Change yourself and the world around will change

About the Vedas, Yoga and Yoga in the Vedas...

There is an incredible number of Vedic scriptures, in fact, it is the largest collection of spiritual texts in the world. They reveal nearly all the aspects of life and there are no such questions that the Vedas cannot give answers to.

It is considered that sage Vyasa (Krishna Dwaipayana) the son of sage Parashara and his wife Satyavati, is the author of the four parts of the Vedas and a number of Vedantas. But since the word “Vyasa” in Sanskrit means “editor” or “detailed description”, it is possible that the signature Vyasa was common for all the authors who wrote the text.

The so-called Shuti (“what was heard”) or the Vedas initially were as a whole, they were an eternal, trans-cendent, primordial learning that appeared fr om the first sound OM and was pronounced by Brahma in the time of material nature creation. The Vedas speak about the cyclicity of time; that there are serene times when knowledge does not need to be written down, when all people know the Vedas by heart and live in compliance with their laws. But there are also times of cultural and intellectual decline. And for the coming age of Kali, for the degenerative society which is unable to remember and understand the essence of the Vedas, Vyasa divided the scriptures into four parts and was the first to write them down.

Rigveda – the Veda of hymns.

Yajurveda – the Veda about sacrificial rites.

Samaveda – the Veda of chats.

Atharvaveda – the Veda of magic spells.

In spite of the fact that Vyasa himself said about the written Vedas that “the learning has become accessible even for the Shudras”, for the majority of modern people the Vedas are still incredibly difficult to understand.

Each Veda (Shruti) consists of four parts: The Samhitas, the Brahmanas, the Aranyakas, the Upanishads.

The most ancient part is represented by collections of mantras – the Samhitas; its basis and structure – the Shruti, then the Brahmanas adjoin them – the part of the Vedas that explains the rites and ceremonies during sacrificial offerings and rituals; the Aranyakas (forest) –like  the Brahmanas, are concentrated on the explanation of the rules of the conduct of rituals. The Upanishads, latest texts of the Shruti, provide philosophical explanations of the notions of God, world perception, meditation, the fundamentals of life, the organization of society and mode of life. They are regarded as the main essence of the Vedas.

In addition, there are the Smritis (“what is remembered”) that complement the Sruti (“what was heard”). They include five types of scriptures:

The Dharma - shastras – 18 books, code of laws, norms of behavior and etiquette for a person during various life periods.

The Itihasas – stories like the Mahabharata, the Ramayana.

The Puranas – certain legends about various aspects of the Vedic tradition. The main scriptures are called the Maha - puranas (“the great”) and the Ypa – puranas (“additional”). They give the descriptions of the creation of the Universe, the second creation after the destruction, the genealogy of Gods and Sages, the origin of people and the stories of different Families. What is more, there exist the Sthala – puranas – stories about the creation of various temples and the Kyla – puranas – stories about the origin of the varnas.

The Vedanga – 6 additional texts:

Vyakarana – (the grammar of Sanskrit)

Jyotisha – the celestial body (Astrology)

Kalpa – (Science about rituals)

Nirukta – (Etymological interpretations)

Shiksha – (Phonetics, science about correct pronunciation of hymns)

Chandas – (Science about poetic metrics)

Agama – the Scriptures that proclaimed God Shiva to be the highest hypostasis (in Shivaism), God Vishnu (in Vaishnavism) and the Divine Feminine Energy Shakti (in Shaktism).

In addition to classical Upanishads there are “sectarian” Upanishads relating to various schools and traditions: the Upanishads of Vaishnavism – 14 pieces, the Upanishads of Shaktism – 9 pieces, the Upanishads of Shivaism – 14 pieces.

Vedic schools

Vyasa is also considered to be the author of Vedanta – sutra, the epos of the Mahabharata and the Shrimad – the Bhagavatas or Bhagavata – puranas. In spite of Vyasa’s efforts and desire to explain the crux of the matter for the coming generation, his scriptures led to the appearance of a number of schools, controversies and commentaries on his thousand-year-old work. According to different sources, when the Vedic period ended fr om 1 to 7 thousand years A.D. there appeared six Darshans (Astikas) – philosophical orthodox schools (Mimansa, Vedanta, Yoga, Sankhya, Nyaya, Vaisheshika), that began to argue about the primacy and importance of material nature and God.

Sankhya – is based on the philosophy of interaction between Purush (motionless male energy of the universal spirit) and Prakriti (female creative and active material nature). The qualities of Prakriti are inconstancy and eternal changeability – these are the gunas of material nature: Sattva (harmony, joy), Rajas (passion), Tamas (ignorance). The qualities of Purush are that of invariable and constant energy – diversity and ability to see separate parts as an individual consciousness. Purush, in himself, is Nirguna – he has no qualities, but when “casting a glance” at Prakriti, he falsely identifies himself with her and shows by turns into the material world elements with their qualities.

