"Yoga is the process in which we are able to access and abide in the profound vision of our true essential self nature (swarupa) by allowing the disturbances, fluctuations, agitations, perturbations, and vagaries (vrtti in Sanskrit) of consciousness (citta) to subside, become stilled, and eventually cease (nirodha)"
Patanjali, from the "Yoga Sutras", Chapter I verses 2-3
I. Yoga Means to Interconnect or Make Whole
II. Raj Yoga or the Yoga of Meditation
III. Bhakti Yoga: The Yoga of Devotion, Love, or Worship
IV. Karma Yoga: The Yoga of Selfless Service or Action
V. Laya Yoga: Mantra, Shabda, Nada, and Yantra Yoga
VI. Hatha Yoga
IX. Sahaj and Siddha Yoga
X. Jnana Yoga: The Yoga of Knowledge or Study
XI. Yoga Diet
"Some seek their path
in the practice of rites
as the Veda teaches:
they fall through ignorance,
into the trap of ritualism."
Yogatattva Upanishad, I.6, trsl. J. Varenne, Yoga in the Hindu Tradition, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1976
"In your body is Mount Meru
encircled by the seven continents;
the rivers are there too,
the seas, the mountains, the plains,
and the gods of the fields.
Prophets are to be seen in it, monks,
places of pilgrimage
and the deities presiding over them.
The stars are there, and the planets,
and the sun together with the moon;
there too are the two cosmic forces:
that which destroys, that which creates;
and all the elements: ether,
air and fire, water and earth.
Yes, in your body are all things
that exist in the three worlds,
all performing their prescribed functions
around Mount Meru
He alone who knows this
is held to be a true yogi."
Siva Samhita, Chapter 2. verses 1-5, translated by Jean Varenne, "Yoga in the Hindu Tradition, Univ. of Chicago, 1976.
Yoga is a Sanskrit word meaning to join together, to unite, to inter-connect, to re-integrate, re-member, to conjoin, or to make whole. One may well ask "what" it is that one joins together with and "who" is it who joins? Precisely, the question what/who is this "joined" unity of "joiner" and that with which is "joined" is a subject of volumes of philosophy and needless verbal debate once one realizes that yoga is about non-dual Self realization through practice and experience, not obtainable through words or mental constructs (vikalpa).
Albeit this page may point with words, but what it points to is not dependent upon the words or manmade concepts. Rather yoga is the process and result where the programmed mental constructs (citta-vrtti) cease (nirodha) obscuring "our way". Yoga says what is united is an innate unity, the way-it-truly-is, the melting of the egoic mindset that presupposes the existence of a separate "self" from "other" in the first place. In that sense yoga is simply letting go of the illusion of a separate "I" and "it", duality, thus re-integration into our true unconditioned nature or re-memberance of primordial beginningless wisdom with our present time/space evolutionary embodiment which has been temporarily interrupted and obscured by forces of ignorance. In that sense through functional yogic practices, the practitioner joyfully sheds the burdensome cloak of "separate self" which discloses the innate wisdom or good (their innate Buddhanature) which starts to show up in All Our Relations as practice becomes more informed.
By innate, authentic yoga assumes that this is our natural reality which is revealed by the naked mind -- uncompounded and uncontrived -- free from mental conceptual imputations (nirvikalpa). Simply the mental constructs, bodily configurations, and energetic patterns have obscured the integrated and power of the HeartMind. The innate power of the HeartMind has become veiled, distracted, inhibited, and repressed in fixations conditioned by ignorance (avidya). Thus our true nature has become chronically obscured -- reality-as-it-is has become displaced. So we start the practice by renouncing the habitual mental and energetic dynamics which have imprisoned and inhibited our highest creative/evolutionary potential as a joyful process of bridging/re-unifying the original rend of primordial true nature of our own from evolutionary power or nature as the motive force and natural expression of the union. In fact yoga gradually helps us to singularly open our eyes to see that the "joined" and the "joiner" was a programmed or artificial induced predicament -- a hoax, because neither are exist except in the deluded mindset. The illusion of this separation exists only as the nightmare of conditioned confusion/ignorance (called avidya in Sanskrit). It is a conditioned erroneous mindset (samsaric) or illusion (maya), and as such that split only exists in the fragmented mindset, albeit we can witness its effects in human behavior and social turmoil.
Unlike theoretical, philosophical, or religious belief based systems, the yogic approach emphasizes practice (praxis) over theory. This is not accomplished through the "adoption" of a belief or through imposing ordinary dualistic knowledge or notions of some "thing" upon "what-truly-is", but rather through direct transconceptional and transrational awareness that is free from bias or prejudice, and which is free from conditioning itself -- which alone is Real and Universal (having no conditioned bias (vrtti).
Thus authentic yoga offers the practitioner an effective method for self reprogramming -- to take respons-ability for making powerful changes within an integrative and wholistic body/mind, natural spiritual context. Thus this non-dual joining process of the joiner (practitioner) is a process (sadhana) that is gradually mastered and experienced as one's intimate participation in the innate unity of all "that-is-as-it-is". The practitioner steps into one's own fragmented situation as a causative conscious agent of change eventually aligning with that great integrity of the formless primordial mind and the evolutionary power (form) as our integral ally in All Our Relations.
According to natural yoga, this integration/communion (as our identification with the unity of All Our Relations) is both simple and profound -- our natural true undistorted form (swarupa), but the problem is that most of us have been coaxed out, extracted from, and corrupted out of this innate sense of integrity and joyful participation -- our natural relationship and identity with the universe, until many have become conditioned to adapt/adopt this acquired inner sense of estrangement, disease, alienation, and fragmentation as "normal". This dualistic disease stage (of separation) is what yoga heals -- thus the need for authentic yoga. Most have have already fallen into a dualistic way of fragmentation, corruption, and estrangement -- such do not need more withdrawal, but rather integration of the parts into the whole. Further fear, constriction of the heart, aversion, and withdrawal doesn't work. Rather that (avidya) is what got us into disease and suffering (dukha). Rather yoga suggests opening the heart, engagement, integration, opening of the nadis (energy channels), and the mind and then surrendering to that joy and wisdom, in joy and wisdom.
Without the re-union/re-membering produced by authentic yoga practice, the ordinary man peers out into the world with eyes that are colored, distorted, and conditioned by limitations of time/space, culture, prejudice, institutionalized neurosis, fear, fragmented ideology, alienated belief systems, or more simply put, by self imposed and fragmented ego based limitations, confusions, delusions, and ignorance. This separation or rend held in place by the false identification with a separate "self" (ego) maintains this chronic disease state. It is the primal trauma which causes desire, craving, strife, unhappiness, and suffering. Yoga allows us to be able to see clearly with open eyes in the context of wholeness, completeness, or integrity. Thus yoga is the process which transforms bias, limitation, ignorance, duality, and conflict into transcendental wisdom, peace, beauty, clarity, and ecstasy.
What else is being joined up, harmonized, reconnected, and made whole in yoga besides spirit and nature, creator/creation, or as we say in yoga siva/shakti other than All Our Relations? This is very empowering when we know who we truly are. We can just as easily say that yoga is the joining of the small self or ego with the Great non-dual transpersonal Self or Supreme Integrity. In one sense it is joining our will with the divine will in a state of communion or grace, but that description is also lacking because it still is coming from duality (our will) versus being aligned and in synch with the pulse of the universe. Although we have become familiar with the acquired/conditioned dualistic framework of chronic separation, we gradually cease to limit our view in dualistic terms until this state of yoga (as unity) is known continuously as our True Self nature, while the dualistic framework is known as an artificially contrived thought construct. Finally after consistent spiritual practice this re-union with Spirit as our natural form (swarupa) becomes continuous and undisturbed. So in this sense there exists nothing separate to join together, but rather only an illusion that has been shed -- that has dropped away. Herein in the unification with spirit here and now, underlies the end of practice
To reiterate, the main stumbling block is the negative programming that reinforces the belief of dualistic "reality" or separate self, the need, or the value of aversion/withdrawal separation (ego) in the first place. In the non-dualistic yoga perspective then this small self (or ego) actually is a delusion due to a misconception i.e., we have become conditioned that we are separate from nature, our true nature, and the rest of creator/creation, but this is not reality as-it-is. Rather ego is illusory -- it is the state of conditioned or learned estrangement -- an alienation from nature and natural systems which true yoga attempts to remedy, purify, re-condition, deprogram, eventually allowing us to re-integrate and align with nature as-it-true-is. In other terms yoga is a process in which we find our place in creation/creator in the unity of Nature and Eternal spirit in our Present situation. Here it all comes together -- unites as one. HERE there is no bias in the non-dual transpersonal place of All Our Relations
When the desire for truth becomes stronger than the desire for egoic delusion and comfortable illusion, then one starts to cut through the accumulated mental conundrums. In this way we become governed by the inseparable union of wisdom and compassion, primordial wisdom and clarity, the true nature of the mind and the true nature of phenomena. Authentic yoga assumes that through being at one with everything as no separate thing, is the way of integrity -- is truly real; while the fragmented way is simply a confusion, ignorance, and/or illusion. thus reality and truth can be known, but it is a universal truth only. Confusion (or illusion) might "appear" real to us while we are immersed in it, but when we awaken we see the veils of this self imposed limitations and remove our bondage to it. In yoga we create space for that light and love to shine through. Through effective practice we investigate the ways we become attached to our conditioned dysfunctional illusions, dramas of insecurity, and prisons of sublimation, pride, lust, and compensatory mechanisms of temporary security and pleasures and then how to let that burden go -- how to eliminate these neurotic urges, disconnecting those attachments, and freeing up our bio-mental energy to reconnecting with our true nature and core energy in the heart and be moved by that. When we reside in heartmind presence, neurotic needs fade away by themselves because they are no longer fed by dammed up primary energy blockages/emotions. The heart/core is satisfied and its servant the mind, becomes satisfied. Otherwise the mind is at war with the heart. As a result dis-ease, tension, and suffering occur.
