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Yoga, A Traditional Introduction

History / Background

As per living traditions of India, any knowledge system cannot be traced to a particular time in the past using the regular method adopted by us today i.e. dating the books on that subject. It is widely known and accepted that, at least in India, knowledge was passed on through the unbroken oral traditions for ages. Still if we wish to trace the antiquity of Yoga system, then one of the earliest texts is Yoga Yajnavalkya, a dialogue between Yajnavalkya and Gargi.

Another difference in the philosophical systems of India is that they do not stop giving us principles but also outline the processes that need to be practiced to realize those principles. Thus, the term darshana (to see) is used instead of the term philosophy.

Yoga, like any other system of study in the Indian tradition, has reference texts for processes and principles. The most referred Yoga processes texts are Gheranda Samhita, Siva Samhita, Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Hatha Ratnavali etc., and the guiding principles are outlined in Patanjali Yoga Sutras and the crown jewel, Bhagavad Gita.

In none of these texts, Yoga means ONLY postures! Today, mostly, Yoga is being construed as a set of physical movements and at best practiced as a form of exercise. If some physical benefits are obtained by the practice of Yoga, it is incidental. Practice of Yoga, gradually in the long run, brings about a sense of heightened awareness.

Principles and Philosophy

Any process done with complete awareness (of mind and body) comes under the umbrella of Yoga. It is awareness that facilitates understanding and defines the very purpose of any process. Without awareness, any process tends to become mechanical and feeds our emotions, thereby resulting in inferiority or superiority complexes. Thus the terms Yoga and awareness are inseparable.

Yoga Styles: Yoga styles prevalent in the market today focus mostly on the postural aspect of Yoga. As per the Indian traditional wisdom, any system that doesn’t provide an integral perspective of life has to be approached with concern. If any Yoga style ignores this fundamental principle and focuses on one aspect i.e. only postures or only meditation, then the aspirant or practitioner needs to check with themselves whether it is truly what they are looking out for.

Yoga Processes: In the tradition, processes were customized to the age, need, stage of life, lifestyle and the environment that one lives in. For example… most of us are aware that Pranayama is one of the great Yoga processes. Though we may know this fact and also learn to perform it, we cannot practice all the Pranayama processes amidst urban pollution. If done so, it turns counter-productive. Thus it is a non-negotiable need to customize it to the location that we live in.

Defining Yoga: Swami Vivekananda, in his lucid translation of Patanjali Yoga Sutras (aphorism 28), states, “By the practice of the different parts of Yoga the impurities being destroyed, Knowledge becomes effulgent up to discrimination”.

The common meaning of Yoga is impregnate in its root, ‘yuj’ i.e. to unite. Again, the meaning differs based on the context in which it is used. Thus, Yoga also means emotional balance, dexterity in action, alignment of thought, word and action, equanimity of mind etc. 

Key Constituents: The different parts (i.e. the 8 limbs) of Yoga are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. It is at the highest levels of Samadhi, one realizes the ‘real Yoga’. To organically hasten the process of ‘real Yoga’, apart from these different limbs of Yoga, our living traditions have given us practical processes derived from Tantra such as Mudra, Bandha, Kriya, Mantra etc., This is complementary to the knowledge and practice that can be gained from the study of the texts mentioned at the start of this article.

Our Philosophy

At Shrimath Yoga, we strive to provide an integral view of Yoga that enables proper assimilation of Yoga processes, thereby assisting each and every participant to benefit spiritually, therapeutically, intellectually and emotionally. As we get older, the mind and body need a therapeutic touch in any activity. We take you through a structured, customized and easy to understand method that is all encompassing and allows you to experience peace and happiness, here and now.

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