Yoga – is also a philosophical orthodox school that is based on many aspects on the school of Sankhya. Patanjali was the founder of the school. He is the author of the fundamental text “Yoga-sutra”. Its main objective is liberation of illusions by means of the concentration of mind.

Nyaya – its main text is “Nyaya-sutra” is based on a logical system of cognition, reliable and unreliable knowledge. The reliable one is perception, conclusion, comparison and evidence, the unreliable knowledge is memory, doubt, fault and hypothetic argument. This school is often compared with the dialectical school of the Ancient Greeks. The ideas of this school can be found in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana: dialectician Gotama disputes with Rama.

Vaisheshika – it was founded by sage Kanada (predator of atoms) and its scripture is “Vaisheshika-sutra”. This school is hostile to the ideas of Buddhism, but like Nyaya speaks about eternal atoms (of earth, water, fire, wind) and Akasha (ether). The material world is not perpetual because of the constant movement, connection and disconnection of atoms, which, in their turn, manifest themselves due to the primordial Creator. As a result, Vaisheshika and Nyaya merged.

Mimansa – aims at asserting the authority of the Vedas, but it is mainly concentrated on the understanding of fire sacrifices and mantras. It admits the reality of material nature, the soul and God. Owing to the laws of Karma the material world is created out of the range of atoms, and then the recognition of God becomes unnecessary for the formation of objective reality.

Vedanta – is based on Vyasa scriptures. Like Mimansa, Vedanta recognizes the authority of the Vedas, but the difference is that it emphasizes not the Samhitas and the Brahmanas, but the Aranyakas and the Upanishads. The main idea is man’s discovery and understanding of the absolute truth (Brahman). Vedanta-sutra and the texts of aphorisms are regarded as the principal scriptures. They were directed at strengthening the authority of the Vedas, because of the spreading of Buddhism Brahmanism began to lose its influence. The interpretation of the aphorisms gave rise to a number of new views and schools, in particular, Vedanta gave birth to six new teachings and three of them are most widespread on the territory of India. These are Advaita Vedanta, Vishishta-advaita, Dvaita. And the other three ones of a later period: Dvaita-Advaita, Shuddha-Advaita, Achintya-Bheda-Abheda.

Advaita – this school was founded by Gaudopada and Shankara. The word Advaita means absence of duality. The school regards the personality of God, The Most High Brahman, as the only reality; the other manifestations are illusions. The idea of the absence of duality implies the unity of Atman and Brahman.

Dvaita - this school was founded by Madhva who claimed that Jiva is not the immediate part of Brahman, that it is separate fr om him and exists eternally, and that its existence depends on the degree of immersion in samsara. In addition, it is believed that personal effort is not enough for liberation, that God himself chooses the ones to be saved.

Vishishta-Advaita – regards both the personality of God-Creator and material nature as real. All Jivas “return” to the initial state of Paramatma. The founder is Ramanuja.

Dvaita-Advaita – the principles of concurrent unity and distinction. The school was founded by Shri Nimbarkacharya who spoke about three types of reality – that of the soul, Brahma and material nature. The soul and the matter are different fr om Brahman but depend on him. The Most High is the one who enjoys, material nature is what he takes pleasure of. The objects of worship are Krishna and Radha. The method of worship is Bhakti-yoga.

Shuddha-Advaita – complete absence of duality. Founded by Vallabha, this school is based on four texts: Shrimad-Bhagavatam, Bhagavad Gita, the Vedas and Vedanta-sutra. The first scripture is considered to be the greatest. The main idea Parabrahman – the unchanging, with no material qualities (Nirguna) infinite, reveals the Universe out of himself constantly transforming himself, but remains the same. The material nature that appeared out of Brahman is also real and is a body.

Achintya-bheda-abheda or Gaudia-vaishnavism – was founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who taught about the unity of Jivatma with Brahman, that, at the same time, is different from him; that this process is inconceivable. Krishna is regarded as the highest manifestation of God.

Each of these schools has its own interpretation of the word “Yoga” as well as methods of spiritual practices. Many of them have got a separate status in the modern world and have formed separate teachings and schools.

Yoga in Vedic scriptures.

Yoga was first mentioned in RigVeda with the meaning of a “harness”.

“1.018.07a Without whom a sacrifice does not go well, even an inspired person fails,

1.018.07c That one dives on a team of thoughts.

1.018.07c sadhīnāṃ yogam invati

2.008.01a Like a person striving for a reward (drives on) a chariot, encourage with praise the team of Agni

2.008.01a vājayannivanūrathānyoghānagnerupastuhi

10.114.09a Is there a sage that can harness metres?

