Yoga is a family of ancient spiritual practices, which was originated in India, where it remains a lively living tradition and it has seen as a way to enlightenment.Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana
Yoga, and Raja Yoga are known as the four main yogas, but there
are many other types. In other parts of the world where yoga is
well-liked, notably the United States, yoga has turned into associated
with the asanas (postures) of Hatha Yoga, which are extremely popular as fitness exercises.
Yoga as a means to enlightenment is central
to Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. It has also influenced
other religious and spiritual practices throughout the world.
Hindu texts establishing the basis for yoga carries the Yoga Sutras
of Patanjali, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.
Yoga Practice And Intention
Modern yoga practice normally includes traditional elements inherited
from Hinduism, such as moral and ethical principles, postures intended
to keep the body fit, holy philosophy, instruction by a guru, singing
of mantras (sacred syllables), quietening the breath, and stilling
the mind by way of meditation. These elements are at times adapted
to meet the requirements of non-Hindu practitioners.
of yoga see daily practice as beneficial in itself, it leads to
improved health, emotional well-being, mental clarity, and joy in
living. (Some cynics question these claims.) Yoga adept’s
growth toward the experience of Samadhi, an advanced state of meditation
where there is inclusion in the inner ecstasy.
The goals of yoga are usually expressed differently in different traditions.
In theistic Hinduism, yoga might be seen as a set of practices planned
to bring people closer to God - to help them reach union with God.
In Buddhism, which does not assume a creator-type God, yoga might
help people deepen their wisdom, sympathy, and insight.
nations, where there is a strong stress on any individualism, yoga
practice might be an extension of the search for sense in itself,
and addition of the different aspects of being. The terms Self-Realization
and God-Realization are used interchangeably in any Hindu yoga practice,
with the underlying belief that the true nature of self, exposed
through the practice of yoga, is of the same nature as God.
The ultimate goal of yoga is to reach the liberation (Moksha) from worldly
suffering and the cycle of birth and death (Samsara). Yoga involves
mastery over the body, mind, and emotional self, and transcendence
of desire. It is said to guide slowly to knowledge of the true nature
of reality. The Yogi reaches a progressive state where there is
an end of thought and an experience of heavenly union. This union
might be of the individual soul (Atman) with the supreme Reality
(Brahman), as in Vedanta philosophy; or with a particular god or
goddess, as in theistic types of Hinduism and some forms of Buddhism.
Enlightenment might also be described as death of the limited ego,
and direct and permanent insight of the non-dual nature of the universe.
For the average person still far from enlightenment, yoga could be the
best way of increasing one's love for God, or cultivating compassion
and insight. While the history of yoga strongly relates it with
Hinduism, proponents claim that yoga is not a religion itself, but
also contains practical steps which can benefit people of all religions,
plus those who do not consider themselves religious.
Yoga And Tantra
Yoga is often stated in company with Tantra. While the two have deep
resemblance, most traditions distinguish them from one another.
They are actually similar in that both amount to families of spiritual
texts, practices, and lineages with its origins in the Indian subcontinent.
(Coincidentally, both have been famous to some extent in the West,
with perhaps a shallower understanding of their nature). It needs
to be noted however that for the most part, we are speaking of unlike
families of texts, lineages, etc.
Their differences are variously expressed. Some Hindu pundit see yoga
as a regular process whereby body consciousness is seen as the root
cause of bondage, while tantra views the body as a means to considerate,
rather than as an obstruction. It should be said that in India,
tantra is often carries quite negative connotations involving sexual
misbehavior and black magic. Nevertheless, most forms of tantra
follow more normal social mores. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika is usually
classified as a Hindu tantric scripture.
Tantra has its roots in the first millennium CE, and also incorporates
much more of a theistic basis. Almost completely founded on Shiva
and Shakti worship, Hindu tantra thinks the ultimate Brahman as
Param Shiva, obvious through Shiva (the passive, masculine force
of Lord Shiva) and Shakti (the active, original feminine force of
his companion, variously known as Ma Kali, Durga, Shakti, Parvati
and others). It in fact focuses on the kundalini, a three and a
half-coiled 'snake' of spiritual energy at the end base of the spine
that rises through the chakras until union amid Shiva and Shakti
(also known as Samadhi) is achieved. (However some of the Hindu
yoga teachers have adopted these concepts).
Tantra emphasizes mantra (Sanskrit prayers, frequently to gods, which
are repeated), yantra (complex symbols stating gods in various forms
through intricate geometric figures), and rituals, which range from
simple murti (statue representations of deities) or image devotion
to meditation on a corpse! While tantric texts (see kaularvatantra,
mahanirvana tantra) and teachers (e.g. Abhinava Gupta) might seem
odd and highly arcane from the point of view of traditional yoga,
which these integrate with yoga concepts seems clear..
In Tibetan Buddhism that embraces both, yoga is seen as a meaning for
“spiritual practice”, while “tantra” refers
to a particular category of texts and practices, etc that is about
analogous to the Hindu ones described above. (The fact that Hindu
"yoga" has these things also might have escaped the attention
of classical Tibetan commentators.) In that spirit other Buddhist
traditions, such as Theravada, practice a form of "yoga"
but reject "tantra".
Yoga As Exercise
While Yoga develops as a spiritual practice, in the West it has grown
in style as a form of purely physical exercise. Some Western practice
has little or nothing to do with Hinduism or any spirituality, but
is just a way of keeping healthy and fit. This differs from the
usual Eastern view of yoga. While it is not always probable (or
even desirable) to totally separate "exercise yoga" from
"spiritual yoga," this article seeks to focus on the former.
Yoga as exercise has evolved into many subdivisions and variations. There
is some debate whether the phrase Hatha Yoga properly describes
yoga as exercise, since the customary Hatha Yoga system is a spiritual
path in its own right.