After the unhealthy patterns of estrangement and spiritual self alienation are rooted out, we abide in the Real or Natural Self, in truth consciousness and bliss. This Natural Self is beyond duality, the mind or separateness. It is beyond concept or intellect. It is a state of experiential beingness; the union of pure subjectivity with pure consciousness. True yoga gradually leads us to this communion or integration in everyday life in body, mind, speech, and spirit so that we bring it into our lives and into the lives of our loved ones, our friends, and our fellow creatures as planetary embodied spirit and love. True yoga is meant to re-establish us in the rich fertile ground of the eternal present and then we can naturally share this love with our friends, neighbors in all our relationships.
The types of yoga are varied and rich. Mostly we hear about Hindu yoga, but there is Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, and Taoist yoga as well. Western Alchemy can also be considered yoga. Any type of activity (karma) whose purpose is to surrender to the dictates of Divine Love or service (seva) can be called karma yoga or bhakti yoga (see below).
Although we will discuss below mostly Hindu and Buddhist forms of yoga, yoga is found in diverse places around the world. True yoga can be practiced anywhere by anybody. Yoga is really very simple, but because of the diversity of the various schools, it is easy for a beginner to become confused especially when one school may arrogantly claim exclusivity. Because of various factors due to genetics, karma, conditioning, emotional propensities, past experiences, trauma, and conditioning "individuals" often will find that one specific approach or technique is uniquely more relevant and effective to their specific situation than another. Indeed it is a provincial error to think that "one shoe will fit all". Some adhere to only one school of yoga and others often incorporate two or more schools in their particular branch or practice. Most will find that their specific needs may change over time as the effects of their yoga practice moves them on to their next step. None of these practices are not mutually exclusive, in fact most are actually synergistic. To glean the best from all schools and styles can be eclectic, while eclectic is not necessarily dilettantish.
The most famous text on yoga is Patanjali's "Yoga Sutras" (the Yoga Darshana) of which there are over a dozen English translations and commentaries. The "Yoga Sutras" although often considered to be "the" authoritative text of yoga, some other schools of yoga do not consider Patanjali to be complete. Indeed, the "Yoga Sutras" is a compendium of Yogic practices composed by Patanjali around the time of Christ from an extant and older pre-existing oral yoga tradition. The language is often interpreted within a samkhya (the philosophical syntax of the era) framework, but the practice is far older and goes far deeper than samkhya philosophy, rather it requires yogic practice (sadhana) in order to understand it. A careful reading of the "Yoga Sutras" will reveal a profound non-dual bias as well as a strong proto-tantric inclination, but in particular the text places silent sitting meditation (dhyana) on the highest rung just short of the highest realization (Nirbija Samadhi). Although Patanjali did not use the term, Raj Yoga, that term is now most often used to describe yoga practice based on the meditation practices that Patanjali outlines in the "Yoga Sutras".
Indeed the "Yoga Sutras" are an excellent guide to samadhi through the platform of meditation combined with other useful psychological and spiritual aids or techniques which support effective dhyana (meditation) practice. Here Raj, means king or royal, so according to some adherents, Raj Yoga (meditation) is the king of yogas or kingly yoga. That does not imply a caste system, rather it implies that Raj is the highest or most sublime.
In the "Yoga Sutras" Patanjali also formulates the basic principles of Kriya Yoga which consists of three practices i.e., self study or self inquiry (swadhyaya); the shedding of the impurities of distraction which dissuades our spiritual focus and hence increases our enthusiasm for practice, fires our energy, and generates spiritual passion (tapas); and the surrender of the dualistic illusion of separateness and delusionary self identifications in affirming the transpersonal and transconceptual higher Self, the Supreme Integrity or True Self (isvara pranidhana). Patanjali's Yoga Sutras focus on the means and stages of reaching ultimate liberation (kaivalya) through nirbija samadhi (supreme entasy) without falling back into the illusion of separateness (avidya) through the effective use of various practices such as kriya yoga, ashtanga yoga, and many other practices which culminate in dhyana and thence samadhi. Patanjali is best known for his clear formulation of the eight limbs of yoga (ashtanga yoga) which lead to heralding in samadhi. They are:
1. Yama: The examination, recognition, identification, and eventual surrender of mental or physical activities which lead consciousness into disparate and fragmented identifications. Yama is more of a recognition than remedial activities that remediate obstructions on the yogic path, such as moving away from harm, violence, exploitation, stress, suffering to self and others (ahimsa) as well s the alleviation of harm, violence, trauma, disease, or suffering in "self" and others. This way one communes with the evolutionary energy, the life energy, and bodymind healing process itself through disengaging from injury to all beings in general. This brings one's activities into All Our Relations where all beings are one family. We are all on the same route to Akshar Dham. Yoga practice is designed to open that living book where all are relatives and kin. Vasudev Kutumbhkam --the Universe is One Family. These yamas put an end to activities which cause suffering and forms the foundational base where backsliding in yoga is prevented.
2. Niyama: beneficial acts to perform such as self study (swadhyaya), tapas (the generation of spiritual fire), communion with the purity of mind, body, and actions (inner, outer, and subtle) called saucha, santosha (the practice of removing strife, cultivating contentment and residing in bliss), and isvara pranidhana (the practice of learning how to surrender to our non-dual, trans-conceptual, transpersonal highest evolutionary potential). These niyamas bring forth success in yoga (happiness).
3. Asana is the art and process of moving into a synergistic union of the bodymind. It is a joyful, stable, tensionless, balanced, and uplifting physical and mental attitude). In Raj Yoga schools, asana refers to the specific qualities of an effective seated meditation position as well as the alignment of our energy body and mind.In Hatha yoga asana practice includes dristhi (gazes), physical movements, bandhas (energy valves or gates), conscious breathing, bhakti (devotion), and surrender (sahaj) in opening up the nadis (psychic energy channels), moving the prana. waking up the nervous system and brain, and expanding one's consciousness as a mutually synergistic practice.
4. Pranayama is the discipline of extending the prana (energy) throughout the body-mind in order to activate the latent creative spiritual potential (the innate evolutionary power) through learning the subtle interconnections between the breath, energy, and awareness through "breathing/energy techniques" . This helps bring us into deeper conscious communion with the subtle factors and the subtle body eventually leading us to more continually deepen our connection to the core (heart) energy in progressive stages where it eventually spontaneously expresses itself without interruption.
5. Pratyhara: withdrawing the suck of the outward-going energy involved with duality (sense attachments and object relations) which result in the dissipations or "suck" of dualism rooted in external appearances (externalization). through pratyhara we learn how to draw back and focus our energy (cit-prana) away from (I-IT) dualistic grasping based on separation and false identification. Then we learn how to move, reclaim, and recycle our natural unperverted reclaimed essential energy and attention (the recovered cit-prana) inward to energize the spontaneous core (heart) expression -- the infinite non-dual universal unconditioned and natural wisdom which is contained in the Heart of all, blooms. The senses are then under the direction of our innate non-dual higher consciousness and then through pratyhara, dharana is then made effective.
6. Concentration (dharana): focusing the mind and energy on one object (either physical or mental) - one pointedness of mind). Visual concentration is called tratak, when one focuses on a physical object and also called contemplation when one focuses on a mental theme. There exist inner dharanas as well as external. Visualization techniques. mudras, as well as manta and yantra practices are generally classified under dharana which compose the major aspects of laya yoga.
7. Meditation (dhyana): the practice of diving into transcendental knowledge, which is deeper than the intellect, discursive thinking process, or conceptual processes (vikalpa) which is imposed upon the view as dualistic thought (ego conditioning). In meditation one learns how to disengage from dualistic thinking patterns while at the same time creating space for the attunement with the more subtle underlying non-dual intelligent transconceptional innate pure awareness that permeates all of nature. For most the process of meditation is the process of letting go of old habitual thought patterns as they arise. That creates a profound spaciousness of mind for increasingly longer periods while glimpsing the innate light preparing the ground for the intrinsic natural clear light of beginningless source to spontaneously co-arise when all effort and tension are simultaneously released. When that occurs (usually in steps and in degrees) through consistent practice without attachment, then various forms of samadhi (integration) dawn and are integrated. If that doesn't make sense to the intellect, it is not supposed to.
8. Samadhi: the entering into (completely without obstruction) THAT non-dual intelligent self effulgent timeless Source found in the beauty and stillness when the citta (mindstream) is stilled (nirodha) and when meditation (as the process of letting go of the vrtti) ends -- where through this transpersonal non-dual integrative vision of the boundless mind, all and everything is perceived as Self luminous -- as being filled with countless Buddhas -- a unitive transpersonal experience where eternal spirit and nature, consciousness and being, pure subjectivity and ultimate objectivity, siva/shakti all unite on every level and dimension to form a dynamic intimate holotropic inherent whole, known as Self or not-self, or not not-self as the case may be incalculable interconnectedness. The common experience in samadhi is temporary at first (satori). With practice one learns how to integrate and abide in it by increasingly becoming aware when the mind is becomes seduced by dualistic thought tendencies and thus being able to let go of dualistic behavior.
Although some raj yoga schools practice meditation exclusively, other so called raj yoga schools emphasize meditation, but will combine and integrate hatha yoga asanas, pranayama, karma yoga, jnana yoga and other practices thus incorporating them. Some schools even say that hatha yoga's purpose is only to help the accomplishment of Raj Yoga aiding one to have the requisite strength, health, and energy to be successful in meditation. However that is a misconception because authentic Hatha Yoga schools incorporate meditation (raj yoga) as an essential practice within Hatha yoga. Whether hatha yoga is part of raj yoga, or whether raj yoga is included in hatha yoga, thus becomes a meaningless debate of fools, their practices are both beneficial whatever name you give it. For example, in hatha yoga, asana practice is much more than mere physical exercises designed to promote fitness or remediate aging or disease, rather asana practice is designed to activate the dormant circuits and higher evolutionary potential (kundalini), remediate obscurations (kleshas), remove obstructions and latent tendencies (vasana), and reverse karma, and generally to bring forth the innate authentic "Self".