10.114.09a kaśchandasāṃyogham ā vedadhīraḥ.”

In the Vedic scriptures a human body is compared with a chariot, the sense organs are five harnessed horses, the Atman is the owner of the chariot, the mind is the charioteer and the road, that he gallops along, is the objects of feelings, and, probably, the harness that allows the mind to direct its feelings is Yoga.

Apart from the translation “harness” yoga has a lot of other meanings – harness, exercise, connection, harmony, union, etc. There is a translation like an ideal action and it is a range of spiritual, psychophysical practices aimed at altering the usual state of a person and his achieving the highest spiritual state of Nirvana.

There is a version of primordial sounding of the word yoga on the territory of modern Russia – Igo. In present-day interpretation it is something aggressive, a sort of political oppression. But in ancient times Yoga was pronounced as Igo and was derived from the root “to harness”. “Igo-go” is still associated with a horse and is not contrary to the version about the harness.  
Various scriptures teach about the manifestation of yoga concurrently with the creation of the material world. For example, during meditation Shiva cognizes the art of yoga and shares it as a means to understand the truth and to get rid of illusions. According to other versions, it was done by Brahma when giving rise to Knowledge, Yoga, Renunciation and Tapas in the form of four Kumaras – eternal infants, who will never become juvenile, teenagers or old people. In spite of variations, the parampara of yoga starts with Shiva.

Once Shiva was meditating on a river bank when his precious wife Parvati came up to him, praised him and then asked about the necklace of human skulls that he had on his neck. Then Shiva told her that all these were her heads. Gods live a long life and sometimes they happen to forget about their birth or death. Every time you died, - said Shiva,- I took your head and hanged it like a bead in my necklace, and then found you in a new incarnation and we married. Parvati was amazed by what she heard and asked her husband how to stop this cycle of deaths and births. Shiva said that for many times he had tried to give her the teaching of yoga but she always fell asleep without listening till the end. This time everything was the same, when the keeper of the trident was telling Parvati about yoga, she fell asleep. Then Shiva exclaimed: “Is there anybody who is listening to me?” A fish swam up to him and said that she was listening. Shiva turned it into a man who became his first disciple – Matsiendra.

The following texts are considered to be the classics of yoga: Yoga-sutra Patanjali, Hatha yoga Pradipika, Shiva-samhita, Gheranda-samhita.

Yoga-sutra Patanjali – III B.C – is the basic and fundamental text of yoga. Scriptures like sutras are for learning by heart and can be characterized by having special grammar, stating the idea in a very short form, with frequent use of aphorisms and figurativeness. In spite of the fact that the text is not easy to understand, Patanjali took off a certain veil of yoga being mystic and showed that it can be methodical, scientific and is possible to learn. These texts remind of notes with certain thoughts. Sutras are like the roots of trees, the basis of philosophical discipline, and the trunk and branches are various commentaries without which it is sometimes impossible to understand the “archived” text. The commentaries on the sutras are called by the Sanskrit word Bhashya, what can be translated as a talk, conversation about the sutras. There are several commentaries on Yoga-sutra Patanjali. Two of the most ancient and authoritative are “Vyasa Bhashya” that is dated to 10th century A.D., and the commentaries of Gurujarji “Yoga Matanga” – 5th century A.D.

Patanjali dwells on the concepts of yoga and provides the definition of human psychic setup योग: चित्त-वृत्तिनिरोध: yogaścitta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ (Yoga is the control of emotions that are typical of mind).

Our psychic developments are quite diverse and all our life is a sequence of these psychic events. Patanjali suggests dividing them into five components. Whenever the number five is mentioned in enumeration in the Vedic scriptures it is supposed that there are some two pairs that are opposed to one another and there is also a certain fifth component that unites them.

Paramana (the right knowledge) and Viparya (the wrong knowledge). These two pairs describe a certain meaningful aspect of our existence, the correct understanding of the question and the incorrect one. Nidra (sleep without the process of thinking) and Smriti (memory) – the ability to derive the images and past events of our consciousness. And Vikalpa – the ability to use the signs of images and the languages, explain one notions with the help of others, imagine and think. This is that very fifth word which unites Paramana and Viparya having no time characteristics, and Nidra and Smriti having time frames.

The ability to master all the aspect of the psyche is what yoga is. When watching psychic events from an outsider's viewpoint, the yogi remains impartial and becomes like Purushi – the Universal observer, the urge towards the gunas of material nature – Sattva, Rajas and Tamas (goodness, passion and darkness) – vanishes away. And continuous practice – Abhyasa – frees a person from the “seeds” of karma or the previous experience that form his perception of the world and the tendencies to react to certain events.

The mantra OM is the manifested form of God. A consciousness that is concentrated on this syllable becomes liberated from the chains of the material nature.

