Yoga

Alban Mind-Body Medicine

A male yogiTwo female yoginis

Yoga is a physical, mental, and spiritual practice or discipline which originated in India. There is a broad variety of schools, practices, and goals[2] in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[3][4][5][4] Among the most well-known types of yoga are Hatha yoga and Rāja yoga.[6]
The origins of yoga have been speculated to date back to pre-Vedic Indian traditions, is mentioned in the Rigveda,[note 1] but most likely developed around the sixth and fifth centuries BCE, in ancient India’s ascetic and śramaṇa movements.[8][note 2] The chronology of earliest texts describing yoga-practices is unclear, varyingly credited to Hindu Upanishads[9] and Buddhist Pāli Canon,[10] probably of third century BCE or later. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali date from the first half of the 1st millennium CE,[11][12] but only gained prominence in the West in the 20th century.[13] Hatha yoga texts emerged around the 11th century with origins in tantra.[14][15]

Yoga gurus from India later introduced yoga to the west,[16] following the success of Swami Vivekananda in the late 19th and early 20th century.[16] In the 1980s, yoga became popular as a system of physical exercise across the Western world.[15] Yoga in Indian traditions, however, is more than physical exercise, it has a meditative and spiritual core.[17] One of the six major orthodox schools of Hinduism is also called Yoga, which has its own epistemology and metaphysics, and is closely related to Hindu Samkhya philosophy.[18]

Many studies have tried to determine the effectiveness of yoga as a complementary intervention for cancer, schizophrenia, asthma, and heart disease.[19][20] The results of these studies have been mixed and inconclusive, with cancer studies suggesting none to unclear effectiveness, and others suggesting yoga may reduce risk factors and aid in a patient’s psychological healing process.[19][20]

Etymology

 

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In Vedic Sanskrit, yoga (from the root yuj) means “to add”, “to join”, “to unite”, or “to attach” in its most common literal sense. By figurative extension from the yoking or harnessing of oxen or horses, the word took on broader meanings such as “employment, use, application, performance” (compare the figurative uses of “to harness” as in “to put something to some use”). All further developments of the sense of this word are post-Vedic. More prosaic moods such as “exertion”, “endeavour”, “zeal”, and “diligence” are also found in Indian epic poetry.[21]

There are very many compound words containing yoga in Sanskrit. Yoga can take on meanings such as “connection”, “contact”, “union”, “method”, “application”, “addition” and “performance”. In simpler words, Yoga also means “combined”. For example, guṇáyoga means “contact with a cord”; chakráyoga has a medical sense of “applying a splint or similar instrument by means of pulleys (in case of dislocation of the thigh)”; chandráyoga has the astronomical sense of “conjunction of the moon with a constellation”; puṃyoga is a grammatical term expressing “connection or relation with a man”, etc. Thus, bhaktiyoga means “devoted attachment” in themonotheistic Bhakti movement. The term kriyāyoga has a grammatical sense, meaning “connection with a verb”. But the same compound is also given a technical meaning in the Yoga Sutras (2.1), designating the “practical” aspects of the philosophy, i.e. the “union with the supreme” due to performance of duties in everyday life[22]

According to Pāṇini, a 6th-century BCE Sanskrit grammarian, the term yoga can be derived from either of two roots, yujir yoga (to yoke) or yuj samādhau (to concentrate).[23] In the context of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the root yuj samādhau (to concentrate) is considered by traditional commentators as the correct etymology.[24] In accordance with Pāṇini, Vyasa who wrote the first commentary on the Yoga Sutras,[25] states that yoga means samādhi (concentration).[26]

According to Dasgupta, the term yoga can be derived from either of two roots, yujir yoga (to yoke) or yuj samādhau (to concentrate).[23] Someone who practices yoga or follows the yoga philosophy with a high level of commitment is called a yogi (may be applied to a man or a woman) or yogini (traditionally denoting a woman).[27]

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Goal of Yoga

The ultimate goal of Yoga is moksha (liberation), although the exact definition of what form this takes depends on the philosophical or theological system with which it is conjugated.

According to Jacobsen, “Yoga has five principal meanings:[28]

  1. Yoga, as a disciplined method for attaining a goal;
  2. Yoga, as techniques of controlling the body and the mind;
  3. Yoga, as a name of one of the schools or systems of philosophy (darśana);
  4. Yoga, in connection with other words, such as “hatha-, mantra-, and laya-,” referring to traditions specialising in particular techniques of yoga;
  5. Yoga, as the goal of Yoga practice.”[28]

According to David Gordon White, from the 5th century CE onward, the core principles of “yoga” were more or less in place, and variations of these principles developed in various forms over time:[29]

  1. Yoga, as an analysis of perception and cognition; illustration of this principle is found in Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita and Yogasutras, as well as a number of Buddhist Mahāyāna works;[30]
  2. Yoga, as the rising and expansion of consciousness; these are discussed in sources such as Hinduism Epic Mahābhārata, Jainism Praśamaratiprakarana;[31]
  3. Yoga, as a path to omniscience; examples are found in Hinduism Nyaya and Vaisesika school texts as well as Buddhism Mādhyamaka texts, but in different ways;[32]
  4. Yoga, as a technique for entering into other bodies, generating multiple bodies, and the attainment of other supernatural accomplishments; these are described in Tantric literature of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the Buddhist Sāmaññaphalasutta;[33]

White clarifies that the last principle relates to legendary goals of “yogi practice”, different from practical goals of “yoga practice,” as they are viewed in South Asian thought and practice since the beginning of the Common Era, in the various Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain philosophical schools.[34]

Schools of Yoga

yoga-1234525_640The term “yoga” has been applied to a variety of practices and methods, including Jain and Buddhist practices. In Hinduism these include Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, Laya Yoga and Hatha Yoga.

The so-called Raja Yoga refers to Ashtanga Yoga, the eight limbs to be practiced to attain samadhi, as described in the Yoga Sutras of Pantajali.[35] The term raja yoga originally referred to the ultimate goal of yoga, which is usually samadhi,[36] but was popularised by Vivekananda as the common name for Ashtanga Yoga.[37]


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