Most Westerners are familiar with Bhakti Yoga through the well known and so
called "Hari Krishna" cult whose devotees sing devotional songs mostly
dedicated to Krishna. Bhaktis can be devoted to other forms of God or Goddesses
(God has many names all of which are inadequate). Bhaktis worship not only in
song, but in ritual offerings, music, poetry, prayer, dance, art, offerings,
worship. or even service. It is an effective practice to become free of the
intellect and limited beliefs and experience Divine Love. In this sense it helps
balance the jnani. It must be made clear that true Bhakti is not just singing.
Just singing or making some offerings or prayers and then not integrating this
love and devotion in our daily life is not authentic bhakti yoga. Bhakti yoga
has finds its unique advantage and power to allow the divinely intoxicated practitioner
to cut across the prison of ego very directly.
True devotion for God in some schools can be interpreted also as devotion, surrender, or dedication to truth, for clarity, or liberation from the bondage of ignorance or illusion. Thus bhakti or devotion can be interpreted as possessing steadfast dedication or surrender to one's path or practice; resolve, infatuation, or the love of truth or God. This is our spiritual practice (or sadhana in Sanskrit) and we should never make a show of this nor be concerned how others view our spiritual practice less we fall into vanity which is opposed to spirit. In true worship, devotion or love for truth, then the ego is left far behind. In this sense all our actions if done with this love is bhakti and it should permeate all our daily activities and as such it is the very affirmation of our True Self here in the present as the manifestation/embodiment of eternal love.
Bhakti is thus a path all by itself, but it also can aid other yogas such as jnana, karma, hatha, raj, etc. In one sense, hatha yoga practice can be viewed as a devotional practice -an act of dedication, communion, and love -- when we remain focused in our practice on increasing our communion with shakti (the intelligent energy within all of creation).
The classic authoritative text in Hindu
philosophy is the Bhakti Sutras of Narada. It also is found widely in the
Bhagavad Gita. Some examples of Bhakti yoga practitioners are Rumi, Kabir,
Chaitanya, Mira Bai, Jnaneshwari, Valmiki, but really most religions have
some sort of practices which evoke this divine love or motive force (bhakti).
In Buddhist yoga tantras worship of various deities are first visualized and propitiated as a distinct separate forms setting the stage. Then the practitioner eventually can enter into the formulation (or the form enters into the practitioner) surrendering one's egoic mental/physical identifications while entertaining a multidimensional reality which includes psychic channels (nadis), chakras, and neurophysiology. Essentially the two (formation and completion stages) are formed into a union or wholly communion, as long as the symbols of the formulations approximate the reality which the symbols point to. These deities are seen as cosmic personifications or archetypes of transformative aspects and/or manifestations of the universal great integrity (or void). Often accompanied with the visualizations are mantras, prayers, visualizations, mudras, and other dharanas.
For one who is a kundalini or hatha yogin, worship is 24 hours a day on mother kundalini or parashakti (see kundalini yoga below) and so it is with any true spiritual seeker who devoted to liberation, truth, and consciousness -- they all are driven by true bhakti (devotion). When devotion or bhakti is directed to a non-dual objective as in transconceptual wisdom, it is one with wisdom. In the Yoga Sutras, Isvara pranidhana can be translated as surrender to the highest transpersonal universal true nature of self.
Classical Bhakti yoga can stagnate in ceremonial or ritual worship that maintains or even amplifies the false notion that one is separated from Divinity; while its main purpose should be to bring one into direct contact, to commune, to unify, to realize one's innate divinity, to recognize the practitioner's highest potential transpersonal non-dual implicate imperishable eternal nature, to be breathed, moved by, and dance with Brahman (as in authentic Brahmacharya), being the hands, feet, and Song of God.
The word, karma means action, while the laws of karma state the laws of cause and effect, i.e., that for each result there exists a cause, for each action there exists a result. These results can create suffering or they can alleviate suffering, or they can be neutral (neither be the cause of suffering nor of liberation). The yogi investigates this relationship in order to become free of past negative karma and bondage (realizing mukti or liberation). Thus the acknowledgment of karma creates the grounds to free oneself from destiny -- to create one's own destiny. One does not have to know all the whys, hows, and details for each cause or result, but rather it is sufficient to understand how to move in the general direction of freedom and how to stop creating more negative karma.
A karma yogin takes opportunity in all his/her actions to find or commune with God, truth, or the Source of Love. Karma yoga is a way to let go of attachments, selfishness, expectations, bias, anger, and hatred and to allow for grace to descend on the situation i.e., "Let Thy will be done". As such karma yoga offers a powerful path that can cut through the bonds of ego, instantaneously. This selfless service does not mean that we necessarily serve other's mundane needs or desires, but rather surrender only to Divine Will and Love. So there can be many dysfunctional and even counter-productive misunderstandings about karma yoga.
Some work on their karma in order to be reborn in a favorable future life. This is selfishness and further strife driven by desire, not genuine karma yoga. Others who desire to become desireless, may join organizations, church groups, ashrams, volunteer in hospitals, the Red Cross, do Seva (service for altruistic organizations), sweep the streets, or serve others in the hope of losing their ties with selfishness, desire, or attachment, but such simple activities often fail because of method, i.e., it is not that simple just to serve others, but rather the trick is to serve divine will -- to be its instrument -- to merge wills, motive, and desire as divine love.
Thus the a karma yogin as a waiter in a restaurant wants not only to make the customer happy but to bring more love, healing, and spirituality into his/her activity. He/she is a conveyer not only of physical happiness, but of consciousness which leads to liberation, which leads to true happiness. In this transpersonal way everyone wins, bathing in the Divine Energy to a heightened degree. As part of his/her work making the customer happy may bring the waiter waitress more greatly aligned with transpersonal non-dual truth, so this may be beneficial for both, but there exists other factors such as what if the customer desires to eat an animal, drink alcohol, smoke a cigarette, or other unhealthy or destructive desires, would it be good karma to serve in such a capacity? Likewise even if we are doing "good" work, what is our attitude, i.e., is it without attachment or is it in total surrender to divine love and guidance? In other words, the karma yogi is not just goal oriented to achieve some future reward such as heaven by accumulating a storehouse of merit, but rather the karma yogi is communing so that they remain oriented in the eternal present continuously acting as the arms and legs of Infinite Love. For this to manifest the karma yogin has to surrender self (ego) and one's small desires in order to commune with Loving Presence -- in order to become complete, whole, fulfilled, and joyful! Thus karma yoga becomes a daily way of approaching all actions in the context of the living Continuum -- in All Our Relations-- a wise spiritual discipline based on non-attachment and surrender.
The Karma yogin is engaged in creating, communing, deepening, and bathing in the acts of Love in action. Then through this communion receiving beneficial results becomes a secondary reward, thus bringing about even a greater ecstatic communion and embodiment of Love in action in general. After practice one begins to naturally become an extension of this love in action-- in embodiment. Thus through selfless service, we can lose false identifications with limitation, trivial pursuits, greed, selfishness, neuroses, and ignorance and surrender to the true novelty and rewarding grace of the eternal moment. Selfless service and Service to the Big Self or Love Principle of the universe become embodied in the very same action. The more I let go of my attachments and fears and solidify my desire to act as a transpersonal instrument of love, the more love, grace, and spontaneous wisdom can descend into my life -- the more I am centered in my core energy (the Heart).. To care for others, to have compassion, and to serve others is a natural manifestation of transpersonal love; our true state (swarupa). It can be the result of a divine realization and/or it can be a cause to help us accelerate more quickly into solidifying this self realization. For many through the practice of karma yoga, many apparently "immovable" mountains have become moved.
In the above Karma Yoga is not very different from Bhakti Yoga. It is also wise (jnana yoga) action. As we will see it is also a contemplative focusing (dharana) as an invitation to being filled with divine Grace and being moved by she). It is also meditation (dhyana) as a communion with the param purusha -- an opening up to that transpersonal non-dual Reality, and as such, it is similar to raj yoga.
Cons: Karma yoga like the other yogas, can be perverted to simple mechanical service (seva) to others as a goal oriented activity where the end (good) is thought to justify the means. That attitude can cause great bad karma and abuse. and is not effective karma yoga. Karma yoga could be mechanically performed as duty, dharma, or for other future selfish motives (with the selfish thought here I am doing good, I am paying my dues, I am sacrificing now, then ergo I will be rewarded in the future). Rather karma yoga should be performed as doing God's work. one should ask how God would do this if she would have arms, legs, and a voice and then let god do it through you as best you know how -- as best you can permit. Karma yoga should never justify a lack of compassion, loving kindness, or lack of God consciousness, but rather authentic karma yoga activates such and more. Sure at the beginning we can perform karma yoga as an invitation for God to come down and move us in her mysterious but intelligent way, but later we should experience divine shakti in All Our Relations
The famous book on Karma Yoga in the Hindu tradition is the "Bhagavadgita". Some outstanding examples of karma yoga would be the service to humanity by such famous saints as Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Saint Francis of Assisi,and so forth. In most cases however it is the everyday heroic acts of acts of loving kindness and compassion which are performed by selfless and secret operatives of divine love -- as its expression where choiceless and authentic karma yoga manifests. Many people practice karma yoga without effort; i.e., they are naturally motivated by love and selfless transpersonal wisdom and express that spontaneously in All Our Relations. THAT is who they are. As such karma, bhakti, jnana, and kundalini yoga coincide as one.
Laya yoga consists of practices where concentration and visualization on body/mind energetics are used to achieve spiritual transformation. Often categorized as being a sub-part of Laya yoga is mantra yoga (or sometimes called nada yoga), the yoga of concentrating on short Sanskrit phrases and their sound vibration and meaning. Also Sabda or Nada yoga, can be practiced by listening for or to the cosmic or divine sound vibration, and thus this too can be classified as a subset of laya yoga. This is taught in Hindu and especially the Sikh tradition. As an elaboration sacred music can be considered a subsection of laya yoga.