There are five Kleshas (clouding), which impede on the way to Samadhi – the ultimate aim of yoga.

Avidya – Ignorance

Asmira – Instinct of self-preservation

Raga – Attachment or desire

Dvesha – Aversion

Abhinivesha – Fear of death

Like in the previous five there are two pairs and a fifth notion that unites them. In this case Avidya links the two pairs of Desire and Aversion (Raga and Dvesha) and the Instinct of self-preservation in the positive sense and the Fear of death in the negative understanding (Asmira and Abhinivesha).

Until the consciousness is clear there appear new karmic traces, which lead to the endless process of getting experience by means of birth and death. In contrast to the constant change of lives Patanjali suggests eight limbs or stages of yoga leading to the liberation from reincarnation and the clouding of mind.

Yama – observance of the inner rules of morality, that consists of five components.

Ahimsa – non-violence

Satya – truthfulness

Asteya – non-stealing

Brahmacharya – continence

Aparigraha – non-covetousness

Niyama - observance of the outer social rules.

Sauca – purity of body

Sattva-shudhi – purity of character

Santosa – contentment

Tapas – self-discipline

Svadhyaya – self-stury

Isvara-pranidhana – contemplation of Isvara. Isvara (the highest being of Purushi that is not involved in contemplation) in the scriptures of Yoga. In those of Shivaism it is Shiva who is regarded as the highest creation. However, in Bhagavat-Gita – the scriptures of Vaishnavism – Krishna says to Arjuna: I am Isvara.

Asana – the postures practiced by yogi steadily and without strain.

Pranayama – breath control.

Pratyahara – control of the senses.

Dhyana – meditation (the inner work of the psyche that eventually leads to Samadhi).

Samadhi – the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether, he comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, to all living things.

Hatha Yoga Pradipika is another ancient text about yoga written by Swami Svatmarama, Nath (master of yoga) and sage, who brought together the ancient notions of Hatha Yoga. There are several variations of the text: a scripture of ten chapters and a scripture of four chapters. Currently, only the four-chapter text has been translated into Russian. The two variants differ from one another only in the order of shlokas – verses, sequence of relation.

The ten-chapter version is written in the following sequence:

In the first chapter it is said that an individual practices Hatha Yoga in order to get to Raja Yoga or Royal Yoga.

Atman comes from fire and the energy of ether, Mind comes from the energy of the wind while the body and sense organs from the earth, the “roughest” energy. Karma matures due to the sense organs functioning, what leads to the next body of earth. And the world is created out of deeds and karma.

The true yogi is the one who sees the reasons for karma. The first element is the ether and its quality – the sound. Under the influence of time and illusions (maya) as well as the “attentive look” of Purushi or Brahman there appears the wind with its typical quality – the sense of touch. In the place wh ere the wind and the ether unite there appears the fire and its quality – the vision. The water arises from the union of the ether, the wind and the fire, with its quality – the taste. And the earth appears from the previous four and has the quality of the sense of smell. Brahma rules over earth element, Vishny is in charge of water element, Rudra – fire element, Ishvara – wind element, Sada Shiva is responsible for Akashi element or ether.

This text dwells on the six components of yoga.

Asana (the position of the body)

Pranasanrodha (suppression of the vital air or Pranayama (control of the vital air).

Pratyahara (distraction of the sense organs from their objects).

Dharana (concentration).

Dhyana (contemplation with the mind).

Samadhi (self-discipline, awareness).

12 Asanas give rise to 12 Pranayamas, 12 Pranayamas give rise to Pratyahara. 12 Pratyaharas give rise to Dharana, 12 Dharanas – Dhyana, and 12 Dhyanas give rise to Samadhi.

The diet of a yogi should be moderate and sensible. The list of products that are proper for yoga:

Wheat, Rice, Barley, Shastika (variety of rice), milk, baked milk, cane sugar, butter, honey, dried ginger, leafy dried vegetables, moong dal and a small amount of water.

The following qualities lead a yogi to success: enthusiasm, determination, firmness in making decisions, understanding of the essence, renunciation of communication, knowledge of the scriptures, support of Guru and reliance on personal experience.

The following qualities impede a yogi on his way: overeating, overstrain, garrulity, lack of determination when observing the nyamas, excess of communication.

The second chapter describes the Asanas – “pleasant” and “comfortable” poses.

There are 11 asanas that make the body stronger: Svastikasana, Gomukhasana, Virasana, Kurmasana, Kukkutasana, YttaKurmasana, Dhanurasana, Matsyasana, Pashchimottanasana, Mauyrasana, Savasana.

There are 4 asanas for meditation: Siddhasana, Padmasana, Simhasana, Bhadrasana.

In the third chapter it is said that a yogi should practice the cleansing of Nadis (canals) in mudras and pranayama.

