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Part of a series on
Hindu philosophy


Samkhya · Yoga · Nyaya · Vaisheshika ·Purva Mimamsa · Vedanta (Advaita ·Vishishtadvaita · Dvaita ·Achintya Bheda Abheda)



Gautama · Jaimini · Kanada · Kapila ·Markandeya · Patañjali · Valmiki · Vyasa

Adi Shankara · Dnyaneshwar ·Chaitanya · Kabir · Madhusudana ·Madhva · Namdeva · Nimbarka ·Ramanuja · Vedanta Desika · Tukaram ·Tulsidas · Vallabha

Aurobindo · Coomaraswamy · Gandhi ·Narayana Guru · Prabhupada ·Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ·Radhakrishnan · Ramana Maharshi ·Dayananda Saraswati · Sivananda ·Vivekananda · Yogananda

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Yoga (SanskritPāliयोग yóga) refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines originating in India.[1] The word is associated with meditative practices inBuddhism and Hinduism.[2][3] In Hinduism, it also refers to one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy, and to the goal toward which that school directs its practices.[4][5] In Jainism it refers to the sum total of all activities—mental, verbal and physical.

Major branches of yoga in Hindu philosophy include Raja YogaKarma YogaJnana YogaBhakti Yoga, and Hatha Yoga.[6][7][8] Raja Yoga, compiled in theYoga Sutras of Patanjali, and known simply as yoga in the context of Hindu philosophy, is part of the Samkhya tradition.[9] Many other Hindu texts discuss aspects of yoga, including Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, the Shiva Samhita and various Tantras.

The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings,[10] and is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning “to control”, “to yoke” or “to unite”.[11] Translations include “joining”, “uniting”, “union”, “conjunction”, and “means”.[12][13][14] Outside India, the term yoga is typically associated with Hatha Yoga and itsasanas (postures) or as a form of exercise. Someone who practices yoga or follows the yoga philosophy is called a Yogi.[15]



[edit]History of yoga

Main article: History of yoga

The Vedic Samhitas contain references to ascetics, while ascetic practices (tapas) are referenced in the Brāhmaṇas (900 to 500 BCE), early commentaries on the Vedas.[16] Several seals discovered at Indus Valley Civilization (c. 3300–1700 B.C.E.) sites depict figures in positions resembling a common yoga or meditation pose, showing “a form of ritual discipline, suggesting a precursor of yoga”, according to archaeologistGregory Possehl.[17] Some type of connection between the Indus Valley seals and later yoga and meditation practices is speculated upon by many scholars, though there is no conclusive evidence.[18]

Techniques for experiencing higher states of consciousness in meditation were developed by the shramanic traditions and in the Upanishadictradition.[19] According to Gavin Flood, a sentence in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of the earliest Upanishads (800-500 BCE), is an early textual reference to meditation.[20] Other scholars translate the sentence differently.[21][22] The Buddhist texts are probably the earliest texts describing meditation techniques.[23] They describe meditative practices and states which had existed before the Buddha as well as those which were first developed within Buddhism.[24] In Hindu literature, the term “yoga” first occurs in the Katha Upanishad, where it refers to control of the senses and the cessation of mental activity leading to a supreme state.[25] Important textual sources for the evolving concept of Yoga are the middleUpanishads, (ca. 400 BCE), the Mahabharata including the Bhagavad Gita (ca. 200 BCE), and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (150 BCE).

[edit]Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Main articles: Raja Yoga and Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

In Indian philosophy, Yoga is the name of one of the six orthodox philosophical schools.[26][27] The Yoga philosophical system is closely allied with the Samkhya school.[28] The Yoga school as expounded by the sage Patanjali accepts the Samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but is more theistic than the Samkhya, as evidenced by the addition of a divine entity to the Samkhya’s twenty-five elements of reality.[29][30] The parallels between Yoga and Samkhya were so close that Max Müller says that “the two philosophies were in popular parlance distinguished from each other as Samkhya with and Samkhya without a Lord….”[31] The intimate relationship between Samkhya and Yoga is explained by Heinrich Zimmer:

These two are regarded in India as twins, the two aspects of a single discipline. Sāṅkhya provides a basic theoretical exposition of human nature, enumerating and defining its elements, analyzing their manner of co-operation in a state of bondage (bandha), and describing their state of disentanglement or separation in release (mokṣa), while Yoga treats specifically of the dynamics of the process for the disentanglement, and outlines practical techniques for the gaining of release, or ‘isolation-integration’ (kaivalya).[32]

Patanjali is widely regarded as the founder of the formal Yoga philosophy.[33] Patanjali’s yoga is known as Raja yoga, which is a system for control of the mind.[34] Patanjali defines the word “yoga” in his second sutra,[35] which is the definitional sutra for his entire work:

योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध:
( yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ )

– Yoga Sutras 1.2

This terse definition hinges on the meaning of three Sanskrit terms. I. K. Taimni translates it as “Yoga is the inhibition (nirodhaḥ) of the modifications (vṛtti) of the mind (citta)”.[36] The use of the word nirodhaḥ in the opening definition of yoga is an example of the important role that Buddhist technical terminology and concepts play in the Yoga Sutra; this role suggests that Patanjali was aware of Buddhist ideas and wove them into his system.[37] Swami Vivekananda translates the sutra as “Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).”[38]

  1. Yama (The five “abstentions”): non-violence, non-lying, non-covetousness, non-sensuality, and non-possessiveness.
  2. Niyama (The five “observances”): purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender to god.
  3. Asana: Literally means “seat”, and in Patanjali’s Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.
  4. Pranayama (“Suspending Breath”): Prāna, breath, “āyāma”, to restrain or stop. Also interpreted as control of the life force.
  5. Pratyahara (“Abstraction”): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.
  6. Dharana (“Concentration”): Fixing the attention on a single object.
  7. Dhyana (“Meditation”): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.
  8. Samādhi (“Liberation”): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.

In the view of this school, the highest attainment does not reveal the experienced diversity of the world to be illusion. The everyday world is real. Furthermore, the highest attainment is the event of one of many individual selves discovering itself; there is no single universal self shared by all persons.[39]

[edit]Bhagavad Gita

Main article: Bhagavad Gita

The Bhagavad Gita (‘Song of the Lord’), uses the term yoga extensively in a variety of ways. In addition to an entire chapter (ch. 6) dedicated to traditional yoga practice, including meditation,[40] it introduces three prominent types of yoga:[41]

Madhusudana Sarasvati (b. circa 1490) divided the Gita into three sections, with the first six chapters dealing with Karma yoga, the middle six with Bhakti yoga, and the last six with Jnana (knowledge).[42] Other commentators ascribe a different ‘yoga’ to each chapter, delineating eighteen different yogas.[43]

[edit]Hatha Yoga

Main articles: Hatha yoga and Hatha Yoga Pradipika

Hatha Yoga is a particular system of Yoga described by Yogi Swatmarama, compiler of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika in 15th century India. Hatha Yoga differs substantially from the Raja Yoga of Patanjali in that it focuses on shatkarma, the purification of the physical body as leading to the purification of the mind (ha), and prana, or vital energy (tha).[44][45] Compared to the seated asana, or sitting meditation posture, of Patanjali’s Raja yoga,[46] it marks the development of asanas (plural) into the full body ‘postures’ now in popular usage.[47] Hatha Yoga in its many modern variations is the style that many people associate with the word “Yoga” today.[48]

[edit]Yoga practices in other traditions


Main article: Buddhism and Hinduism#Meditation

Early Buddhism incorporated meditative absorption states.[49] The most ancient sustained expression of yogic ideas is found in the early sermons of the Buddha.[50] One key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative absorption should be combined with the practice of mindfulness.[51]

See also: Pranayama#Buddhism

[edit]Yogacara Buddhism

Yogacara (Sanskrit: “yoga practice”[52]), also spelled yogāchāra, is a school of philosophy and psychology that developed in India during the 4th to 5th centuries. Yogacara received the name as it provided a yoga, a framework for engaging in the practices that lead to the path of thebodhisattva.[53] The Yogacara sect teaches yoga in order to reach enlightenment.[54]