Vidya or Yantra Yoga can also be considered as a branch of Laya Yoga and concentrates upon utilizing visual symbols, pictorial representations, templates, mystic diagrams (yantras and mandalas) and/or visualizations like the Chakras in order to go deeper than the intellect or ordinary mind, limitations of duality can penetrate. This way we can access the underlying Source of Intelligence by breaking down the intellectually limited cortical barriers of the conditioned/constructed mental patternings and then merging as one with the transpersonal non-dual ecstatic unified state which the mystic diagram or template represents. Some yogis say that the human body taken as various vortices of energy systems is a yantra itself, while the task of yantra yoga is to align up that energy body (yantra) with the universal yantra (the emanating vortices from beginningless Source).
Laya yoga techniques are utilized in tantric practices, hatha yoga, kundalini yoga, and sahaj yoga. Laya yoga utilizes dharana (concentration) and as such laya yoga practices can be classified as to the specific combination of dharana practices that are utilized. In fact there is a close connection between asana, bandha, mudra, pranayama, pratyhara, and dharana in laya yoga. As such what is called prana vidya as well as all classical mudra practice is included within laya yoga. Dharana practice can also be called vidya (way of seeing) thus we have Sri Vidya, Prana Vidya, and the like. Thus chakra meditation, hatha yoga mudra practices (utilizing a combination of bandha, asana, pranayama, pratyhara, and visualization) or any visualization technique (inner or outer), or sound technique are dharanas which belong to the general category of laya yoga. Laya yoga itself is often classified as an aspect of tantra yoga.
Cons: Laya yoga can become addictive in the sense that one becomes preoccupied with the practice and its sometimes elaborate details and techniques rather than realizing its fruition or completion. Thus one should avoid getting lost in the process or identifying with it in terms of progress, pridefulness or achievement whose destruction is its ultimate spiritual design.
As mentioned above, some schools have attempted to "own" or co opt hatha yoga for their own purposes (such as raj yoga), but classical hatha yoga stands as a complete system on its own. Hatha yoga in the west is greatly misunderstood as being merely a system of physical exercises or a fitness system. It is much more than that. For example asanas are designed to remove energy blockages (restrictions of the flow of prana), emotional hindrances (kleshas), dysfunctional tendencies (vasana), negative feedback loops, old programming, and past karmic propensities. When these obstructions are removed, then the evolutionary co-creative energy is freed up to do its natural work -- we come into our natural "Self" or previously inhibited "Buddha Nature".
My own personal practice has focused
on medieval Hatha yoga which incorporates Tantra, Kundalini, Kriya, and Sahaj
Yoga as well as many of the above yogas. Other schools of yoga will try to incorporate
some of the Hatha Yoga techniques in subservience to their main practice. Most
orthodox schools do not understand that classical Hatha Yoga is a complete practice
by itself which incorporates meditation and laya yoga practices as well as asana.
pranayama, kriya, bandha, and mudra. Thus hatha yoga is not merely physical
exercise, acrobatics, or a performance sport, but rather a very refined life
affirming and nature affirming spiritual discipline.
HA means Sun, undifferentiated consciousness, unmanifest reality (the void), Siva, spirit, male, the right side of the body, the Pingala psychic nerve, the right nostril, the left brain, the sympathetic nervous system, father, and so forth. THA means the Moon, all of the differentiated consciousness (diversity), the entire universe (manifest creation), Shakti, nature, female, the left side of the body, the Ida psychic nerve, the left nostril, the right brain, the para-sympathetic nervous system, mother, and so forth. The purpose of Hatha Yoga is to balance, harmonize, and unite the HA and THA energetics in the central psychic nerve or column (the Sushumna) and thus go beyond duality, beyond, ego, beyond separateness into our natural non-alienated unconditioned state. Here we are truly centered in our core energy and innate non-dual nature. This is done in the human body, in the present, and while on the planet.
In order to do so Hatha Yoga one utilizes certain main procedures which include asanas but are not exclusive to asana.
KRIYAS: Purification of the body and the psychic nerves such as nadis shuddhi, neti, basti, agni sara dhauti, etc.
ASANAS: Postures which purify the body, the psychic nerves,break up samskaras and psychic armoring, harmonize the mind, and activate dormant neuro-endocrine circuits such as headstand (sirsasana), shoulderstand (sarvangasana), chakrasana, etc.
BANDHAS: The conscious use of various energy valves at various locations in the psychic nervous system. For example mulabandha, uddiyana bandha, jalandhara bandha.
PRANAYAMA: The guiding, irrigation, replenishing, and activation of body/mind energy through energy awareness mostly utilizing breathing exercises at first. Swara yoga (see link at bottom of page) could be considered a subset of pranayama or vice versa.
MUDRAS: The common person thinks of mudras as being hand gestures that coalesce, articulate, guide, and express specific body/mind energetics, but in hatha and tantra yoga mudras are the combination of asana, bandha, pranayama, with visualization in order to move the energy into the central column or chakra system), for example Khechari mudra, mahamudra, prana mudra, etc. Sometimes its practice (such as in tantra) involves more than one person.
PRATYAHARA: The practice of moving the attention and energy away from external objects or internal (thought) objects in dualistic terms (withdrawing that attention), and then moving the attention and energy inside for inner spiritual work, eventually utilizing it for either visualization or to jump start non-dual meditation. Pratyhara is associated with the bandhas and tapas.
VISUALIZATION: Visualization is an internal
variation of concentration (dharana). See the above discussion on laya yoga
for some visualizations. Chakra visualizations are often done in hatha yoga.
MEDITATION (the creation of time and space in which to still the mental chatter, go beyond conceptual thought, get in touch with and then merge into the the greater inherent innate wisdom energy available in all of creation, and then identify with the unborn source of creation itself as one great unitary whole of manifest body, mind, spirit, nature, creation/creator instead of identifying only as a separate alienated ego). Within traditional hatha yoga schools meditation is included as part of hatha yoga. For more on Hatha Yoga see the links at the bottom of this page.
Cons: Goal orientation.
Perfectionism fixated on the asanas as an end in itself rather than as a means to bring the practitioner to the eternal present -- to their true natural self, to sacred presence.
Mechanicalness, rigidity, lack of spontaneity, inhibition, fear, self adversity, forcefulness, self abuse, or injury.
Vanity or pride as in "look mom, no hands", or "I" did that, or bettering oneself at the expense of others, or competing with others due to a lack of self worth or low self esteem, seeking self enhancement beauty, or narcissism.
Kundalini is a vast but important subject.
Advanced hatha yoga is based on its awakening. All the preliminary hatha yoga practices open up the energy channels, purify those nadis, the mind and the heart. They strengthen and energize the dormant creative potential (energy circuits) this allows our natural creative potential to manifest. Thus such is not anything contrived or forced,
but rather simply our normally dormant evolutionary potential that is ordinarily
suppressed or dissipated. It is represented as a coiled snake (potential energy
as in a coil) at the earth chakra, but when this center is activated, the kundalini
moves into the subhuman (central column) and is then known in its awakened state
as the goddess kundalini. Then the yogin is complete and abides in a non-dual
state of divine union and bliss. Hatha yoga ensures that the yogin is prepared
for the kundalini awakening so no distortions, diseases, or imbalances of the
energy is created, but rather the pathways are cleared out and strengthened.
After the preparatory work is accomplished then the kundalini can be gradually
activated by hatha yoga mudras, asanas, bandeaus, pranayama, and special chakra
visualizations combined with breathing to connect the left and right psychic
nerves (ida and pingala) with the central psychic channel (sushumna) to guide
kundalini up the chakra system.
Some people associate and confuse kundalini with sexuality and thus fear or condemn it. Although it is true that hatha yoga affirms and acknowledges our animal nature without repressing it, earthly existence and creation is placed in synergistic alignment with spirit/creator -- all the avenues are linked and connected. in one Integrity. Thus in Hatha and Kundalini practice the sexual organs and glands are activated as well as the other glands, nerves, organs, and tissues. If our sexuality has been repressed through old dysfunctional patterns and mechanisms of strangulation of the life energy to the sexual organs, then we may start to experience renewed sexual sensations. But this energy is simply natural and healthy, not merely sexual. i.e., if we allow the energy to pass through the chakra freely, it won't get stuck there and desire discharge or dissipation. The accomplished hatha yogi is thus a complete person, grounded, and free all at the same time. If we do not learn how to deal with this energy efficiently, spiritually, and in a healthy manner then we may fear, stop, or condemn the practice as sexual, which it is not. The essential core practice in both hatha and kundalini yoga is conscious balancing and harmonization, that utilizes the psychic nerves (nadis). Here the female (ida) nadi and the male (pingala) nadis are synchronized as a profound unified completion in the central (sushumna (nadis). Male and female expand and complete each other and when they are united, then there is no need for externalization -- no polar or dualistic energy motivation. Thus male and female sexual expression is only because of an internal imbalance/bias, or polarity which is based on a false male/female limited identification. We are not just a female, or male, an Indian, Hindu, Moslem, or human, rather we are, taken as a whole, the Great integrity should we open up to our true evolutionary potential. A truly and functional wholistic approach to Hatha and Kundalini teaches us how to deal effectively and wholesomely with our energy, body, minds, and true nature.
Cons: Kundalini being the mother energy is also the healing and nurturing intelligence manifesting in the body. however when our old habits (vasana), mindsets (vrttis), afflictive emotional tendencies (kleshas) and karma are grasped unto rigidly, then a war between the kundalini and the ego (false identification with a separate self) can occur creating tension, disease, and other distortions of the energy field. We can look at all disease as a blockage of the kundalini (what is called in some circles as a spiritual emergence syndrome). The kundalini wants to express itself and it has become fired up, but the old mental habits based on ego false identification then resist this change and evolution. The result is an inner tension/conflict or stress that can manifest as disease on a physical level. In such cases one is given two extreme alternatives. One is to give yoga and numb out and dissipate the energy.