Asana, Kumbaka, Mudras, Mantrayana – this is the right sequence in one’s practice. If the three doshas are not in balance, the following six cleansing techniques – Shatkarmas (six actions) are recommended to be performed.

Dhauti – a strip of wet cloth is stoutly swallowed and, then taken out, as instructed by the guru.

Basti –is performed in utkanasana ankle-deep in water, ins ert a tube in the anus and contract the anus, thus raising apana.

Neti - a soft cotton thread is inserted through the nose to the length of one hand-span so that it comes out of the mouth.

Trataka – the practice of looking intently with an unwavering gaze at a small point until tears are shed.

Nauli – is performed by leaning forward, protruding the abdomen and (the muscles) from right to left with speed for a hundred times.

Kapalbhati – is performed by rapidly exhalation and inhalation like the bellows (of a blacksmith), exhalation is emphasized and inhalation is the result of forcing the air out.

When the Nadis are clean, a body can hold prana. A yogi who has mastered pranayama is able to completely clean his body, that is why he does not need any additional techniques.

Chapter four describes the breathing techniques – Pranayamas. Brahma achieved the position of Brahma by the constant practice of pranayama.

Pranayama is ternary: Rechaka – controlled exhalation,

Puraka – controlled inhalation,

Kumbhaka – controlled breath retention.

All these are Pranava (OM) which consists of 12 matras (a matra is the length of a syllable pronunciation)

There are eight Kumbhakas described:

Suryabheda – the breakthrough of the sun canal

Ujjayi – the one that brings victory

Sitkari – hissing or sensual exhalation

Sitali – the cooling one

Bhastrika – means bellows

Bhramara – the sound of a big bee

Murccha – fainting

Kevala – the special one

Plavini (is was mentioned in the version of 4 chapters)

Chapter five dwells on the mudras.

Chapter six gives a thorough description of Pratyahara.

Chapter seven has the name of Raja Yoga.

Chapter eight is called NadanaSadhana yoga and is dedicated to the practices with the sound.

Chapter nine – Kala Dhyana (the knowledge of time)

It gives a narration about the prediction of one’s own death, about how to work with karma.

Chapter ten – Vidya Mukti (liberation outside the body)

In addition, there exists a certain commentary on this scripture – Yoga Prakashika.

Gheranda Samhita is another authoritative text. It was written down in the 17th century, although it had existed in oral version for a long time.

Gheranda is a certain generalized character of a guru giving answers to questions. It is quite typical of the Vedic scriptures to write texts in the question-response format.

Unlike “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” it describes a way of seven stages.

Shatkarma – cleansing

Asana – strengthening

Mudra – balance

Pratyahara – reconciliation

Pranayama – relief

Dhyana – realization

Samadhi - renunciation

The cleansing techniques – the Shatkarmas are as follows: Dhauti, Basti, Neti, Lauliki, Trataka and Kapalbhati.

It is mentioned that on the whole there are as many asanas as there are types of living creatures – 8, 400, 000. And that it is only Shiva who knows their exact number. A myth says that all the leaving creatures appeared due to the asanas of Shiva – when he practices an asana, a living being of the corresponding species and name is born.

However, people can use only 32 of these asanas. They are: Siddhasana
Padmasana, Badhrasana, 
Muktasana, Virasana,  Svastikasana, Simhasana, Gomukhasana, Ardha-Virasana, Dhanurasana, Shavasana, Guptasana, Matsyasana, Matsyendrasana, Gorakshasana, Pashchimottanasana, Utkatasana, Sankatasana, Kukkutasana, Mayurasana, Kurmasana, Uttanakurmasana, Mandukasana, Uttanamandukasana, Vrikshasana, Garudasana, Vrishasana, Shalabhasana, Makarasana, Ushtrasana, Bhujangasana and Yogasana.

There are also mentioned 25 Mudras:

Maha mudra, Nabho mudra, Uddiyana bandha, Jalandhara bandha, Mula bandha, Maha veddha, Khecari, Viparitakarani, Yoni mudra, Vajroli mudra, Sakticalani mudra, Tadagi mudra, Manduki, Sambhivi, Pancadharana, Ashvini, Pashini, Kaki, Matangini, Bhujangini.

The food products for a yogi are: rice, barley or whet bread, beans, cucumbers, fruit of the breadfruit tree, manakacha (Arum Colocasia), kakkola (species of berries), zizifus, bananas and figs, green bananas, small bananas, the stems and roots of the banana tree, brinjal, the roots and fruit of the plant riddhi, young green vegetables, black vegetables, Patoli leaves, Vistaka leaves (species of spinach), Himalocika vegetables.

