oral tradition to the written tradition. They were organised and systematized by Ved Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharatha.

                    II.  THE WRITTEN TRADITION

                     

                    Hindu tradition holds that Lord Rama lived in Treta Yoga and thus the Ramayana, the story of his life, was written by Sage Ved Vyasa, about 7,000 years ago. The Ramayana is also an allegory for the principles of Yogic living. Lord Rama was the supreme Yogi: firmly wedded to Dharma, or Righteous Living; an upholder of Satya, or Truth at all costs. A supreme ascetic, or Tapasin, he was firmly in control of his senses. His one-pointed mind manifested itself in his �Skill in action� as a warrior, a king, a husband, a son, a friend and a companion. Lord Rama is the role model for all Yogic qualities. The RAMAYANA is a �practical Yoga manual� showing mankind how to live a spiritual life. Proper attitudes to take towards all the challenges of worldly life are elaborated in detail in the work. The MAHABHARATHA is the second great �Yogic allegory� of Hindu literature, written by sage Ved Vyasa. It tells the story of the struggle of every human soul to overcome the animalistic passions (symbolized by the Kauravas)  and enable the triumph of the divine qualities of the God nature (symbolized by the Pandavas). The Mahabharatha is also the story of Krishna, who, it is believed, lived in Dwapara Yuga, about 5,000 years ago. It is said that when Lord Krishna died, And the date is postulated at about 3125 B.C., Kali Yuga began.

                     

                    Embedded within the Mahabharatha is the world famous scripture of Hinduism THE BHAGAVAD GITA which is the ultimate text book of Yoga. In eighteen chapters of the discourse between Lord Krishna and Arjuna, the proper �Yoga Bhava� or �Yogic attitude� towards every human crisis is given. The word �Yoga� is frequently used in the Bhagavad Gita. In fact, every one of the eighteen chapters is entitled as a �Yoga�. Lord Krishna carefully leads Arjuna out of Vishadha, or depression, into a positive state of mind where he is able to fulfill his duties as a warrior. The famous Yogic concepts of the Gita include: �Yoga Karmasu Kaushaam� (Yoga is skill in action) and� Yoga Uchayati Samatva� (Yoga is equal mindedness in all circumstances). Concepts that were very much part of Hindu Culture from Vedic times, such as Karma Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Dhyana Yoga were codified and elaborated in a systematic way for the first time in the Bhagavad Gita. The emphasis was on Vairayga or detachment and Viveka or discrimination. No practical instruction is given, other than the instruction to �sit straight� with head and neck erect. The word �Asana� is used, but mainly in reference to the �seat� on which the Yogi is to sit to perfect his �meditation�.

                     

                    The concept of �Yoga� as an attitude towards living which could embrace the entire spectrum of man�s existence was first formulated clearly and boldly by Maharishi Ved Vyasa in his magus opus, THE BHAGAVAD GITA which forms a part of the MAHABHARATHA. In these eighteen chapters, each chapter of which is entitled a �Yoga�, Lord Krishna instructs his disciple Arjuna that Yoga is cultivating the �proper attitude� of mind in all of life�s circumstances. Yoga is not just a �withdrawal from the world and practice of extreme asceticism� but rather a Yogi is he who is �moderate in both eating and fasting, sleeping and waking�.(Chapter Six) (16). �Yoga is not possible for him who eats too much or for him who abstains too much from eating. It is not for him, O Arjuna, who sleeps too much or too little.� Even �Dejection and Despair� can be a �Yoga� in the sense that often such despair is the starting point of the spiritual life. Thus the author of the BHAGAVADGITA has entitled his first chapter, THE YOGA OF THE VISHADA OF ARJUNA�, or the �YOGA OF THE DESPONDENCY OF ARJUNA�.

                     

                    It is interesting to note that in the other great spiritual work on Yoga, the YOGA VASHISHTHA authored thousands of years ago by Maharishi Valmiki, that Lord Rama also started his spiritual search when his mind was in a state of utter dejection at the futility of the worldly life. It was only when the Sadhak or seeker understood totally the impermanent and painful nature of the world, that he broke his attachment to worldly life and true spiritual instruction could begin. The qualification of a spiritual aspirant is given in Yoga Vashistha in Chapter I, V.29.

                     

                    �He is entitled to study this scripture who has the firm belief, �I am bound; let me be liberated�, and who is not much ignorant, and not much wise either�.