The true yogi however does the opposite. they surrender the ego, the dysfunctional old bad habits, and afflictive emotions gladly upon the pyre of eternal love by ramping up their practice. If the diet is cleansing, asana, kriya, bandha, pranayama, and meditation practice strong then the nadis will be cleared out and the kundalini will ascend to sahasrara thus there will be obstruction/blockages and SES will not be a problem. See all diseases as blocked kundalini and one will be well. Synchronize the give koshas and chakras within with the great yantra within and without and live inside that great non-dual hologram which is both all pervasive and beyond phenomenal existence -- here and forever.
Tantra is often misunderstood in the West of late mostly because of the increasing panderers of sex to the growing number of neurotic, estranged, repressed, alienated, confused, inhibited, and unhappy people who are deprived of a deeper, lasting, and fulfilling relationship with the Self or Nature (Nature Deficit Disorders). They are seeking pleasure, bliss, or release, missing the point that liberation and consciousness will give that and more. The problem is that Western versions of tantra thus are lacking in the clear spiritual coherence, integrity, and clarity which is foundational in the East. Thus it is most often unable to provide liberation or fulfillment.
In the East, Tantra Yoga is a non-dual spiritual discipline that leads to liberation from the pairs of opposites, duality, suffering, confusion, ignorance, limitation, or illusion. It investigates natural phenomena and energy and then traces it back to its source. Here there is reunion and conjoining of the fragmented individualized self with the Supreme Self by recognizing that all energy and matter itself is permeated with intelligence and consciousness.
Tantra could be analyzed as the investigation of the interaction between the two polar opposites in which all of manifest creation operates symbolized in gendered existence which provides the framework in which tantra can bring us to liberation from separateness itself. When these two poles finally merge and consciousness rests in the state of pure equanimity and balance, a state of total quiescence, absolute liberation, and deep empowerment is realized. Tantra is basically non-dual assuming that Nirvana is found in samsara, samsara in nirvana -- Heaven and Nature interact as a dynamic unity -- sky and earth -- emptiness and form, absolute and relative, beginningless creator and ever changing creation, shiva/shakti, yab and yum; i.e., that there is no inherent separation (there is nothing that is not Brahman -- no thing independently self existing apart from the whole).
In tantra one can see the obvious links with kundalini yoga's chakra system, where the earth chakra represents embodiment, form, relative and differentiated reality, while the crown chakra represents the formless, timeless, and undifferentiated absolute. It is through tantra yoga that this union is realized on a practical basis (through tantric practices which occur on many levels and dimensions simultaneously). Because the tantric world differs widely from the three dimensional assumptions inherent in dualistic thought patterns which impute solidity to what is temporary and changing, the teachings are often given slowly and gradually over time when the student has become adequately prepared.
Sexual tantra (only one of many tantras) is obviously a prime and powerful tool for this spiritual practice of working consciously to integrate polar voltages and resolve duality. However in the West, many so called tantric teachings are mostly ways of glorifying or spiritualizing sexuality unless it is oriented within a pre-existing spiritual context and focuses upon spiritual re-integration. In the East tantra is predominately and fundamentally a spiritual discipline aimed at liberation and self empowerment utilizing everyday situations (rooted in the integrity of All Our Relations) as opportunities to practice. Gendered polarity (or sexual duality) is one powerful possible modality out of many; while in the West, lacking context, tantra is viewed primarily as an enhancement to sexual/sensual enjoyment or pleasure. Given the Western estranged context, tantra may create further bondage and dissatisfaction/suffering unless practitioners take bliss into the path as view, that is, unless they approach tantra not as simply another means of self gratification of the habitually estranged ego delusion, but rather as liberation from such a delusion/self deceit.
Advanced tantric practices can be viewed as a part of medieval Hindu Hatha Yoga or also as a part of Buddhist Tantra Yoga where it attempts to activate the kundalini in the central column (sushumna) thus bringing us to our natural unconditioned state beyond duality and separateness. Today there are well known Buddhist Tantric teachings in the West and some lesser known authentic Hindu and Taoist Tantric Teaching.
"Since this doctrine is a deep secret, I am not delineating it clearly. He who is interested may read the treatises. The body itself is the supreme wheel, the eminent, beneficial linga, the chosen place of the divinized energies and the realm of the highest worship (puja). It is indeed the chief mandala composed of the triple trident, the lotuses, the centers, and the etheric void (kha).
There, all the divinized energies are ceaselessly worshipped, both externally and internally. Then in full awareness of the mantra let them through a process of emission and resorption be put in contact with the blissful manifold sap issuing from the main wheel of energies.
Through this contact, the wheel of consciousness suddenly awakens and he who has sovereignty over it reaches the supreme domain where all his bodily energies become satiated...Let him satisfy them externally by means of substances apt to unfold his heart and internally through appropriate awakenings.
O vision of immortal and supreme ambrosia, resplendent with conscious light streaming from the absolute Reality, be my refuge. Through it art thou worshipped by those who know the mystical arcanum (rahasya).
Having purified the root support (the coiled up kundalini) sprinkled with the savor of the wonder-struck Self-consciousness, and by offering the spiritual flowers of my own essence exhaling an innate scent, I worship Thee night and day: God united to the Goddess in the divine sanctuary of my heart overflowing with ambrosial bliss."
from the verses 169-177 "Tantraloka" of Abhinavgupta, translated in "Kundalini: Energy of the Depths", Lilian Silburn, NY:SUNY, 1988.
Tantra, by its very definition. is the expedient wise and compassionate interaction (upaya) with the weave and changing tapestry of the relative world. This is symbolized in tantra by the vajra (male) and the bell (female) or wisdom and compassion. For a yogi their union occurs in the central channel and on many dimensions simultaneously throughout a limitless mosaic of light and love.
A basic tenet in tantra is to see each opportunity as an aspect of the whole -- as an opportunity to see the Big Self, tracing this and that back to Source. Thus every "situation", every experience is in tantra a spiritual practice. With practice a stabilization and continuity of mindstream is realized usually over a period of years. At the end of tantra we no longer attempt to transform our experiences into unity consciousness - or use it to obtain this connection, but rather this Continuum naturally self reveals itself when we are centered in this harmonious non-dual and transpersonal place. Then there is no further need for tantra (as a means for transformation) because there is nothing left to transform. Our experience is now instantly non-dual, complete, and whole.
Accordingly, tantra doesn't need to be difficult to adapt. For example if the weather is not conducive to go to work due to specific reasons of the elements and Gaiasphere, then one simply adapts to the situation making the best of it. A problem might arise if we didn't recognize (or if we ignored the weather's warning signs altogether) or tried to work against it, when knowledge informs us otherwise (like going outside during a hurricane for example). Instead of the external environment controlling the yogi, the yogi uses conditions as causes for further investigation by consciously recognizing and then transforming biopsychic energy patterns of the bodymind at every juncture through being present and aware. This is not to say that the tantric is a control freak. Rather it is consciousness that frees us from circumstances and thus liberates us from unconscious meandering in the prison of samsara. Consciousness gives us ability and control, and once that awakening occurs, then the desire for control disappears. So one should desire awareness at each and every juncture.
Certainly some tantric practitioners or shamans might try a mantra or ceremony to change the weather perhaps because of selfish desire, but they may be creating causes for future negative results if they lack pure vision. There occurs a common trap to tantric practitioners who become caught up in chronically trying to transform "things", even to the point of selfish advantage. That is what is called black tantra. Again this is the control freak who has lost his/her way. In truth, this is not really in their own self interest as it prevents them from reaching wisdom and hence liberation. That is because by controlling things from within their present world view, they fixate that mental world view or state which creates stasis. The stasis prevents any further opening. Tantric practices must eventually honor and lead to transconceptual tantric practices unless the practitioner becomes their own prison warden.
Likewise sexual tantric practices are often categorized as red tantra, but for a tantric who is transforming dualistic tendencies through integration, they can recognize the transformation of dualistic tendencies to be epitomized by the grand ultimate yin/yang or tai chi symbol as the integration of male and female (yab/yum) forces. Here male/female do not only pertain to human males and females but are symbols of all dualistic forces. Authentic tantra recognizes the human situation, the mind and body, sun and moon, primordial wisdom and evolutionary power, as well as beginningless source and the entire cosmos as transformational stages that point toward non-dual harmony -- a state of transpersonal and transconceptual natural integration and liberation. As such it is an effective spiritual practice as long as the intention is spiritual liberation (as long as it does not create negative karma).
Here again the technique and practice must not be fixated upon, but rather the final goal or result kept in mind as the view acting as the guide on the path. Tantric practices are designed to dissolve the illusory matrix which veils consciousness, and reclaim our essential energy and awareness bringing us back to sacred participation with profound integral non-dual presence. Once mastered, then techniques (such as mantra, yantra, etc., are less than useless). The old saying says to leave the boat at the shore once the ocean has been traversed. Thus tantra as such is not meant for physical or temporal dominance or control, but rather spiritual realization -- the end of transformation or doingness in resting within the scope of a great and profound non-dual all encompassing completion.
Similarly, see the pros and cons for kundalini above since successful tantra involves the awakening of the kundalini.
Like any discipline if one is overly attached in one's engagement in any disparate activity (non-integrative activity) so that the energy and awareness (cit-prana) is not drawn back (pratyhara), spread out, balanced, and integrated, the dangers of a schizoid and delusional personality disorder is only enhanced. Common in the West are personality disorders of hypocritical, conflicted, dissociated personality, paranoia, nihilistic and sociopathic disorders which are symptoms of a fragmented mindset. This is always a matter of self deceit (delusion) or the role playing of conscious deceit (forked tonguedness). Here the energy and consciousness has become severely dissipated where the practitioner needs to renounce their samsaric propensities by recognizing their situation. If there are difficulties, thus one ramps up their practices of the yams, niyams, asana, bandha, mudra, dristhi, pranayama, pratyhara, dharana. tapas, and meditation (dhyana) which are core practices that help re-establish vigor and strength thus preventing further dissipation, separation, disparity, conflict, and dissolution into fragmentary consciousness. In short our demonic world is iatrogenic (self created). Those elements that are chronically ignored or dismissed in our waking lives haunt the ego in their twilight consciousness. Those unresolved conflicts are then projected upon the outer world as real things (reified), hence the hungry ghosts, hell realms, heavens, demons, wars, and strife are all the result of our disfigured mental constructs.