A yogi should avoid bitter, spicy, sour, salty and fried food as well as sour milk, diluted whey, thick vegetables, alcohol, nuts of the wine palm and overripe fruit of the breadfruit tree, the fruit of Kulattha and lentils, pumpkins and climber plants, wild cucumbers, the berries of Kapitha and Palasha, Kadamba, lemons, Bimba, Lukuca (a variety of the breadfruit tree), garlic, Pilala, Hinga, Salmali and Kemuka, butter, sour milk, sugar juice and the juice of sugarcane; ripe bananas, coconuts, pomegranates, grapes and everything that contains sour juice.

A yogi should not practice cold ablutions in the morning, he should not fast, make his body suffer as well as eat only one time a day or stay without food for more than 3 hours.

Before starting to practice Pranayama, one should clean and make pure all the Nadis. It can be done by means of two practices: Bija mantras or Dhauti.

There are five main pranas described:

Prana – in the area of the heart

Apana - in the area of the anus

Samana - in the area of the navel

Udana - in the area of the neck

Vyana – penetrates through the whole body

And another five pranas:

Naga-vauy – causes the awakening of the consciousness

Kurma-vauy – arises eyesight

Krikara – arises hunger and thirst

Devadatta - oscitation

Dhananjaya – generates speech

There are 8 types of breath retention: Sahita, Suryabheda, Ujjayi, Sitali, Bhastrika, Bhramari, Murcha, Kevali.

The last chapter dwells on the achievement of Samadhi. There are four main ways of getting to the state of Samadhi:

Dhiana-samadhi – by means of contemplation it is achieved with the help of Sambhavi-mudra

Nada-samadhi – the mind disappears in the internal sound Nada with the help of Khecari-mudra

Rasananda-samadhi – by enjoying nectar and is achieved by Bhramari-mudra

Laya-samadhi – the Samadhi of dissolution, with the help of Yoni-mudra

As well as the fifth way of Bhakti-yoga and the sixth one – Manomurcha kumbhaka.

The paths of Yoga

There are four traditional paths of yoga:

Raja-yoga – the royal yoga

Karma-yoga – the yoga of action

Jnana-yoga – the way of knowledge

Bhakti-yoga – surrendering oneself to God with unconditional love

Raja Yoga

This is the oldest path of yoga. Its main ideas come from “Yoga-sutra Patanjali”, though the name itself first appeared in “Hatha Yoga Pradipika” in about 14th century B.C.

Raja Yoga or the royal yoga – is the aim of Hatha Yoga and Kriya Yoga. It is called royal because it includes the practice of work with the mind. And in the ancient times the mind was always regarded as the king of the psychic and physical body of a human being. As they say: “with no king in the head”. Raja Yoga includes Kundalini-yoga as work with energies and Laya-yoga as work with consciousness.

A person begins the path of self-perfection from ethical, moral and spiritual development, he cultivates in himself the good qualities – Yama and Niyama, worships gods, performs rites and rituals, then he cleanses his body by practicing the Shatkarmas.

These are the first stages of Kriya-yoga or the cleansing yoga that cleans the mind, speech and body and prepares the person for Hatha Yoga.

Hatha Yoga is a path leading to Raja Yoga. The practice of asanas and pranayamas serves as the preparation of the body and consciousness for working with the mind, for the techniques of widening the consciousness and control over the psychic processes. Meditation (Dhyana), work with the chakras, the raising of Kundalini – all these are methods of Raja Yoga. It leads a person to achieving the highest aim – Moksha (liberation).

In his book “Fourteen lessons of Raja Yoga” 

Swami Shivananda writes: “Raja Yoga is the control of thoughts, or waves or modifications of consciousness. And it is “Royal” due to the fact that it directly deals with consciousness.”

Karma Yoga

Karma can be translated from Sanskrit as “an action”, and any action has its consequences.

Karma Yoga is the yoga of action.

It is based on the Vaishnava scripture Bhagavad Gita.

The idea of practice consists in disinterested activities without being attached to the result. To perform one’s duty and serve God with love and without hoping for a reward. To grow one does not necessarily have to deny the material nature, leave for the forest for renunciation and practice inaction. The eternal power goes through an individual and induces him to act. Seldom does a person make his choice on his own. By changing our attitude to action we change our karma. In the commentaries on “Karma Yoga” Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says:

“Karma Yoga is communication with God with the help of work, activities. The performance of the duties of a householder not for the sake of some results but for the sake of God’s glorification is what is implied in this path of yoga. Visual worship of God, prayers, repetition of God’s name and other rituals are also included here – as long as it all is done without any strive for getting some results for oneself, but for the sake of glorifying God. The objective of karma Yoga is also the realization of the impersonal Absolute or, on the contrary, of the personal God or both of them.”

Due to the predefined activities for a person, one can achieve liberation from the consequences of karma and become enlightened. 

