Yoga Philosophy 101

  • By Shalini Asha Bhaloo
  • May 17 2019
  • @Shalini_A_B
  • Author explains the concept of Yog beautifully starting from the Yajurveda, origins of Yog, Eight limbs of Yog, types of Samadhi and Kaivalya. It has Sanskrit with corresponding English words.

Classical Hatha Yoga originated in ancient India and is simple and effective. Regular yoga practice can radically alter and improve our experience and quality of life. Yoga is a way of life for me.


In modern times, Yoga has come to mean only physical exercise or posture, however that is only one aspect of this ancient science, the others are neglected. They belong to three levels i.e. -


On the physical level, disease is non-existent or dealt with energetic methods.


On the mental level the nature of the soul is explored. Our thoughts about the universe, and our relation become more heart-centered.


On the emotional level, high ideals with deliberate and creative thinking results in better feelings and inspired right action for a particular moment in time – “divine timing”. Regular meditation produces this state.


We can expand our awareness of reality, expanding our connection with other human beings and living systems, and deepening our sense of free will, liberty and being the master of our own destinies through deliberate decisions and actions. It is not just a “sense of self” but also a heightened sense of how our actions impact the world around us.


Regardless of our particular spiritual practices, deepening our commitment to spiritual awakening will automatically raise our level of consciousness.


Let’s start with following intentions from the Yajur Veda:


Aum (this is the primordial sound)

Asato mā sad gamaya (from non-truth lead me to truth)

Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya (from darkness lead me to light)

Mṛtyormā amṛtam gamaya (from death lead me to immortality)

Aum śānti śānti śāntih (peace)


The word “Yoga” came from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means “to unite or integrate.” Yoga then is about the union of our own consciousness and the universal consciousness, and harmony of body, mind and soul.


How old is Yoga? There is much evidence on the age of Yoga. Over ten thousand years ago in the era of Lord Rama, the Indian Sage Valmiki wrote the renowned epic the Ramayana, in which is described the glory of Yoga.


The origin of Yoga is explained in the ancient Indian Vedas, the oldest written scriptures known to man. In these, it is said, Ananta Brahmand Sahastra Suryas-this universe is endless-and the Vedas declare that within it are thousands of solar systems. People humans exist in just one of these.


The word Ananta means endless and the Vedas call this endless universe Mahakasha-the great void of nothingness. Within Mahakasha is consciousness-Chaitanya-Cosmic Consciousness. This Cosmic Consciousness, Hiranayagarbha can be likened to the “golden-womb of mother consciousness, and it is this Yoga-the uniting or mother principle-that nourishes and sustains all of life.


In the beginning nothing was existent in Mahakasha, only the dormant potential for life-the principles of Universal Consciousness and Universal Energy. These two principles are always co-existent, there is never one without the other, but in order to manifest or create a third is required and that creative willpower is known as Iccha Shakti.


Iccha Shakti is the divine will and all that happens in this universe is attributable to it. The cosmic Self began to act and express itself-Svayambhu. Svayambhu is He who creates Himself, “I am one and now I will multiply” and at the moment of this awakening the original sound of the universe began to resonate, and that is Om.


The Vedas declare, Nada Rupa Parabrahma-the form of the Supreme is sound. Other religions also recognize this and in the Bible it is said, “In the beginning was the word, and that word was God”.


Patañjali divided his Yoga Sutras into four parts (Sanskrit pada) named Samadhi Pada, Sadhana PadaVibhuti Pada and Kaivalya Pada.


Samadhi refers to a blissful state where the yogi is absorbed into the One. The author describes yoga and then the nature and the means to attaining samādhi. This chapter contains the famous definitional verse: “Yogaś citta-vritti-nirodhaḥ” (“Yoga is the restraint of mental modifications”).


Sadhana is the Sanskrit word for “practice” or “discipline”. Here the author outlines two forms of Yoga: Kriya Yoga (Action Yoga) and Ashtanga Yoga (Eightfold or Eight-limbed Yoga).


Kriya yoga, sometimes called Karma Yoga, is also expounded in Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita, where Arjuna is encouraged by Krishna to act without attachment to the results or fruit of action and activity. It is the yoga of selfless action and service. Ashtanga Yoga describes the eight limbs that together constitute Raja Yoga.


Vibhuti is the Sanskrit word for “power” or “manifestation”. 'Supra-normal powers' (Sanskrit: siddhi) are acquired by the practice of yoga. The temptation of these powers should be avoided and the attention should be fixed only on liberation.


Kaivalya which is the ultimate goal of yoga, means solitariness or detachment, but as used in the Sutras stands for emancipation, liberation and used interchangeably with moksha (liberation), which is the goal of Yoga. The Kaivalya Pada describes the process of liberation and the reality of the transcendental ego.


The eight limbs of Yoga, Ashtanga yoga consists of the following limbs: The first five are called external aids to Yoga (bahiranga sadhana)


Yama refers to the five abstentions. These are the same as the five vows of Jaina Darsana.