                     

                    Sage Ved Vyasa must have codified much of the prevailing spiritual wisdom of his time in composing the BHAGAVAD GITA. A few passages from the BHAGAVAD GITA which serve as example of the attitudes of mind necessary for progress in Yoga are given below.

                     

                    In Chapter Six, DHYANA YOGA, the following verses occur. (V.11) �Having firmly fixed in a clean place his seat, neither too high nor too low and having spread over it the kusa grass, a deer skin and cloth, one over the other�.

                     

                    (V.12) �Sitting there on his seat, making the mind one pointed and restraining the thinking faculty and the senses, he should practice Yoga for self purification�.

                     

                    (V.13) �Let him hold the body, head and neck erect and still, gazing at the tip of his nose without looking around�.

                     

                    These three verses contain the only �practical physical techniques of Yoga� taught in the entire Gita. The balance of the Gita�s spiritual instruction on Yoga is primarily on cultivating the proper attitude towards oneself and the world. Lord Krishna defines Yoga as �a balanced mind.� �Perform action, O Dhananjaya, being fixed in Yoga, renouncing attachments and being even-minded in success and failure. Equilibrium is verily Yoga�. (Chapter Two V. 48).

                     

                    Yoga is skill in action �The one fixed in equanimity of mind frees oneself in this life from vice and virtue alike. Therefore, devote yourself to Yoga. Work done to perfection is verily Yoga.� (Chapter Two. 50).

                     

                    The Yogi is one who has controlled his senses. �The Yogi, having controlled them (the senses) sits focused on Me, as the Supreme Goal. His wisdom is constant whose senses are under subjugation�. (Chapter Two 61).

                     

                    A Yogi is a man who rises above the duality of action and non-action �He who sees action in inaction and inaction in action, he is wise among men, he is a Yogi and accomplisher of everything�. (Chapter Four 18).

                     

                    The Yogi is not attached to the fruits of action �Abandoning the fruit of action, the Yogi attains peace born of steadfastness; impelled by desire, the non-Yogi is bound, attached to fruit�. (Chapter Five 12).

                     

                    The Upanishads, or the Vedanta (that which came �at the end of the Vedas�) are equally ancient. The various Upanishads were elaborated at different times. Some may be as old as 3,000 to 5,000 years and others are much more recent. The Upanishads were explanations of the mystic concepts of the Vedas in more concrete, less abstract form. Next to the VEDAS, the UPANISHADS are the most important repositories of ancient Hindu mystic Yogic thought. They represent a body of spiritual realizations based upon individual experience which was transmitted from the Guru to the student who literally �Sat at the Guru�s feet�. Several Upanishads contain nuggets of golden Yogic truth. THE KATHOPANISHAD teaches, �The Creator of the Universe opened the gate of the senses outside, therefore, external senses perceive the external phenomena and not the Internal Atman. The wise Yogis turn their faces inside with the desire of immortality. (KATHOPANISHAD (II, I.I.). In this Upanishad Lord Yama also teaches Nacheketas that there are one hundred and one nerves in the heart, and among them, one goes upward through the head and if the Yogi raises himself to the head through this particular nerve, he attains immortality, (KATHOPANISHAD II, 3.16).

                     

                    In PRASNA UPANISHAD, the Guru Pippalada in answering questions from six disciples, propounds the concept of Prana as the �mother-father of all created things�, and the concept of polarity, or movement between Creator and Created, as a sustenance of the manifested world. He also elucidates in detail the idea of Prana, as the Supreme Moving Force of Creation, in the famous verse, �And when the queen bee rises, all the bees with her arise, and when she comes to rest, again, then all come to rest. Even so it happened to the senses. They realized that Prana was supreme and made obescience to it�. (PRASNA UPANISHAD). The Guru sketches the intimate relationship of mind and Prana, and teaches the importance of meditation on the sacred PRANAVA AUM. The MUNDAKA UPANISHAD begins with the famous question of all spiritual seekers, �Master, what is That, which when known, one knows all?�. Saunaka, a householder, asks his Master Angiras. Sage Angiras also stresses the importance of meditation on AUM and also following the Yama and Niyamas, or morality and ethics in life. Both the MUNDAKA and the PRASNA UPANISHADS belong to the Atharvaveda.

