September 24, 2007

Yoga History and Evolution

Yoga is as old as civilisation. Early Upanishads, the Bhagavadgita and the Yoga sutras of Patanjali are universally accepted as constituting the verbal foundation of the Yoga tradition. Among these, the Yoga Sutras provide the basis and inspiration for most of todays tradition of Yoga.
In its recorded history and continuous evolution, Yoga has come to represent not only the ultimate goal, but also the many practices, techniques, methods and ways that to move toward that goal. Thus the literature includes numerous yogic paths. Yoga's classical definition is derived from the Sanksrit root "Yuj", meaning:
"to unite, to integrate or to cohere and is thus taken represent the highest state of union, integration or coherence between individual or personal or human consciousness and cosmic or universal or devine consciousness."
But has the definition of Yoga changed through its evolution? I feel that through the evolution of Yoga, the meaning of Yoga has been consistent through the different paths of Yoga that manifested.
Yoga represents the study, path and the means to proceed and also the absolute aim, which includes the following core concepts: the union of opposites, the effect the outside world has on the body, the yearning for and seeking of form of liberation; the merging of the individual consciousness with the Universal consciousness and the intereset of discovering and attaining one's true self.
Progress in Yoga depends upon how much effort we are prepared to put into, what our thoughts are on the subject and what our ambitions are. Thus, by necessity Yoga is highly practical. Yoga is not academic and I like that. You can become a Yogi simply reading a book or this website.
To progress in Yoga (like life) it takes practice - you need to be prepared to devote time to understanding where you are going; in order to experience anything.
Be happy and live life with Detachment. Yoga teaches us that it is not what happens to us, but our response to what happens to us that hurts us. It is our willing permission, our consent to what happens to us, that hurts us far more than what happens to us in the first place. The literature covers this in Verse twelve of book one, where the Yoga Sutras address detachment: "The restriction of the fluctuations is achieved throught practice and dispassion". Here Patanajali teaches that wholeness comes from abhyasa, meaning "to apply oneself", and from vairagya, or "supreme detachment". Of course, things can hurt us physically or economically and can cause sorrow. But our character, our basic identity does not have to be hurt at all. As detailed in the Bhagavad Gita, book two, verse forty four, Krishna illustrates defining success on external things is limiting as they are transitory and not ultimately success. Patanjali also points out in Yoga Sutra, book two, verse sixteen, "that which is to be overcome is sorrow yet to come"; ie we can choose to suffer or not to suffer.
Courage. I have learnt through Yoga that my most difficult experiences have become turning points that forge character and develop internal powers, the freedom to handle difficult circumstances in the future and to inspire others to do so as well. The literature covers this in book two, verse seventeen, the Bhagavad Gita states, "yet, know as indestructible that by which this world is spread out. No one is able to accomplish the destruction of that which is immutable". Ie. There is no need to hide under the bed, from life or duty. Move on. There is no need to trap myself in the past or future, I can get through anything.
In summary, Yoga has shown through its long history that it represents the effort that we are going to make in achieving something, the path that will take us to the ultimate achievement and the progress that we are going to make along the way, and ultimately, the end result: the sum of total of our achievements. Experiencing life with awareness, with exposure to great depths of Yogic literature, reinforces my motivation and provides the drive to devote the effort required to follow the Yogic path.


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