In medieval India, Sahajaya Yoga thrived as a part of the Siddha Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Kundalini, and Tantric Yoga eclectic complex of the time. Sahaj means natural and spontaneous. According to Sahaj yoga ultimate liberation was simply our natural unconditioned state and all that was necessary was to surrender to this inherent omnipresent true nature. Implicit in this system is the activation of the kundalini (innate but dormant higher potential). So in Sahaj and Siddha yoga schools the mudras, bandhas, pranayama, and asanas can occur naturally as an expression of kundalini kriya where one is undergoing purification and integration. Here the activity (kriya) is not undertaken as an act of will power, but it occurs as a result of shakti leading/teaching -- as a result of a natural process.
In these eclectic schools of medieval Indian yoga there was less emphasis placed on the teacher, and more emphasis on the innate wisdom energy inherent in all of creation (the inner teacher or sadguru). Well known modern Siddha and Sahaj Yoga teachers are Swami Muktananda, Swami Kripaluananda, Yogeshwar Muni, and Rajarshi Muni. The Sahaj Yogi surrenders to the inner truth and follows the inner wisdom which is is encouraged to manifest spontaneously (the Shakti or more specifically the Kundalini Shakti). Likewise the Tibetan Buddhist tradition originated from the same Medieval eclectic Indian Maha Siddhas. From there came the Six Yogas of Naropa, the Yantra yoga of Humkara, the Mahamudra teachings, and the Dzogchen teachings. The six yogas of Naropa are based on the generation of Tummo heat (which is another name for kundalini) and include asana, pranayama, and visualization practices. Likewise there exist intricate asana, pranayama, and visualization practices in Ati Yoga of which the Natural Perfection school (Dzogchen) of Tibetan Buddhism is associated. This also stemmed from India as early as the 8th century. These schools also assume that Buddha nature is innate and natural, while sadhana is necessary only to clear out the conditioned occlusions and impairments. Eventually though we find that we must give up the practice in order to realize the omnipresent fruit just as once the river is crossed one gives up the boat rather than trying to tug it along with them. sahaj and Siddha yoga can be the fastest and most powerful path, but it may be the most difficult.
Cons: Having formed an impure relationship with an impure teacher who does not place the student into direct contact when the time is right or who exploits the student through selfish motives. The danger that the student is not ready to run with or receive the energy, or that the energy is blocked by old habits, attachments, or life styles which the student is not willing or capable of relinquishing.
"I became united with the middle (sahaj way)
Where the thunderbolt and lotus flower met.
Here their union (of apana and prana) at the navel chakra has turned ordinary passion into the Candali (Kundalini) fire.
The body of the Dombi girl (purified avadhuti) burns as the passion of great bliss. Taking the path of the moon (Bodhicitta), I sprinkle water on that fire so that neither scorching flame nor smoke is seen; but reaching the peak of Mt. Meru (the sushumna), the flame bliss enters the sky (the chakra of Great Bliss). Orthodox religious practices and the dominion of doctrine and intellect has been entirely melted down. Dhamapa says clearly: 'Having understood simultaneously arisen bliss through the five channels, water rose up (Bodhicitta) from the lotus of great bliss to the jeweled pinnacle'."
|Muladhara||Base of the spine||Lam||apana vayu||Sthula||Annamaya||smell||
|Swadisthana||Below Navel||Vam||vyana vayu||Sthula||Annamaya||taste||
|Manipura||Above Navel||Ram||samana vayu||Sukshma||Pranamaya||seeing||
|Vishuddha||Throat||Ham||udana vayu||Sukshma||Vijnanamaya||hearing speech||
Regarding the above chart, one may eventually become aware of the more subtle energies that surround and operate in our life. The various bodies (called sharira in Sanskrit) are associated with the five koshas (sheaths). The coarse physical body (sthula sharira) is of the lowest vibration and most dense. The subtle body (the sukshma sharira) which is often called the astral or energy body is associated with the pranamaya, manomaya, and vijnanamaya koshas depending on its state of purification and transformation, while the causal body (the karana sharira) is associated with the anandamaya kosha which is beyond suffering and bondage. See The Timeless Body of Infinite Light and it's Finite Manifestations for more.
An especially important and commonly ignored chakra is the lalana, located just
above the ajna and below the sahasrara and is associated with the lunar nectar
issuing through tonguing the uvula above the palate (khechari). Also the talu
chakra which is located just above the neck at the back brain near the occiput.
Both of these are associated with AUM.
Many other chakras can be identified throughout the body as well as above and below it, but perhaps the most important center is the Hridayam chakra. Although Hri means heart, it is not to be confused with the anahat chakra, but rather with the heart of hearts which can only be realized through the complete entry into transpersonal absolute existence. Thus it is necessary to reach the sahasrara first through sushumna, and then enter the hridaya chakra (which is the innermost eternal core center -- the axis mundi -- the tree at the center of the world -- the eternal stillness, peace, and emptiness which does move, but from where all things are on fire. From the Hridayam all of creation flows like a river.
Jnana Yoga is often called the Yoga of Wisdom or the Yoga of Knowledge. It is the method that is most commonly taught in the study of authoritative scriptural texts which does not differ widely from the ordinary processes of inquiry found in Western philosophy, albeit the philosophical assumptions and prejudices may be different. Some times jnani yogis are called "book yogis". Many are often degreed pandits or shastries who often focus upon memorizing and analyzing words, concepts and especially rules of Sanskrit grammar which they use in their search for what they consider imbedded spiritual knowledge (knowledge is another translation of the word, jnana, in their system), since they believe that knowledge stems from the sacred books (Vedas) and the sacred language (Sanskrit which is now written in Devanagari script). "Devanagari" literally means the script of the Gods. Their assumption is that external knowledge will lead to inner wisdom or what they call jnana. The problem most often arises is that in any authoritative belief system (pramana) the jnani often can not discern what has been memorized and learned (programmed) from that which is real and true. Belief thus becomes mixed up with what-is-as-it-is or rather the view or map becomes confused with the territory where one is unable to discern between the perception (and how that perception may be obscured or distorted), and on the other hand reality. This is a similar limitation commonly found in most religions, ideology, and especially fundamentalist orthodoxy belief or faith based systems.
Commonly, most externalized and over objectified "jnanis" teach that the Vedas contain the secret of life and the universe and that Sanskrit is the language of the gods. Thus understanding Sanskrit and the Vedas is the source of their knowledge and for them is the exclusive path to true knowledge, which then supplants authentic inner wisdom (prajna). They believe that by studying these old texts and teachings, realization will dawn. This classical approach to knowledge is still prevalent in orthodox or classical Hinduism, Buddhism, and religionism in general despite attempts by reformers to uproot it. In these systems "knowledge" is generally considered outside/external, hence for them the spiritual journey involves consuming such knowledge from authorities, teachers, gurus, sacred texts, sanctioned rituals, and the correct performance of prayers or ceremonies.
However the seed of Universal truth cannot be the property of, nor owned by, any one geographical place, nation, race, religion. sect, or language, and still be considered universal. Such claims are arrogant, of course. Most raj yogis and hatha yogis understand that because they have aligned with the inner universal timeless truth (microcosm/macrocosm), so they have not bought into the suggestion that truth or reality can be found in sacred books or a religion, but rather it is found inside, through practices which lead to direct experience (through praxis). They (such as Patanjali) advocate instead meditation and other practices such as ashtanga yoga as a direct path leading to direct knowledge, self realization, self knowledge, and liberation. Of course there are other types of yogis who exclusively do bhakti, laya, tantra, or karma yoga as well as some schools which incorporate jnana (scriptural study and the study of Sanskrit language as well) with the other yogas. This speaks to the rich diversity of the yoga traditions.
The four Vedas (the Rig Veda being the oldest) form the religious base of traditional Hinduism (being mostly concerned with ritual, ceremony, incantation, and poetry) are accepted as authoritative by orthodox Hindus. The Upanishads which came later (although attached to the Vedas), take the form of religious philosophy. Some (like the Yoga Upanishads) are as recent as 1000 years ago or less. The Yoga Upanishads are the closest to experiential texts, however its authority is associated with the great sages of the past. Interestingly, some researchers object, that the Yoga Upanishads was an attempt to co-opt (expropriate) yoga which originated from non-vedic ancient Sources, into the authority and control of orthodox Brahmanism. Indeed the primary exponent of Yoga (Siva) is not found in the oldest Veda (the Rg Veda). Whether or not the Yoga Upanishads was an attempt to woo yogis and munis into orthodox Hinduism or not is beyond the present subject matter, however the possibility that yoga is an indigenous independent Indian development pre-dating the introduction of the Vedas into India, certainly has merit.
Classical Jnana Yogis focus their study mainly upon Sanskrit grammar so that they can analyze the most ancient Vedas and Sanskrit texts which are considered most authoritative. Special attention is given to the energetic sounds of Sanskrit as Sanskrit is a phonetic language. However since this science follows many detailed and ancient Sanskrit rules, such a study is extremely left brain (intellectually and technically) oriented (or from the point of view of the mountain yogis, biased). Their teachings often include long discussions of philosophical minutia, detail, and highly technical grammatical analysis. Thus that kind of practice can be characterized as a system dependent upon external knowledge "about" things which leads to radical objectivism and authoritarianism. Thus too often adherents of one bent try to impress each other "how much" they know or how well they can conform to external dictates, tasks assigned by the guru, moral dictums, or scriptural injunctions and principles. Thus the accumulation of such knowledge risks the the danger of feeding the group and/or individual ego and hence pride (an affliction according to yoga). Such diversions if reinforced as an exclusive discipline delays the authentic inner spiritual progress which is based on experience and at best keeps the practitioner slightly out of trouble, unless dogmatism, arrogance, and prejudice actually generate more kleshas (afflictions) and closed mindedness than if the study theory (pramana) and its technical applications had not been engaged in the first place.
