Top Ten Yoga Meditation Questions Answered: First, What Is Yoga?

Sometimes I’m asked, “What is yoga meditation, anyway?” I have to answer in a way that doesn’t over simplify the topic and yet still conveys its true meaning. I intend to begin some more in depth discussions around teaching what yoga is all about in the near future.  I thought I’d get you all going by starting out with some articles that are quite good and do a very decent job of explaining the history and context of what yoga is and how it came to be. First is a very detailed piece from Iyengar Yoga Resources that goes into great detail about just what yoga is and how it came about.

Top Ten Yoga Meditation Questions Answered: First, What Is Yoga?

The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” meaning to yoke, join or unite. This implies joining or integrating all aspects of the individual – body with mind and mind with soul – to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life, and spiritually, uniting the individual with the supreme.

In India, Yoga is considered one of the six branches of classical philosophy and is referred to throughout the Vedas– ancient

yoga meditation

Yoga meditation answers questions put to it by those who practice it. Photo by Shockay Hart c/o Photos.Com.

Indian scriptures and amongst the oldest texts in existence.The Upanishads are also broadly philosophical treatises which postdate the Vedas and deal with the nature of the “soul” and universe.

However, the origins of yoga are believed to be much older than that, stemming from the oral traditions of Yogis, where knowledge of Yoga was handed down from Guru (spiritual teacher) to Sisya (spiritual student) all the way back to the originators of Yoga, “the Rishis,” who first began investigation into the nature of reality and man’s inner world.

Legend has it that knowledge of Yoga was first passed by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati and from there into the lives of men.

Please do yourself a real favor and read this great article in its entirety here at iyengar-yoga.com:

Now author Cyndi Lee at the yoga flagship publication Yoga Journal answered this for someone recently in a more direct fashion.

The word yoga, from the Sanskrit word yuj means to yoke or bind and is often interpreted as “union” or a method of discipline. A male who practices yoga is called a yogi, a female practitioner, a yogini.

The Indian sage Patanjali is believed to have collated the practice of yoga into the Yoga Sutra an estimated 2,000 years ago. The Sutra is a collection of 195 statements that serves as a philosophical guidebook for most of the yoga that is practiced today. It also outlines eight limbs of yoga: the yamas (restraints), niyamas (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). As we explore these eight limbs, we begin by refining our behavior in the outer world, and then we focus inwardly until we reach samadhi (liberation, enlightenment).

Today most people practicing yoga are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of meditation.

Read the entire article here at yogajournal.com:

Finally, the American Yoga Association weighs in here with their simpler version of “What is yoga?”

The classical techniques of Yoga date back more than 5,000 years. In ancient times, the desire for greater personal freedom, health and long life, and heightened self-understanding gave birth to this system of physical and mental exercise which has since spread throughout the world. The word Yoga means “to join or yoke together,” and it brings the body and mind together into one harmonious experience.

The whole system of Yoga is built on three main structures: exercise, breathing, and meditation. The exercises of Yoga are designed to put pressure on the glandular systems of the body, thereby increasing its efficiency and total health. The body is looked upon as the primary instrument that enables us to work and evolve in the world, and so a Yoga student treats it with great care and respect. Breathing techniques are based on the concept that breath is the source of life in the body. The Yoga student gently increases breath control to improve the health and function of both body and mind. These two systems of exercise and breathing then prepare the body and mind for meditation, and the student finds an easy approach to a quiet mind that allows silence and healing from everyday stress. Regular daily practice of all three parts of this structure of Yoga produce a clear, bright mind and a strong, capable body.

Get the complete answer here at americanyogaassociation.org:

So there you (sort of) have it. Yoga meditation came about and evolved over time to be interpreted today in the forms you see in practice today. Who knows what it may resemble in the future. One thing is true, yoga and meditation continue to adapt and evolve relative to each other but can never be separated.

Let me know if you found this piece informative or thought provoking. Leave a comment below and share it with a friend by clicking the like button as well.

What yoga philosophy and all the great Buddhist teachings tells us is that solidity is a creation of the ordinary mind and that there never was anything permanent to begin with that we could hold on to. Life would be much easier and substantially less painful if we lived with the knowledge of impermanence as the only constant.                                                                            — Donna Farhi

 

 

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