Jnana Yoga

The yoga of knowledge is the principal idea of Advaita Vedanta, the oneness of atman with Brahma. The human being can think and then direct his thoughts at the right understanding of Brahman – the highest spiritual aspect. Due to the scientific approach to the intellect and the possibility to study the questions of consciousness humanity moves on to the highest level of super-intellect. However, under no circumstances should we praise the mind as it is just an instrument for the cognition of the Higher Self. Our consciousness is restricted by the sense organs and such words as infinity, The Absolute, immortality are not of the intellectual sphere but of the level of belief. When reflecting on such matters beyond time and space, a person comes across cognitive dissonance. And the objective of Jnana Yoga is to help realize the issues of eternity.

Bhakti Yoga

This is the practice of devotional service to God. In Shivaism the main Go is Shiva, in Shaktism it is Shakti while in Vaishnavism it is Vishnu. According to the tradition of Vaishnavism, these are mainly the avatars of Vishnu – Krishna, Rama and Narasimha Dev.

In such movements of Vaishnavism as Vallabha Sampradaya, Nimbarka Sampradaya and Gaudia Vaishnavism, Krishna is regarded as the supreme form of God and is called to be the source of all the other avatars. What is more, in such scriptures as Bhagavad Gita and Shrimad Bhagavatam Bhakti Yoga is proclaimed to be the highest spiritual practice and it has more significance than Jnana Yoga (yoga of knowledge) and Karma Yoga (yoga of actions).

In the tradition of Shivaism Bhakti or devotional service is addressed to the numerous incarnations of Shiva. Like in Shaktism, the worshipping and spiritual connection with the Mother Goddess is directed at her countless incarnations: Lakshmi, Durgi, Kali and others. In many ancient texts Bhakti Yoga is said to be the most effective and efficient way of getting spiritual growth, especially in the era of degradation – Kali Yuga.

Bhakti Yoga consists of 9 principles:

Sravanam – listening to the stories of God

Kirtanam – the singing and chanting of the name of God (maha mantras), description of the forms and qualities of God

Smaranam – remembrance of God at all times

Pada-sevanam – service to lotus feet of God in compliance with time, place and circumstances

Arcanam – worship of God in the temple

Vandanam – praying to God

Dasyam – considering oneself as God’s servant

Sakhyam – cultivation of friendship with God

Atma-nevidanam – complete self-offering to God

The practice itself consists in daily and constant remembrance of God as of a friend, husband, brother, beloved one or son, as well as regular repetition of the name of God, offering him gifts, flowers, fruit and milk.

“It is only by devoted service that one can perceive me, the Highest God, as what I really am. And when, due to devoted service, all the conscience of an individual is concentrated on Me, he enters the kingdom of God.” Bhagavad Gita, chapter 18, verse 55.

Laya Yoga

It is the practice of awareness. Laya can be translated as “rhythm” or “dissolution” – it is the practice of the state of meditation in everyday life by preserving inner silence and putting an end to inner dialogue. The yogi is immersed in the perception of the Atman – the Highest Self, the “observer”.

God Shiva told Matsiendra 250 thousand ways of getting to Laya – dissolution in Not dual nature. Laya Yoga is a part of Raja Yoga and in many texts it is said to be the culmination of Yoga practice that is sometimes possible after getting Samadhi.

Gheranda Samhita 7.22 (Shiva heralded many truths, such as the immortality of dissolution (Laya Amrita) and other. One (of these truths) leading to salvation I told you briefly).

There are three main principles of Laya Yoga:

Sravana – listening to the teacher.

Manana – contemplation, thinking about the practice and dispelling doubts.

Nididhyasana – constant practice of awareness by the methods of Laya.

The methods of this teaching include five Yantras (visual instruments that serve for concentration).

Prajna Yantra – the Yantra of wisdom

Sakti Yantra – the Yantra of energy

Nidra Yantra – the Yantra of dreams

Nada Yantra – the Yantra of sound

Jyoti Yantra - the Yantra of light

Modern schools of Yoga

Demand breeds supply and these days there appear more and more schools of Yoga. Many present-day successful teachers set up their own schools and try to be original and uncommon for their followers. In general, modern schools are those that were formed in the West, wh ere Yoga was regarded as something mysterious, exotic and mystical.

Iyengar Yoga

The school derives its name from the name of its founder – Bellur Krishnamacharya Sungararaj Iyengar. In 1952 Iyengar visited Europe and demonstrated various complexes of asanas thus raising the interest to Yoga in the western world. His book “Light on Yoga” was translated into 17 languages. He set up a number of yoga centers all over the world and several institutes of Yoga. Due to Iyengar Yoga became known on the whole planet.

The practice is performed in the classical static technique of Hatha Yoga, however, a lot of significance is given to the right position of the body. Beginners use various helpful accessories (props) such as blocks, straps, bolsters and other tools for the anatomically right position of the body while practicing an asana.

