Classic Yoga History

Yoga practice is more than just a physical exercise. It’s a way of life that originated in ancient India and has been practiced for thousands of years. But what is classic yoga and how does it differ from other forms of yoga?

In this blog post, we’ll explore the history and philosophy of classical yoga and how you can benefit from its teachings. We also go into how you can practice yoga in it’s classical form.

What is Classic Yoga?

The word “yoga” means “union” or “connection” in Sanskrit. It refers to the goal of achieving harmony between the body, mind and spirit.

Classic yoga is based on ashtanga yoga which is also known as the system of eight limbs. It is the oldest and most comprehensive system of yoga. The eight limbs refer to the eight practices that will lead you to a meaningful and purpose filled life.

The sage, Patanjali, codified it in his Yoga Sutras, a collection of 196 aphorisms that outline the principles and practices of yoga.

The Yoga Sutras are divided into four chapters: Samadhi Pada (on meditation/concentration), Sadhana Pada (on practice), Vibhuti Pada (on powers), and Kaivalya Pada (on liberation).

The second chapter introduces the eight limbs of classic yoga. These eight yogic practices are:

  • Yama: Moral ethical rules or restraints. i) do not harm living beings ii) Do not lie iii) Do not steal iv) Have sexual restraint v) Non- possessiveness.

  • Iyama: Personal observances or disciplines. Things you should do. i) Cleanliness of mind, speech and body ii) Contentment and acceptance iii) Discipline, Austerity and asceticism iv) Study of Vedas and self reflection V) contemplation of true self and supreme being.

  • Asana: physical postures or poses

  • Pranayama: breath control and regulation

  • Pratyahara: withdrawal of the senses and detachment

  • Dharana: Concentration and focus

  • Dhyana: meditation and contemplation

  • Samadhi: absorption and union (enlightenment)

These eight limbs are interrelated aspects of a holistic practice. They are designed to help the practitioner purify the body and mind. They also cultivate awareness and insight. Ultimately leading the practitioner to attain self-realization and enlightenment.

The Philosophy of Classic Yoga

An excerpt from the Yoga Sutras regarding classic yoga

Classical yoga is based on a dualistic worldview that distinguishes between two realities: purusha and prakriti.

Purusha is the pure consciousness or spirit that is eternal, unchanging and unaffected by anything.

Prakriti is the material nature or energy that is temporal, mutable and subject to cause and effect. Everything in the phenomenal world, including the physical body and mind, is composed of prakriti.

According to classic yoga, the source of human suffering is avidya, or ignorance. Avidya makes us identify with prakriti (material) and forget our true nature as purusha (pure consciousness).

As a result, we become attached to our thoughts, emotions, desires and actions. It is because of this attachment we experience pain and dissatisfaction.

The aim of classic yoga is to overcome avidya and realize our true self as purusha. This is achieved by practicing the eight limbs of classic yoga, which help us detach from prakriti and align with purusha.

The Benefits of Classic Yoga

Benefits of classical yoga

Classical yoga offers many benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. The major beenfits will come with consistent practice, however you will feel some of these straight after yoga.

Some of the benefits them are:

Improved Physical Health:

Asana (poses) and pranayama (breathing) improve flexibility, strength, balance, posture, circulation, digestion, immunity, and overall well-being.

Enhanced Mental Clarity:

Pratyahara (detachment) , dharana (concentration) , dhyana (contemplation), and samadhi (union) improve concentration, memory, creativity, problem-solving, decision-making and learning abilities.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety:

All of the eight limbs practices reduce negative emotions, calm the nervous system, promote relaxation, and increase resilience.

Increased Happiness and Peace:

Classic yoga practice cultivates positive emotions, boosts self-esteem, enhances relationships and fosters a sense of purpose and meaning.Practice Gyan Mudra The Ancient Hand Gesture for Wisdom and Inner Peace

Spiritual Growth:

The eight practices awaken intuition, inspiration, wisdom, compassion and joy.

They prepare the practitioner for the ultimate goal of classic yoga which is samadhi or union with the supreme reality. In this state you go beyond the common experience of other human beings and only yourself remains as one source of all.

How to Practice Classic Yoga

Contemplation is a major part of yoga

If you want to practice classic yoga, you don’t need any special equipment or facilities. All you need is a quiet space, a comfortable mat and a sincere intention.

To Practice Classic Yoga Start by Following these Simple Steps:

Begin with Yama and Niyama.

These are the ethical foundations of classic yoga that guide your behavior towards yourself and others. 

They include values such as non- violence, truthfulness, non stealing, non- attachment, contentment, self discipline, self study and devotion.

Try to incorporate them into your daily life as much as possible.

Practice Asana and Pranayama. 

These are the physical aspects of classic yoga that prepare your body and mind for the higher stages of meditation. They include various postures and breathing techniques that balance and harmonize your energy system. 

They can be both a gentle and a dynamic way to balance your physical body.

You can follow a sequence of asanas that suits your level and needs, or join a class with a qualified teacher. You can also practice pranayama separately not just with asana.

Pratyahara and Dharana Practice

These are the mental aspects of classic yoga that help you withdraw your attention from the external world and focus it on a single point. They give you a balanced mind and control your compulsive nature.

They include methods such as closing your eyes, listening to a sound, repeating a mantra, visualizing an image and observing your breath.

You can practice them for a few minutes or longer, depending on your capacity.

Practice Dhyana and Samadhi. 

Classical yoga leads you to the state of meditation and absorption. 

Dhyana and Samadhi involve letting go of any thoughts, feelings, or sensations that arise in your mind, and resting in pure consciousness. 

You can practice them by simply being aware of being aware, or by following the guidance of a teacher or a script

When you practice these steps in such a way, they will lead you to a profound understanding of who you are and what the world is.

If you are new to yoga, there are many teachers of the classic form of yoga. Seek them out and choose one that has the strongest attraction to you.

Conclusion

Classic yoga is a rich and deep tradition that offers a comprehensive path to physical, mental, and spiritual well-being.

It is based on the yoga sutras by Patanjali and is the oldest yoga system. It came before other well known systems of Raja and Hatha yoga.

By practicing the eight limbs of classic yoga, you can experience the benefits of this ancient wisdom in your modern life.

Classic yoga not only reveals meaning and your life purpose, you also deepen your understanding of yourself and the world. And ultimately realize your true nature as purusha and obtain union with the supreme reality.

Follow in the foot steps of the great yogis and start your classical yoga journey today.

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