Another danger is that such philosophical conditioning too often feeds stubborn dogmatism and ideology which more often than not feeds, the intellect and occludes the innate effulgent spiritual presence which resides at the fountainhead of all intelligence. For some jnanis, the latter is not authentic jnana yoga, but unfortunately such book knowledge, memorization, and its regurgitation is what commonly passes for jnana (knowledge). As mentioned the danger of that aberration of jnana yoga is that it can easily feed prideful mechanisms of the ego (rather than defeat it) and pattern one's thought process in habits that are difficult to break, providing a false sense of security an identity. Like any other type of radical fundamentalism it feeds group pride, nationalism, cultism, sectarianism, racism, chauvinism, ideology, dogmatism, bigotry, prejudice, arrogance, aloofness, sexism, xenophobia, and in extreme cases holy crusades, jihad, war, and genocide.
Instead of getting caught up in such a common trap, some teachers simply utilized scripture as a supplemental support, backup material, or home work, for their own authentic realizations or a platform to teach "truth". But the trap of falling into dogma and ideology is all too tragic. Modern teachers and teachings (for example from the Vashista Ramayana, Vedanta, Shankaracharya, Vivekananda, Ramana Maharshi, and many others) may lead the student in an authentic inner self inquiry challenging past assumptions and disclosing the truth. They say that authentic jnana yoga is not the study of words or concepts in the Vedas or Upanishads (scriptures), but rather the study of concepts and beliefs we carry around in the head which must be recognized as such and then abandoned. Such is true swadhyaya as taught by Patanjali as well. One identifies, notices, and marks them and then releases and deletes them, like a computer's mouse marking and deleting, thus creating open space for open awareness to appear. That type of jnana forms the process of authentic swadhyaya (self study) as studying one's own instrument of perception and awareness (the true nature of one's own mind), where the processes of false identification and dysfunctional mental habits are acknowledged and abandoned. Artifice, mental fabrication, and conceptual thought constructs are identified and eliminated. Hence one may say that authentic Jnana Yoga utilizes words and thought to destroy the words and thoughts (the latter create the bars that imprisons man's mind holding the citta-vrtti in place). So even within one school of yoga there may be very different branches, just like within asana practice there are so many different approaches. Here diversity is welcome and adds richness. Such does not have to be confusing. One abandons one thing, but in that process a non-dual light and wider perspective dawns as a result.
The abstraction into words and concepts (which are merely symbolic representations for reality as it is) is to be avoided at all costs. It becomes too commonly the static over-objectified mental sterile prison wherein most people are trapped. This type of apparent miscalculation of the mind which is seeking order externally has to be turned back into itself through authentic jnana yoga. Unfortunately most religions are based on books, ideology, words, concepts and external authoritarian doctrine and thus the mind never gets turned back to its source. This type of incessant external study looking for truth god or self in books is rampant in religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the like but such external study should not be confused with authentic yoga practice which remains experiential.
Authentic jnana yoga is the attempt to educate the cognitive faculties from the ground of our own authentic experience so that the mental concepts do not preclude or inhibit what we experience, but rather that our cognitive faculties listen, relate, and organize around the reality of subjective experience wherein ultimately pure subjectivity and pure objectivity mutually can combine as satchitananda -- so that this educated mind (from experience as-it-is allows for fruition -- so that it enhances spiritual presence and brings it out in all its fullness. In that sense when the "belief system" is in harmony with what-is -- with the Reality of our own experience. Then there is a mutual synergy between left and right brain and spirit is enhanced in All Our Relations. Here pure subjectivity/receptivity merges with pure objectivity/consciousness to form non-dual infinite mind. Here, Sat (experience or being is merged with Cit (consciousness) in Satchidananda. In most situations however it is far better to surrender all belief systems and ideologies (offer it up on the altar of our own direct experiences) eventually recognizing the innate self existing effulgent wisdom within -- rtam bhara tatra prajna-- Patanjali's Sadhana Pada, Sutra 48). Ultimately all conceptual formulations, beliefs, or speculations about "reality" or "self" are dropped as clouds disappear in the clear sky. Here direct knowledge alone remains victorious and continuous.
In a functional yoga practice, often, but not always, jnani yogins practice some other forms of yoga such as Raj, Hatha, Karma, and/or Bhakti yoga alongside Jnana yoga. In the view of the mountain yogi, jnana yoga offers a mental method to defeat the tendencies of the mind (uses the mind to defeat the mind) and go deeper to the Source -- beyond mere human mental limitations all the way to the truth beyond language, the authenticity beyond words, beyond anthropocentric bias, and into pure consciousness, absolute being. and absolute bliss (Sat-Cit-Ananda). Thus, we must be reminded that in authentic jnana yoga the goal is never to mistake the accumulation of knowledge or facts with authentic spiritual realization. Here the real answers are thus not to be found within books, but within oneself in life. One realizes the dysfunction of counterproductive thought patterns, and these dysfunctional thought patterns and limited beliefs are surrendered to the intrinsic Divine presence.
Historically speaking, the predominantly intellectual approach that is commonly called jnana yoga, is most often associated with certain schools of "Vedanta" who for the most part consider the identification with the body, nature, and life itself to be the cause of suffering (maya) which they discern as separate from Brahman (True Self) such as found in the Brahma Sutras. This corresponds to Samkhya philosophy as well. Their philosophy has thus become based on this dualistic assumption, then they spend most of their time and effort trying to overcome such. An even more extreme example of this extractive tendency is represented by many pandits and shastries which use the study of grammar as a key to understand written scripture which they assign with external spiritual authority, often exclusively so. We all have met such people who claim exclusive but supreme knowledge through their own exclusive system. Thus for them their spiritual practice is is crowned through their study of Sanskrit and ancient texts (which they believe are written by the gods) so they go over such with a fine tooth comb.
This is not very different from any other fundamentalist religious group. But despite the extremism that is represented by some of these types of intellectual, conceptual, academic, and scholastic approaches to yoga we must be mindful that yoga is all about balance, harmony, and union. Eventually one must recognize and meet their inner teacher. The common pitfall here is that the intellect too often colors, limits and dictates our experiences, rather the other way around, where our spiritual non-dual direct experience informs the intellect and belief system.
So in order not to throw the baby out with the bath water and condemn across the board intellectual abilities (or the left brain approach) altogether, but rather it is encouraged that a mutually synergistic balance is established (between left and right) wherein knowledge is gathered from our direct experience without artificial formulations or contrived assignations which too remove spirit from beingness or presence, thus both functions (left brain/right brain augment each other. Rather than attempt to conform our experience to an artificial prejudicial imposition, the task is to allow the mind be remain open and present -- in the state of natural awareness -- in awareness of the process of awareness and its sacred source embracing eternal spirit right here in the present as our own true self -- as a manifestation of that universal and eternal love. To the extent that "thought", words, or silence can aid in creating this experience testifies to the expedient application of any system of truly authentic (spiritual) jnana yoga. Here the "view" is already formed -- innate, natural, and all encompassing.
When the Jnani yogi is able to place his/her cosmological framework in harmonious conjunction with natural law and creation, then the resultant fruit produced between the synchronicity of subjective and objective unity of yoga can be known. True Jnana yoga occurs when the study of history, anthropology, biology, geology,psychology, philosophy, social, political systems, nature, the process of consciousness, and the study of Self all combined matches one's subjective experience. Jnana yoga occurs when one turns the intellectual abilities of discernment (viveka) back into one's own process of consciousness, so that consciousness discloses the Source of consciousness (in vivekajam jnanam see III-52-54 Yoga Sutras) -- so that one rests in the Source of the intelligence that animates human intelligence and thus it is said that the individual mind is used to destroy the individual mind and reveal the Universal Mind. Here the yogis practice educates their consciousness, rather than having prejudice limit, dictate, or impose upon our experience.
A major counter-productive pitfall where the jnana yogin becomes inauthentic, deluded, and imprisoned occurs when facts, ideology, dogma, and belief systems become acquired and expropriated -- where the so called jnana yogin reads "authoritative" scripture based on a tradition (pramana); dresses in doctrine presented by external authorities such as priests, gurus, or pandits (agamah); or the logical process itself (anumana) at the detriment of the innate transpersonal and authentic natural wisdom (inner wisdom). Thus authentic jnana yoga leading to true wisdom must avoid the greater danger of amplifying inauthenticity and conformity (parroting), the process of becoming attached or imprisoned to external standards, or even increasing his pride in a spiritual materialism or greed acquiring more "knowledge", facility or ability to argue, defend, memorize, parrot, or conform to what has been previously written or expected. In the modern age, where most people are already suffering from the over-dominance of extractive objectifying thought processes, inauthentic philosophical paradigms, a lack of authenticity and creativity, and a plague of externally sterile and dysfunctional doctrines, such a path may only reinforce one's own predilections, bias, and imbalances unless great care is taken.
In today's nature phobic, spiritually alienated, and "insecure" society, the average man is already unbalanced being left brain (intellectually) dominant so in order to achieve synergy and synchronicity it may be suggested that Jnana yoga should be approached with this reservation so as to not increase any further imbalance. Consciousness is necessary for liberation but it must be places in harmony with our experience. Infinite Mind must be activated within and then bloom forth as our eyes become unclouded (avidya is destroyed).
Jnana Yoga Summary (An Opinion from the Yoga Perspective Rather from the Analytical or Scholarly Perspective)
Pros: In the pro side, jnana yoga and Vedanta engage the mind and its aberrant ways of thinking, having the potential to disclose and hence remove its errors of thought. This was historically done on a one to one basis in caves or hermitages between teacher and student. In that context the student would ask the teacher a question, or a teacher (rarer) would ask the student a question) and an enlightened dialogue would ensue.hese dialogues would continue from time to time, while the student was given objects for contemplation, koans, riddles, mantras, yantras, or other practices. Eventually all past confused thinking patterns were revealed and surrendered thereby leaving the student with an opened mind. Swadhyaya discloses the error of mind, revealing the false identification or confused assumptions, while allowing conceptually derived clouds to disappear revealing the clear light true nature of one's own mind.