                     

                    THE CHANDOGYA UPANISHAD also stresses the importance of chanting and meditating upon the Sanskrit syllable AUM, which it describes as UDGITA, the �sacred word which is sung�. This Upanishad also describes the greatness of Prana. It also beautifully describes the concept of Dhyana, or meditation, and says that �whatever great thing is known to men is known through meditation� the whole earth, middle space, the heaven, waters and even mountains are engaged in Dhyana�.

                     

                    In the BRIHADARANYAKA UPANISHAD sage Yajnavalkya, teaches there are three means of liberation, i.e. Sravana, or study; Manana, rational thinking and Nididhyasan Meditation. THE SHVETASVTARA UPANISHAD is the last among the main Upanishads. The second chapter is devoted to an explanation of Yoga philosophy. The sage says persons practicing Yoga and Dhyana must unite their mind with God. God, then with His Grace, unites their intellect with Him, and they then perceive His Light. Moksha is possible only with purity of heart (SHVETASVTARA UPANISHAD (2.1). This Upanishad explains Yoga with the help of the Vedic Samhita Mantras.

                     

                    The concept of Yoga in the UPANISHADS is that the spiritual life starts with mental purity, control and devotion to the Divine Spirit. A sense of sacredness and reverence for the Higher Self is an essential. The Upanishads wonderfully advocate consummate virtues like devotion, dedication, service, austerity, truthfulness, continence, self restraint, faith, generosity, etc. though not in proper order, but which are definitely included in the system of Yoga. In KATHOPANISHAD, the word �Yoga� has been used in its technical sense and has been defined as �controlling and stabilizing the senses�. �This, they consider to be Yoga, the steady control of senses. Then one becomes undistracted, for Yoga comes and goes�. (Tr. S. Radhakrishnan). This Upanishad further gives stress on ADHYATMA YOGA which leads to Self-realisation.

                     

                    Scriptural study, renunciation, enjoyment, knowledge and freedom in action are the motto of Karmayoga which is defined in the opening verse of ISAVASYOPANISAD. �The actions done with an attitude of renunciation do not become binding�. In KENOPANISAD the trans-psychic nature of Self-Realisation has been explained which gives indirect hints to such a Karmayoga. The SVETASYATAROPANISAD prepares a long list of Yogic practices. The realization of the mystic power of God through the Yoga of meditation (DHYANAYOGA) is recommended (su.a.3). The divine power, known as Kundalini in Yogic culture, is produced by meditation. For the first time, the posture and the place for Pranayama and meditation is described, in detail, in this Upanishad.

                     

                    In order to explain the essence of Yoga, the KATHOPANISAD refers to the metaphor of a charioteer. Here the Self is said to be the driver of the chariot; the mind; the reins; the senses; the horses; the sense-objects the paths on which chariot goes. The chariot reaches its proper goal if the horses are properly controlled by the Charioteer (Higher Consciousness, Manas) keeping full control over the reins. The goal is said to be the highest abode of Lord Vishnu. This simile used to expound Yoga is understood as one of the finest examples found in the Upanishads of the Nature of Spiritual Living.

                     

                    The MUNDAKOPANISAD represents further a development of Yoga techniques, narrating �OM� as the main object of meditation. For this purpose, truth, penance, study of scripture and continence are recommended as the preliminary practices.

                     

                    The YOGA VASHISHTA is another Yogic scripture which is very difficult to date. Many traditionalists believe it to be the work of Valmiki, who is also the author of the Ramayana. If this is so then it would have to be 7,000 years old. The setting of the Yoga Vashista, however, is the teaching of the young prince Rama by the Raja Guru Vashishta. Some of the earliest concepts of Yoga also are found in the YOGA VASHISHTA. This beautiful scripture must also predate the MAHABHARATHA and the BHAGAVAD GITA by millennia. If it was indeed composed by Valmiki, for Valmiki preceded Ved Vyasa. Yet its actual date is hotly debated, some placing it only 1000 years ago! Few practical techniques or suggestions are given for Yoga Sadhana. Emphasis is primarily on the proper attitude towards one�s body, mind, emotions and senses. Without mentioning the word �Yoga� extensively, still the Yogic attitudes and suggestions for Sadhana are found. Some �Yogic concepts� from Yoga Vashishta may be found in the following verses.