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga

The school was founded by Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois, head of Ashtanga Yoga Institute in India. For more than 30 years he was the disciple of Sri Tirumalai Krishnamacharya. Ahtanga Vinyasa is a dynamic practice, a variety of Hatha Yoga, which is performed dynamically, replacing the sequence of asanas by Vinyasas (systems of breath-synchronized movements). There is a determined number of vinyasas for all poses – from five to eight.

In spite of the fact that it became widespread not that long ago, the practice itself has been known for thousands of years. Patanjali mentioned Ashtanga (eight branches). This practice was started in the Himalayas and Tibet wh ere the cool climate allowed to actively perform dynamic asanas without straining the heart, as it could happen in the hot part of India.

“Surya Namaskar” – Sun Salutation is one of the most famous dynamic complexes. It consists of 12 asanas as well as pranayama, breath retention and bandhas. In addition, it can be synchronized with mantrayana and yantrayana. Depending on the level of difficulty there are about seven levels of Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga practice.

Kundalini Yoga or Yoga Bhajana

This is a modern school of Yoga that appeared in 1968 in the USA. It was Yogi Bhajan who founded the “Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization” wh ere he taught Kundalini Yoga. Before him this technique was given by the teacher only to a worthy disciple, but from then on every willing person had the possibility to master it. In those years drug addiction was booming in America and Kundalini Yoga served as salvation of the problem of returning to healthy lifestyle. The technique of raising energy “kundalini” (snakes) gained its name from the resemblance of energy near Muladhara chakra (root chakra located at the base of the spine) with a snake, sleeping in the pose of rings. It is extremely efficient and within a short period of time even a beginner can feel the effect of work with energies, which allows him to substitute his passions for new healthy interests and activities. Bhajin said that the practice of Kundalini Yoga is for laymen, for those who have to go to work and cannot afford to follow the way of a recluse. Due to the large number of breathing and energy techniques the energy awakens and starts rising up. In the end, the energy should get to the highest chakras and join the Devine or Cosmic Energy, giving enlightenment to the yogi.

Bihar School of Yoga

This school was founded by Swami Satyananda Saraswati, the renowned yogi, philosopher, scientist, traveller and disciple of another famous Guru - Swami Sivananda. Swami Satyananda Saraswati is the author of more than 80 books. In 1963 he founded the International Yoga Fellowship Movement and in the Indian state of Bihar, in the town of Munger began to teach his followers the ancient teachings of Bihar school of Yoga. Up to these days there are still the Ahram and the modern research center that were founded by Saraswati.

The practice concludes not intensive performance of simple asanas. Special emphasis is laid on pranayama and the cleansing techniques as well the rise of Kundalini. What is more, it includes a unique approach to the practice of Yoga Nidra.

Yoga Nidra

It was founded by Swami Satyananda Saraswati at the beginning of the 20th century. The Yoga of sleep meditation. The practice supposes such techniques as conscious deep sleep, development of Illusory Body (Maya deha), control and transformation of dreams. This is a special kind of meditation that allows body to completely relax with consciousness being no longer directed at the outer world.

Sivananda Yoga

It is another school of Hatha Yoga developed and se t up by Swami Sivananda who tried to collect in his school the maximum number of spiritual practices helping on the way to self-perfection including God worshipping, studying of scriptures, body training and labour of love.

Sivananda Yoga suggests five principles of practice:

Proper exercise (asanas)
Proper breathing (pranayama)
Proper relaxation (Savasana)
Proper diet (vegetarianism)
Proper thinking (reading of holy scriptures and meditation)

The practice of asanas always starts with Surya Namaskar (Sun Salutation).

Then it is followed by 12 asanas: Sirshasana, Sarvangasana, Halasana, Matsyasana, Paschimothanasana, Bhujangasana, Shalabhasana, Dhanurasana, Ardha Matsyendrasana, Bakasana, Pada Hasthasana, Trikonasana. As well as pranayama, meditation and chanting of mantras.

In spite of the existing huge variety of practices, Yoga is still mysterious and attractive. Every day thousands of people start practicing Yoga, making better their own and other people’s lives. Yoga makes the world more harmonious and healthy. Not only does it give us physical health, but also the mental one. The person who does not eat meat or other harmful substances, who takes care of his body, mind and speech becomes truly happy. The path of Yoga is the path of a spiritual person of high moral standards and deep beliefs.

1.62. Having renounced all false desires and abandoned all false worldly chains, the Yogi sees certainly in his own spirit the Universal Spirit by itself.

1.63. Having seen the Spirit, that brings forth happiness, in his own spirit by itself by the help of the self, he forgets this universe, and enjoys the ineffable bliss of Samadhi. (Shiva Samhita)