Pratyahara – the 5th limb of yoga

There are total eight limbs of yoga according to sage Patanjali’s classic eight-limbed yoga system, which is known as ashtanga yoga. Among these, pratyahara is the fifth one. It is probably the least known or least talked about limb of ashtanga yoga, though it is as important as the other limbs are. Importance of pratyahara is clear as we see that it has been centrally positioned in the eight-limbed system of ashtanga yoga. Study of classic yoga is never complete if we do not know pratyahara. The ashtanga yoga (8-limbed yoga system) has been explained in detail in ‘Yoga Sutra’ of Patanjali. Ashtanga yoga is a sequence of practices, that begins with the bahiranga (external limbs) and proceeds towards the antaranga (internal limbs). Yam, niyam, asana, pranayama are the first four limbs of ashtanaga yoga which comes in the external limbs category of ashtanga yoga while dharana, dhyana and Samadhi are the internal limbs of ashtanga yoga. [Read more…]

6 Misconceptions about Yoga

There are many misconceptions in people’s mind about Yoga. Some think Yoga is a religion and the yoga poses are some kind of rituals. For some yoga is all about exercising for better health and is a set of healing techniques and meditation for better memory and mind power. Some feel there are some prerequisites like good qualification or a lot of money for joining a yoga program and for some yoga is a practice for attaining supernatural powers. [Read more…]

Four Ashrams (spiritual shelters) of human life

Ashrama literally means “a place of spiritual shelter”. According to ancient Indian tradition, one used to spend life in four stages known as ‘four ashrams of life’; a different lifestyle and yoga was practiced in each of these stages. These four ashrams are named as – ‘Brahamacharyashram’, ‘Grihasthashram’, ‘Vanprashthashram’ and ‘Sanyasashram’; there are specific duties expected to be performed by a person depending upon the ashrama he or she belongs to at that time. [Read more…]

Bhakti Yoga – Connecting with God through purity of devotion

I last left you, dear reader, standing before one of the countless images of Krishna instructing Arjuna, hopeful that there might be a yogic discipline easier on your knees than hatha yoga and easier on your brain than jnana yoga, but that might still be effective in realizing all of yoga’s singular goal—connecting man to God. [Read more…]

Jnana Yoga – A Path to Knowledge & Liberation

In my last installment, we eavesdropped on a portion of Krishna’s instruction to Arjuna as related in the Bhagavad Gita. In what we heard, Krishna offered a paradigm of yoga that could reconcile the tender promptings of the prince’s heart toward mercy and the necessity of his duties as a kshatriya, or member of the warrior caste. What yoga, however, could be appropriate for those of us who were not born to such an unbearable honor? [Read more…]

Karma Yoga – Acting on your personal Dharma

In my last article, we examined some of the philosophical background behind hatha yoga—the yogic discipline that has become most popular in the West. Besides hatha, however, there are a variety of other spiritual practices that pertain to yoga, many of which go unrecognized as such by Western observers. In this article, we will look at the first of these—karma yoga, or the yoga of action. [Read more…]

Hatha Yoga – Reliving the mind from the world

Hatha yoga has always held a curious fascination for Westerners, on account of the great physical rigors demanded of its practitioners. While some of the more contemplational forms of yoga, which we will examine in future articles, found analogs in the West’s traditions of Christian meditation, nothing like hatha yoga had ever fully developed in Europe. Consequently, it first appeared to Western eyes in much the same vein as those Hindu sages who walked over coals, grew their fingernails back through their hands, or were dragged through processions by hooks run through their nipples. The Monier-Williams dictionary included in its definition of the term that it is “performed with much self-torture.” As the specific examples adduced, however, were of “standing on one leg,” and “holding up the arms,” we might comfortably assume that, like many lexicographers, the Monier-Williams editors simply were not very athletic. [Read more…]

Origin & History of Yoga in India

Yoga is certainly among India’s most successful exports. From the time that Swami Vivekananda and other important gurus first brought yogic disciplines to the West in the late 19th century, they have found broad acceptance at every level of Western society. [Read more…]

Journey of Yoga Tradition

The word “yoga” conveys equanimity and serenity. This word is derived from the word “Yuj” found in the Sanskrit literature, which signifies the act of uniting or reuniting one’s self. According to the Hindu culture, yoga is the means of uniting the spirit of the human with the spirit of the creation. Yoga is practiced to bring out the life force residing at the base of one’s spine. Chanting OM during yoga, leads you to your inner self and it gives you true balance. [Read more…]

The Myriad Types of Yoga From India

There are so many types of yoga that we can practice, all coming from the mother country and her spiritual sadhus and seekers. From the famous author of Autobiography of a Yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, to the epic discussion of karma yoga between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, India has offered us countless ways to join the material and mundane with the divine. For any westerner believing that yoga is just a set of asana, or postures that make you look like an act in Cirque du Soleil, there is much to be gleaned form the teachings of India’s gurus. [Read more…]