                     

                    UPASAMA PRAKARAMA OF JANAKOPAAKHYAANAM. �One should strike down again and again with the club of discrimination these enemies, the senses, wherever they are active, just as Hari smites the mountains with his Vajra�. (5)

                     

                    �Conquer the mind first by pressing palm with the palm, grinding the teeth with the teeth, and twisting the limbs with the limb�. (5) (This resembles very much instruction in Hatha Yoga, where different parts of the body are worked against each other to gain control over them). Sage Vashistha implies that intellectual discrimination and Viveka are the means to liberation. �O Rama: One attains that state with one�s own fine clear intellect, and ripe wisdom, not by action�. (11)

                     

                    PUNYA PAAVANOPAA KHYANAM: The qualities of a Yogi (sage) are described thus: �Desirelessness, fearlessness, inherence in the Eternal Self, feeling of equality, steady wisdom, indifference to everything, cheerfulness, friendliness to all beings, contentment, kindness, pleasing words, these qualities are found in the sage who is free from all ideas of acceptance and rejection as well as latent tendencies�.

                     

                    PUNYA PAAVANOPAA KHYAANAM: �Whatever you may be doing, whether standing, walking, sleeping, waking, breathing, or rising or falling, always clearly remember this world is unreal and renounce all desires (attachment)� (15). �Be outwardly active but inwardly inactive, outwardly a doer, but inwardly a non-doer and thus play your part in the world�. (22)

                     

                    Sage Vashishtha gives these ideas on Samadhi in SURAGHOOPAAKHYAANAM.: �Those who are enlightened will be established in Samadhi even while engaged in worldly activity since they firmly abide in the Self, the sole Reality�.

                     

                    Even if one sits in the lotus pose (Padma Asana) holding the hands in the gesture of Brahmanjali (salutation with folded hands during worship) how can one attain Samadhi if the mind is restless�.

                     

                    SURAGHOOPAAKHYAANAM: �O virtuous one, Wise men say that the word �Samadhi� denotes Supreme Knowledge which makes one fully wise and ever contented and reveals things as they are�. (94) �Samadhi is declared to be that state which is totally free of all excitement, egoism and the pairs of opposites and is established firmer than Meru Mountain�.

                     

                    BHASA VILASA SAMVADSM: �The inner bliss which arises when the mind and ego get dissolved is the very nature of the Supreme Lord, O Rama (99). That is the attainment of Yoga. In a way it resembles deep sleep but is beyond words and can be only experienced within the heart. (99)

                     

                    The Vedas, the Upanishads, YOGA VASHISHTA and the BHAGAVAD GITA all put much emphasis on a firm conviction of the unreality of the material world; non attachment to things of the world; control of the senses; equal mindedness; transitory nature of phenomenal objects; concentration of mind; solitude as necessary for spiritual advancement; transcendence of dualities. They also propound moral and ethical qualities as the bedrock of all Sadhana. It is interesting to note in the YOGA VASHISHTHA, the instruction given by Sage Vashishtha to Lord Rama, the Yuvraj, as written by Sage Valmiki, and in the BHAGAVAD GITA, that extreme ascetism is decried, derided, even ridiculed. Instead, both Sage Vashishta (as recorded by Rishi Valmiki) and Lord Krishna (as recorded by Rishi Ved Vyasa) stress the �path of moderation� instead of extreme asceticism. Both also stress that while it is necessary to retire to a lonely place to practice Dhyana (meditation) it is equally important to establish oneself in �Yoga� (equilibrium) and then, carry out one�s duties in the world. Stories of enlightened kings and queens abound in the tales of Sage Vashishta and Raja Janaka is held up as a role model of the Enlightened Yogi-cum-Kingly Sage. Thus, even in those ancient days, which must have been between five thousand and seven thousand years ago, the powerful teaching was: �live in the world but be not of the world�. The suitable metaphor for this ideal is the lotus which has roots in the mud, but rises in beauty above its earthly origin, untouched.

                     

                    The first complete, detailed, well organised, technical presentation of practical Yoga as a SCIENCE OF SPIRITUALITY was made by Maharishi Patanjali in his famous work THE YOGA SUTRAS. Devotees believe this work to be at least 2500 years old, composed about 600 B.C. to 800 B.C. Traditionalists feel the Yoga Sutras pre-dates the Buddha, but the Western scholars often place it after Buddha. There is little trace of Buddhist influence in Patanjali�s writings. There surely would have been some reflection had he come after Lord Buddha. The attempt to refute Buddhist thought occurs in Hindu writings after the time of Buddha.