[edit]Ch’an (Seon/Zen) Buddhism

Zen (the name of which derives from the Sanskrit “dhyaana” via the Chinese “ch’an”[55]) is a form of Mahayana Buddhism. The Mahayana school of Buddhism is noted for its proximity with Yoga.[49] In the west, Zen is often set alongside Yoga; the two schools of meditation display obvious family resemblances.[56] This phenomenon merits special attention since the Zen Buddhist school of meditation has some of its roots in yogic practices.[57] Certain essential elements of Yoga are important both for Buddhism in general and for Zen in particular.[58]

[edit]Indo-Tibetan Buddhism

Yoga is central to Tibetan Buddhism. In the Nyingma tradition, the path of meditation practice is divided into nine yanas, or vehicles, which are said to be increasingly profound.[59] The last six are described as “yoga yanas”: Kriya yogaUpa yogaYoga yanaMahā yogaAnu yoga and the utlimate practice, Ati yoga.[60] The Sarma traditions also include Kriya, Upa (calledCharya), and Yoga, with the Anuttara yoga class substituting for Mahayoga and Atiyoga.[61] Other tantra yoga practices include a system of 108 bodily postures practiced with breath and heart rhythm. The Nyingma tradition also practices Yantra yoga (Tib. Trul khor), a discipline which includes breath work (or pranayama), meditative contemplation and precise dynamic movements to centre the practitioner.[62] The body postures of Tibetan ancient yogis are depicted on the walls of the Dalai Lama’s summer temple of Lukhang. A semi-popular account of Tibetan Yoga by Chang (1993) refers to caṇḍalī (Tib. tummo), the generation of heat in one’s own body, as being “the very foundation of the whole of Tibetan Yoga”.[63] Chang also claims that Tibetan Yoga involves reconciliation of apparent polarities, such as prana and mind, relating this to theoretical implications of tantrism.


According to Tattvarthasutra, 2nd Century CE Jain text, Yoga, is the sum total of all the activities of mind, speech and body. [64] Umasvati calls yoga as the cause ofasrava or karmic influx [65] as well as one of the essentials—samyak caritra—in the path to liberation. [66] In his Niyamasara, Acarya Kundakunda, describes yoga bhakti—devotion to the path to liberation—as the highest form of devotion. [67] Acarya Haribhadra and Acarya Hemacandra mention the five major vows of ascetics and 12 minor vows of laity under yoga. This has led certain Indologists like Prof. Robert J. Zydenbos to call Jainism as essentially a system of yogic thinking that grew into a full-fledged religion. [68] Dr. Heinrich Zimmer contended that the yoga system had pre-Aryan origins which did not accept the authority of the Vedas and hence was reckoned as one of the heterodox doctrines similar to Jainism. [69] Jain iconography depicts Jain Tirthankaras meditation in Padmasana or Kayotsargayogic poses. Mahavira was said to have achieved Kevala Jnana “enlightenment” siting in mulabandhasana position which has the first literary mention in theAcaranga Sutra and later in Kalpasutra [70]

The five yamas or the constraints of the Yogasutra of Patanjali bear an uncanny resemblance to the five major vows of Jainism, indicating a strong influence of Jainism. [71] [72] This mutual influence between the Yoga philosophy and Jainism is admitted by the author Vivian Worthington who writes: “Yoga fully acknowledges its debt to Jainsim, and Jainism reciprocates by making the practice of yoga part and parcel of life.” [73] The Indus valley seals and iconography also provide a reasonable evidence of the existence of a proto-yogic tradition akin to Jainism. [74] More specifically, scholars and archaeologists have remarked on close similarities in the yogic and meditative postures depicted in the seals with those of various Tirthankaras: the “kayotsarga” posture of Rsabha and the mulabandhasana ofMahavira along with seals depicting meditative figure flaked by upright serpents bearing similarities to iconography of Parsva. All these are indicative of not only links between Indus Valley Civilisation and Jainism, but also show the contribution of Jainism to various yogic practices. [75]