Ahimsa: non-violence, inflicting no injury or harm to others or even to one's own self, it goes as far as nonviolence in thought, word and deed.

Satya: truth in word and thought.

Asteya: non-covetousness, to the extent that one should not even desire something that is his own.

Brahmacharya: abstinence, particularly in the case of sexual activity. It does not necessary imply celibacy. Rather, responsible behavior with respect to our goal of moving toward the truth. It suggests that People should form relationships that foster our understanding of the highest truths.


“Practicing brahmacharya means that People use our sexual energy to regenerate our connection to our spiritual self. It also means that People don’t use this energy in any way that might harm others


Aparigraha means non-possessiveness.


Niyama refers to the five observances namely -


Shaucha refers to cleanliness of body and mind.

Santosha is satisfaction and being satisfied with what one has.

Tapas refers to austerity and associated observances for body discipline and thereby mental control.

Svadhyaya is the study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within,

Ishvarapranidhana is the surrender to (or worship of) God.


Asana is the discipline of the body: rules and postures to keep it disease-free and for preserving vital energy. Correct postures are a physical aid to meditation, for they control the limbs and nervous system and prevent them from producing disturbances.


Pranayam is control of the breath. Beneficial to health, steadies the body and is highly conducive to the concentration of the mind.


Pratyahara: is the withdrawal of senses from their external objects.


The last three levels are called internal aids to Yoga (antaranga sadhana).


Dharana: concentration of the Chitta upon a physical object, such as a flame of a lamp, the mid point of the eyebrows, or the image of a deity.


Dhyana: steadfast meditation. Undisturbed flow of thought around the object of meditation (pratyayaikatanata). The act of meditation and the object of meditation remain distinct and separate.


Samadhi: Oneness with the object of meditation. There is no distinction between act of meditation and the object of meditation. Samadhi is of two kinds:


Samprajnata Samadhi is conscious samadhi. The mind remains concentrated on the object of meditation, therefore the consciousness of the object of meditation persists. Mental modifications arise only in respect of this object of meditation.


This state is of four kinds:


Savitarka: the Chitta is concentrated upon a gross object of meditation such as a flame of a lamp, the tip of the nose, or the image of a deity.


Savichara: the Chitta is concentrated upon a subtle object of meditation, such as the tanmatras.


Sananda: the Chitta is concentrated upon a still subtler object of meditation, like the senses.


Sasmita: the Chitta is concentrated upon the ego-substance with which the self is generally identified.


Asamprajnata Samadhi supraconscious. The Chitta and the object of meditation are fused together. The consciousness of the object of meditation is transcended. All mental modifications are checked (niruddha), although latent impressions may continue.


Combined simultaneous practice of Dhāraṇā, Dhyāna and Samādhi is referred to as Samyama and is considered a tool of achieving various perfections, or Siddhis. But as stated above, siddhis are but distractions from Kaivalaya and are to be discouraged. Siddhis are but Maya. The purpose of using samadhi is not to gain siddhis but to achieve Kaivalya.


The cumulative and collective mastery of the eight limbs aids one in performing Samadhi efficiently. Mastery of the eight limbs is only the prerequisite to begin the descent through consciousness to its center (bhindu or laya center).


The descent through consciousness involves mastery of samskaras and overcoming the kleshas, and constitutes an effort of will perhaps greater than mastery of the eight limbs. It is through the descent of consciousness to its center, and passage through this center by dharma mega samadhi that the Atman is realized and Kaivalya is achieved.


Kaivalya is related to “isolation” not because a relative being becomes isolated from all other relative beings, but because consciousness becomes its essential nature: the wholeness and fullness of the Absolute, of which there is only one. There is no other next to the Absolute; hence it is isolated. This state is the fullness, completeness, and total freedom of being (svatantra). In this state Atman is Brahman. Thus, the eight “limbs” are the means to samadhi, and samadhi is the means to the end which is Kaivalya.


Enlightenment is not like a college degree – once you experience Samadhi you are done - no. It must be maintained moment-by-moment. The yogi is always aware of his/her vibration at all times. One must do regular sadhana, particularly meditation and pranayama daily to reap the benefits of yoga.


Benefits of yoga include physical, mental emotional and spiritual health. As we alter our thoughts towards things and other people, things and others transform towards us. Our cells are overhearing our attitudes. At the command of happy and beautiful thoughts, we emanate youthfulness and beauty. Enjoy your life, brothers and sisters and be yogis! Namaste.


Author was born in India and lives in Ontario, Canada. She is an Artist, Writer, Classical Hatha Yoga Teacher, Classical Indian Musician & Dancer, Sanskrit Scholar, Reiki Master, Nature Lover, and retired Engineer.


Also read

1 Commentary on Chapter 3 of the Bhagavad Gita

2 eSamskriti logo has a bindu. To know what it means     

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