                     

                    THE YOGA SUTRAS by Maharishi Patanjali have become the most authentic scripture detailing the principles of ASHTANGA YOGA. In 196 Sutras, or short succinct verses, the great sage gives an all encompassing picture of the principles of Yoga which must have been in vogue in his time. Many call Patanjali �The Founder of Yoga�, but this is patently false. He was instead the first codifier of principles which must have been part and parcel of the spiritual life of his time. The First Chapter of the Yoga Sutras is SAMADHI PADA. The Second Chapter is SADHANA PADA; the Third Chapter is VIBHUTHI PADA and the Fourth Chapter is KAIVALYA PADA. This treatise of 196 Sutras covers the entire gamut of Yogic spiritual life step by step, in rational logical fashion. The Yoga Sutras give a brilliant analysis of the problems inherent in the �human condition� and shows how man may rise above the contradictions in his nature. The Ashtanga Yoga elaborated by Patanjali. begins with the code of conduct expected from a spiritual aspirant (Yama and Niyama) and then outlines the steps which lead to the final emanicipation or Mukti. The first Chapter or Samadhi Pada is full of the religiousness of life, and cultivates in the seeker the desire for Samadhi. It shows the means to establish the Sadhak firmly in the path of righteousness, or Dharma. It also gives glimpses of the nature of the Highest Goal of Yoga, Samadhi, or meeting the Godhead face to face. Chapter Two is SADHANA PADA. It explains the ways and means of climbing the eight rungs of the ladder of Yoga. Yama, Niyama Asana, Poranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The Third Chapter or VIBHUTHI PADA explains the supernatural powers which come with the practice of Yoga. The Fourth Chapter or KAIVALAYA PADA describes the beatitude and the spiritual bliss of the accomplishment of Yogic goals. Asanas, or physical postures, were not given much importance, by Sage Patanjali. In his time �Asana� commonly meant �a seat� or a �sitting position� and was thought of primarily as a means by which the body could be held straight and still long periods of time for contemplation and meditation. In the YOGA SUTRAS, the word �Asana� is mentioned only four significant times in the 196 verses. It is named in the second chapter, SADHANA PADA, v. 29 as the third of eight limbs of Yoga. In Sutra 46, Chapter Two, Asana is defined simply as �a seated pose� which is �steady and comfortable�. In Verse 47, Chapter Two, it is said that �by letting go of one�s effort in the Asana (�implying that an Asana should be held with ease) one should �meditate on Infinity and achieve steadiness of posture�. In Verse 48, of the same Chapter, Sage Patanjali says that �By perfecting Asana, a Yogi is not affected by the pairs of opposites�. Other than these four verses, the concept of Asana is not deal with in the YOGA SUTRAS, the oldest and most authorative written scripture on Yoga. On the contrary much emphasis is placed on cultivating proper attitudes of mind, and especially, grounding oneself in the Yamas and Niyamas of Yoga, or the morality and ethics. Maharishi Patanjali devotes 15 Sutras, V. 30 through V. 45 of Chapter Two to a thorough discussion of each of the five Yamas and five Niyamas, and describes the spiritual reward of attaining perfection in each one. (Chapter Two, YOGA SUTRAS). In classical, traditional Yoga, as understood through a study of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the YOGA VASHISTHA, THE BHAGAVAD GITA AND THE YOGA SUTRAS,  very little emphasis was placed upon the physical practices. Traditionalists believe that the Yoga Sutras were written between 600 � 800 B.C. though Western scholars often put the Sutras much later, at 300 B.C. or even 100 A.D!

                     

                    One must mention the important role of Adi Sankara, the great Revivalist of the Hindu tradition, in any history of Yoga. The date of Sankara, who was born in Kerala, is generally placed around 800 A.D. Sankara is universally accepted as the greatest exponent of Advaita Vedanta, the non-dualistic philosophy inspired by the Upanishads, which constitute the concluding portion of Vedic revalation. Sankara wrote commentaries on the Brahma Sutra, the Upanishads, and the Bhagavad Gita.

                     

                    Adi Sankara�s views on Yoga can be found to a large extent in one of his most well known works, the Viveka Chudamani (The Crest Jewel of Discrimination). This beautiful Sanskrit work has 580 verses.

