Modern-day yoga means many alternative issues to many alternative folks. However within the Yogamatters Historical past of Yoga month, I’m honoured to try to unravel this query and to delve into the origins of Yoga; how this hyperlinks to Yoga as we all know it right now; and, specifically, the yoga of BKS Iyengar, who was largely liable for bringing yoga from India to the remainder of the world.
What does Yoga imply?
To outline yoga is like attempting to pin a snowflake down. Yoga is likely one of the 6 methods of Indian philosophy. It’s multi-faceted by way of its improvement over 5,000 years and has a large number of definitions and meanings relying on these defining it.
At its most uncontentious yoga, or its root, means to yoke or bind collectively. And this refers to our “yoking” or harnessing our consideration and consciousness with a purpose to attain liberation. All interpretations appear largely to agree that yoga is the trail to SAMADHI, variously translated as ecstasy, the ecstatic state, liberation, tremendous consciousness or final actuality. It issues our state of being or our consciousness and is a union of the physique and the spirit, the ecstatic state of SAMADHI.
Yoga encourages thought not solely of the physique however of the thoughts, emphasising self-knowledge. An understanding of the ephemeral nature of our existence and our happiness or satisfaction not being linked to acquisitions or bodily sensations, however to the mastery of the thoughts. This management of our consciousness is the trail of Yoga. And this quest for self information and equanimity is why Yoga remains to be as related right now because it has ever been.
Patanjali defines Yoga in his Sutras as citti vritti nirodha “the restriction of the whirls of consciousness” – the flexibility to focus the entire physique and thoughts till one’s total being is quieted – no small activity, however nonetheless a way of thinking to which we nonetheless aspire.
The place did yoga originate?
Yoga reaches again over 5,000 years to the traditional sages and civilisations of India and is rooted within the historical literature of Hinduism. An unlimited physique of teachings, religious values, attitudes and ideas throughout philosophy and religions marry collectively to create what we perceive as Yoga.
The earliest and most treasured texts are the Vedas, which have been hymns. Written in Sanskrit, they comprise information of the traditional Vedic civilisation, relationship again to 4500-2500 BCE. They embrace the traditional rites and practices of the Vedic monks and the rigorous psychological coaching which they required to carry out their duties as a part of this revered civilisation. The charting of those psychological disciplines was a basis for the Upanishads written, it’s believed, round 2,000 years later and which suggest that meditation may very well be the trail to enlightenment or SAMADHI.
After this got here the Pre-Classical Period – the period of the Sutras and Shastras and the earliest full Yoga work, the Mahabharata wherein the Bhagavad-Gita is contained.
The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, in all probability probably the most well-known of all of the Yogic texts, have been written within the Classical Period of 100 – 50 BCE. A compilation and systemisation of the writings and thinkings to that time, Patanjali gave Yoga its classical format. The Sutras outlined and regularised a very powerful components of Yoga principle and apply. Utilizing 195 Sutras, Patanjali gave Yoga what has change into its fashionable route map.
Sutras, which implies thread, are quick, succinct, pithy phrases or quick sentences (aphorisms) in Sanskrit that are like an aide memoire. For use by a pupil alongside a trainer or information (an essential idea in Yoga), who has present information of the topic. Every sanskrit phrase has a multiplicity of meanings, all subtly completely different, giving an ideal depth and significance to every Sutra. The Sutras concentrate on the philosophy of Yoga, why Yoga is important, and what it may obtain. Inside the Sutras, Patanjali shares the trail to controlling the thoughts and physique by way of the 8 limbs of Yoga, an idea with which we’re acquainted in fashionable Yoga.
Though well-known to us, I believe they bear repeating on this dialogue of Yoga, as they’re seminal to our fashionable understanding of Yoga. They’re:
1) Yama – self-discipline
2) Niyama – restraint
3) Asana – posture
4) Pranayama – breath management
5) Pratyahara – sense withdrawal
6) Dharana – focus
7) Dhyana – meditation
8) Samadhi – ecstatic state/liberation
These are collectively Ashtanga Yoga. The phases 1- 5 are the exterior preparation for reaching or reaching phases 6-8.
The ultimate textual content I need to point out is the medieval writings of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, bringing us into the Frequent Period. While Patanjali targeted on reaching management of the thoughts and gave us a top level view of the trail with the 8 limbs of Yoga, the Hatha Yoga Pradipika offers a clearer rationalization of the bodily necessities of Yoga. In its 4 chapters, it particulars quite a few asanas and respiration practices (a few of which we’d recognise from our personal Yoga apply).
So, merely concluded, the body-focused Hatha yoga of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika was a type of preparation for Patanjali’s mind-focused system of Yoga, each with final pursuit of SAMADHI or liberation.
How has yoga developed to what we all know right now?
From the medieval interval, the bodily pursuits of Hatha Yoga had been practiced by a minority which had been additional squeezed by the British rule in India and fears of “fringe” tendencies. Nevertheless, with push again in opposition to colonialism and the rise of Indian nationalism, Hatha Yoga discovered a brand new (albeit small) viewers.
The (Grand)Father of contemporary Yoga
Towards this backdrop, Krishnamcharya enters the image. After a few years of finding out Sanskrit and the traditional texts and studying along with his Guru, Brahmachari (who lived in a cave), Krishnamacharya was invited to show the sons of a royal family in Mysore. Beneath this royal patronage, he was in a position to examine and develop a variety of what we recognise because the bodily facets of yoga. Specializing in the bodily facets of Hatha Yoga, he tailored it and drew inspiration from Indian wrestling and gymnastics to develop dynamic asana sequences with the aim of constructing bodily health.
Along with the royal family, Krishnamacharya took on different college students, of whom three specifically have been to lift the profile of yoga exterior India. Amongst these have been Pattabi Jois, who by way of his research with Krishnamacharya, additional developed Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga. Initially designed for younger, robust males, it gained traction extra extensively, presumably as a “gateway” to the extra philosophical and religious facets of Yoga.
Indra Devi was one other alumni. Having obtained instruction from Krishnamacharya, she travelled to China, the Soviet Union and latterly, America educating and proselytising about Yoga and establishing Yoga colleges.
The Father of Iyengar Yoga
Nevertheless, most famously, BKS Iyengar studied with Krishnamacharya. Having been a sickly youngster and failed his exams, he was despatched by his household to stay along with his sister and brother-in-law. After displaying promise, he was topic to a rigorous and generally harsh coaching regime underneath Krishnamacharya. He was then inspired to go and unfold the phrase of Yoga.
Shifting along with his spouse, Ramamani, to Pune, Iyengar began to work with college students who weren’t as younger and match because the royal princes in Mysore. So he started to review the poses in monumental element and adapt them with use of props, to open up yoga to all. This exact examine of the asanas and their therapeutic advantages by Mr Iyengar was captured for the world in his seminal e-book “Gentle on Yoga” which was printed in 1966. Now thought-about the Yoga Bible, it was his affiliation with Yehudi Menuhin (the world-famous violinist) and the identical’s foreword in Gentle on Yoga, which helped to advertise and propel Iyengar yoga initially to the West after which around the world. This, along with the rigorous and complete trainer coaching programme, which Mr Iyengar created, ensured that the eye to element, precision and concentrate on alignment is the gold-standard of Yoga and its educating. And Iyengar Yoga continues to flourish within the twenty first Century underneath the care of Mr Iyengar’s grand-daughter, Abhijata.