[edit]References in Jain canons and literature

Earliest of Jain canonical literature like Acarangasutra and texts like Niyamasara, Tattvarthasutra etc had many references on yoga as a way of life for laymen and asctics. The later texts that further elaborated on the Jain concept of yoga are as follows:

  • Pujyapada (5th Century CE)
    • Ishtopadesh
  • Acarya Haribhadra Suri(8th Century CE)
    • Yogabindu
    • Yogadristisamuccaya
    • Yogasataka
    • Yogavimisika
  • Acarya Joindu (8th Century CE)
    • Yogasara
  • Acarya Hemacandra (11th Century CE)
    • Yogasastra
  • Acarya Amitagati (11th Century CE)
    • Yogasaraprabhrta


The development of Sufism was considerably influenced by Indian yogic practises, where they adapted both physical postures (asanas) and breath control (pranayama).[76] The ancient Indian yogic text, Amritakunda, (“Pool of Nectar)” was translated into Arabic and Persian as early as the 11th century.[77]

Malaysia’s top Islamic body in 2008 passed a fatwa, which is legally non-binding, against Muslims practicing yoga, saying it had elements of “Hindu spiritual teachings” and could lead toblasphemy and is therefore haraam. Muslim yoga teachers in Malaysia criticized the decision as “insulting”.[78] Sisters in Islam, a women’s rights group in Malaysia, also expressed disappointment and said they would continue with their yoga classes.[79] The fatwa states that yoga practiced only as physical exercise is permissible, but prohibits the chanting of religious mantras,[80] and states that teachings such as uniting of a human with God is not consistent with Islamic philosophy.[81] In a similar vein, the Council of Ulemas, an Islamic body in Indonesia, passed a fatwa banning yoga on the grounds that it contains “Hindu elements”[82] These fatwas have, in turn, been criticized by Darul Uloom Deoband, a Deobandi Islamic seminary in India.[83]

In May of 2009, Turkey’s head of the Directorate of Religious AffairsAli Bardakoğlu, discounted Yoga as a commercial venture promoting extremism- comments made in the context of Yoga practice possibly competing with and eroding participation in Islam [84].


In 1989, the Vatican declared that Eastern meditation practices such as Zen and yoga can “degenerate into a cult of the body.” In spite of the Vatican statement, many Roman Catholicsbring elements of Yoga, Buddhism, and Hinduism into their spiritual practices.[85]


Main article: Tantra

Tantrism is a practice that is supposed to alter the relation of its practitioners to the ordinary social, religious, and logical reality in which they live. Through Tantric practice an individual perceives reality as maya, illusion, and the individual achieves liberation from it.[86] This particular path to salvation among the several offered by Hinduism, links Tantrism to those practices of Indian religions, such as yoga, meditation, and social renunciation, which are based on temporary or permanent withdrawal from social relationships and modes.[86]

During tantric practices and studies, the student is instructed further in meditation technique, particularly chakra meditation. This is often in a limited form in comparison with the way this kind of meditation is known and used by Tantric practitioners and yogis elsewhere, but is more elaborate than the initiate’s previous meditation. It is considered to be a kind of Kundalini Yoga for the purpose of moving the Goddess into the chakra located in the “heart,” for meditation and worship.[87]

[edit]Goal of yoga

The goal of yoga may range from improving health to achieving Moksha.[88] Within Jainism and the monist schools of Advaita Vedanta and Shaivism the goal of yoga takes the form of Moksha, which is liberation from all worldly suffering and the cycle of birth and death (Samsara), at which point there is a realisation of identity with the Supreme Brahman. In the Mahabharata, the goal of yoga is variously described as entering the world of Brahma, as Brahman, or as perceiving the Brahman or Atman that pervades all things.[89] For the bhaktischools of Vaishnavismbhakti or service to Svayam bhagavan itself may be the ultimate goal of the yoga process, where the goal is to enjoy an eternal relationship with Vishnu.[90]

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