                     

                    It is interesting to examine verses from the Viveka Chudamani which expound Sankara�s views of Yoga.

                    The first steps in Yoga are control of speech, non

                    Convetousness, non-entertainment of expectations,

                    Non-involvement in worldly activities and constant

                    Cultivation of solitude. (367)

                     

                    Sages have spoken here of four disciplines (to

                    Attain the highest). First enumerated is discrimination

                    between the Real and the unreal. (18)

                     

                    Next comes renunciation of the enjoyment of fruits

                    (of one�s actions) here as well as hereafter;

                    (thereafter) come the six attributes (sama,

                    calmness, dama, self-control, uparati, self-

                    withdrawal, titiksa, forbearance, sraddha,faith,

                    and samadhana, settling of the intellect); (the last)

                    is clearly the yearning for the highest. (19)

                     

                    These are Sankara�s renditions of the basic attributes necessary for Yoga Sadhana, his equivalent of Patanjali�s Yama and Niyama.

                     

                    Sankara did not consider Asana and Pranayama in his view of Yoga Sadhana. His view was that various external activities such as rituals, or different spiritual disciplines were useful to purify the mental being, but in themselves could not produce the Ultimate State of Mukti.

                     

                    Works and practices lead to purification of the

                    mental being; but not to perception of the ultimate

                    reality. The later is brought about by vicara

                    (discriminative reflection), not in the least by tens

                    of works and practices. (11)

                     

                    Sankara�s idea of Yoga Sadhana was that the Sadhak, under the guidance of a Guru, could achieve the highest state of consciousness through Vichara, that is the intellectual process of reasoning, discrimination, reflection, contemplation.

                     

                    Hence the seeker after the reality of Atman (the

                    Individual self) should approach aGuru (spiritual

                    teacher), who is among the best knowers of

                    Brahman (the universal Self) and an ocean of

                    mercy, and resort to vicara (right reasoning and

                    reflection). (15)

                     

                    Sankara�s description of the process leading to final realization is three-fold, just as is the Samyana of Patanjali (Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi) with the difference that Sankara replaces Dharana (concentration) with manana (reflection, contemplation).

                     

                    Then (following the initial preparation in Yoga)

                    Comes the hearing of the truth, reflection on it

                    and long, constant, as well as uninterrupted

                    meditation on it by the Yogi, the man of

                    reflection. Thereafter the learned seeker attains

                    to the state of nirvikalpa-samadhi (supreme state

                    of choiceless awareness) and realizes the bliss

                    of nirvana even while living. (70)

                     

                    The reality of paramatman (the supreme Self)

                    is extremely subtle, and cannot be grasped by

                    gross outgoing mental tendencies. It can only

                    be known by noble souls with perfectly pure

                    intellects in the Samadhi state brought about by

                    extra-ordinarily subtle states of consciousness. (360)

                     

                    When the mental being, thus purified and

                    matured by constant practice (of dhyana,

                    meditation), unites with or merges in Brahman,

                    then the Samadhi state passes on from the

                    savikalpa (with choice) to the nirvikalpa

                    (choiceless) stage and leads directly and on its

                    own to the realization of the bliss of the one

                    without a second. (362)

                     

                    Sankara and Patanjali were separated in time by perhaps 1000 years. The word �Samadhi� is not used by Sankara to denote any specific or definite state of being. It stands for a wide range of super conscious states which culminates in Kaivalya (for Patanjali) and Jivana Mukit (for Sankara). The word �Prajna�, higher consciousness or illumination, is associated with Samadhi States according to both Sankara and Patanjali. This Highest State of Consciousness is described beautifully, though in different manners, by both Sankara and Patanjali.

                     

                    Patanjali, in Yoga Sutra, Chapter III, Vibhuti Pada, V.55 says:

                     

                    The highest knowledge (in kaivalya) born of the

                    Awareness of Reality, is truly liberating, includes

                    congnition of all objects simultaneously, pertains

                    to all objects and processes whatsoever (in the

                    past, present and future) and also transcends the

                    world process.

                     

                    Sankara in Verse 542 of Viveka Chudamani describes the final liberation differently

                    Sometimes considered a fool, sometimes treated

                     as a sage, sometimes enjoying regal splendour,

                    sometimes wandering aimlessly, sometimes

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