Cons: As time passed, one to one student/disciple contact was sacrificed by group question and answer formats. Then teachers prescribed holy books, scripture, or other authoritative mechanical study in lieu of genuine self inquiry (swadhyaya). There one becomes rewarded for obedience, memorization, and conformity, rather than for a sharpened and critical mental apparatus. Then blind belief and ideology can then supplant reality and even reason. Students started to become parrots jumping through correct hoops with “right’ answers rather than genuinely waking up. Then to make matters worse, people replaced one on ones and even group lectures or discourses (sometimes pre-written) for reading books and/or , listening to discourses on recordings which prevented direct teacher/student transmission. Thus the teachings degenerated to mere intellectual and philosophical memorization and conformity to ideas (will power and intellect) which defines the ego mot unity consciousness.
In many ways today what is labeled as Vedanta is or jnana yoga is not yoga in the sense of joining mind/body and spirit as one integrated expression of living love, rather often its opposite, having become a method of disengaging/isolating the source of consciousness from embodiment – from identification in the very life. Hence it risks the danger of enhancing dualistic misconceptions -- the opposite of yoga as integration.
Unlike tantra, kundalini, or hatha yoga, which assumes infinite Source through the passion of bringing it down to earth and embodying love, jnana too often attempts to withdraw. Isolate, and deny spirit from nature, or intelligent awareness from nature, and love from life. This withdrawal from life is the opposite of a vital yoga which honors it.
The way of the jnani or vedantist ideologue is often one of detachment, withdrawal, negation, isolation, and complete dis-identification (psychosis) while the path for the tantric is engagement. One thus asks if dissociation and negation enough to reach enlightenment or is the lesson in understanding the non-dual Self while in the body? Certainly non-attachment to dualistic mental habits, fragmented objects of the senses, and materialistic three dimensional thinking has to be implemented. Space/room has to be created there in order for the light to shine through. Going back to Source and having Source come forward into the evolutionary future is part of one divine pulsation (Spanda). Such requires an integrated creation story which includes the body and life, not negates it.
So hence certain modern schools Jnana Yoga and Vedanta are very similar -- in some situations they are interchangeable names. Some of the scriptural texts associated with Jnana yoga are the Upanishads, the Vashista Ramayana (Yoga Vashista), the works of Shankaracharya, the works of Jnaneshwar (Jnanadeva), the Brahma Sutras, Samkhya philosophy, technical interpretations of the Vedas, the rich corpus of Buddhist philosophical texts, and other philosophical treatises such as found in the agamas and some tantras. For more see this commentary on Swadhyaya and Jnana Yoga from the commentary on Pada II, "The Yoga Sutras"
The yogic diet is basically aimed at purification, non-agitation, non-irritation, easy digestion, easy assimilation, easy elimination and natural activation. It is also based on non-harmfulness or non-violence.
Firstly yoga stresses purity or sattvic situations and conditions. This is especially relevant in regard to the nourishment that we assimilate. In yoga this environment for consciousness and life (the body( and thus our food affects not only our body and health, but also in the wholistic framework of yoga the qualities of our brain, nervous system, endocrines, our mental clarity, our consciousness, functionality, energy, consciousness, and karma. Food, air and water thus should not burden the body/mind or karmic relationships, but rather augment its natural harmonious evolution. We need fresh and pure air, pure water, and pure food in its natural state as much as possible. It would also be good that the environment is free from noise, anger, envy, fear, hatred, greed, stupidity, meanness, stress, conflict, and neurosis, as well. This is good for everyone.
The general principle then is increase the influx of fresh and pure influences which mean fresh and pure food. At the same time one eliminates the influx of irritants, toxins, and poisons. Any thing which irritates, over-stimulates, burdens, pollutes, corrupts, or leads us away from our spiritual practice is identified and eventually gladly surrendered. Here we learn ahimsa to self -- we learn to honor shakti within. Then we also can honor it in others -- in all our relationships.
Once we get to value, honor, and love this relationship with shakti -- once it becomes established at the center of our feeling of well being, such a relationship no longer takes effort, but rather it gives us energy and strength naturally. Unfortunately, too many people eat for self gratification or fulfillment (eating as an end in itself). This is a neurotic compensatory habit (to feel satiated and fulfilled because of a lack or spiritual absence. That type of dysfunctional habit puts us to sleep. It is a form if intoxication which creates a burden, fatigue, sleepiness, and tranquilizing effect as it dulls our body/mind and as such it creates more problems which will lead us even more astray from the indigenous Source of all prana and life.
Thus food in authentic yoga practice is seen as part of our spiritual practice (sadhana) -- as a source of nourishment and as an augmentation of this Source, rather than a social or psychological gratification nor a neurotic compensation for Source. It is eaten in a environment of reverence, thankfulness, gratitude, and communion. Some yogis get their source of nourishment and energy (prana) first hand, while most others depend on secondary sources such as manifested, representational, or material food. Balancing and regulating our energy (prana) consciously during daily conscious activities naturally creates less desire for coarse sources of nourishment or the need to fill the belly. This is because the heart is full.
Until this natural inner wisdom, intuition, and healthy instinct is connected and integrated we may benefit from certain principles of yogic diet. Firstly, we must realize that food and climate must be individualized according to constitution or temperament, so we should avoid conformity to any external standard, but always depend on inner wisdom as much as possible. So in that light, here are also general useful guidelines. Food should be taken as medicine and sources of intelligent energy in a sacred manner in order to help us reach our highest evolutionary or creative potential. We know "good" food by how our energy interacts with it. What are the best foods? In yoga the best foods are usually the most natural foods in their fresh natural state i.e., not denatured, refined, chemicalized, polluted, altered, adulterated, or artificially burdened.
Thus truly natural foods do not need even cooking. They are not even dried, stored, frozen or old, but rather fresh. Best they are not even grown by humans. What can they be? Fruit, nuts, and seeds are the most natural. They grow and fall from the trees without violence and when eaten fresh they contain their own enzymes, fiber, vitamins, and minerals necessary to their digestion, assimilation, and elimination. Natural leaves, roots, stems, barks, and flowers can also serve as natural food sources. For those coming from a junk food or polluted background a diet of fruit and/or nuts may provoke too rapid and uncomfortable symptoms of purification, so one may want to first start eliminating junk foods (refined and polluted) and then adding gradually more fresh and uncooked foods.
Here is a descending order of sattvic (pure) yogic foods: fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouts, green leafy vegetables, fresh vegetables, cooked vegetables, grains, legumes, and dairy. In yoga we avoid meat, fish, poultry, mushrooms, garlic, onions, overly spiced foods, woody foods, irritants, stimulants, drugs, polluted foods, and difficult to digest foods which are considered to be detriments to health, our natural energetics, mental clarity, and spiritual development. Most important we must start where we are at and honor our own unique constitutions and dynamic body/mind/spirit/nature inter-actions as we all have unique constitutions and these constitutions themselves change with seasons, environment, and over time.
In general whole, uncooked, and organic foods are recommended because they have all their nutrients and enzymes intact, i.e., they have not been extracted, refined, or modified and they are also without additional chemical additives such as pesticides, artificial colorings, emulsifiers, preservatives, waxes, and the like which may not only be a burden to the body to eliminate but also may cause internal damage -- many are toxic. Many people who eat refined and inorganic foods never are satisfied. Their body thinks that something is missing, so they over eat until they are stuffed. Locally grown fresh and organic whole foods on the other hand usually provide more satisfaction at a fraction of the quantity eaten. Some people's constitution however can not digest certain raw foods easily. Then digestibility also must be a factor in choosing suitable food. One again has to know one's own self -- one's prana and body/mind energy system as external rules or diet for one person may not work for another .
For some, nuts and seeds are very concentrated foods and should be eaten sparingly in order to avoid digestive difficulties. Again everyone is different. Food combinations can also be important. For many fruit combine well with yogurt, but not for others causing gas or irritation. For those with sensitive digestion fruit usually should be eaten alone and not combined with grains, nuts, or vegetables. For example, those with an overly acidic condition should avoid dried grains and legumes which are acid producing (millet, buckwheat, and amaranth may be the exception not being true grains). Some find that digestion is aided by eating only one starch at a meal. Others may find that they are allergic to certain foods. In yoga NOTHING REPLACES THE FREEDOM OF KNOWING OUR "SELF", KNOWING FOR OUR SELF, KNOWING THE TRUE NATURE OF THE EVOLUTIONARY ENERGY RUNNING THROUGH OUR VEINS, and KNOWING THE TRUE NATURE OF OUR OWN MIND. As we eat, we should know that we are communing with Self, because the body as something separate from millions of years of co-creation is an abstraction and illusion. As such we touch Source and infinite Love as we bring nature's foods to our lips and joyfully commune with it.
It is not only valuable to eat clean and wholesome (not-denatured) foods, but also how we eat and how much we eat can greatly effect its outcome. Eating slowly, masticating fully, in a mindful, happy, friendly, grateful, unhurried, and stress free environment is beneficial. Here we are encouraged to chew our liquids (that is to mix it with our saliva and energy before swallowing) and to drink our solids (to chew it so finely while mixing it with our saliva and prana that it is a liquid before we swallow it). Also if we eat too much, the digestion may become upset, the body and nervous system over burdened, and the mind dull and sleepy. If we leave room for spiritual nourishment, there will be more spirit available -- we are not fooled that material food is anything other than potential energy -- a means of transferring sustenance. So to keep ourselves centered, aware, and our energy flowing (feeling good in the body) eating with energetic awareness in order to enhance and balance our energy is healthy which usually also means that if the belly is less than full, we will usually feel much more satisfied and well.
In yoga periodic fasting in warm weather is often recommended in order to become better acclimated, accustomed, orientated, or attuned to the source of energy (prana) and nourishment, as a method of increasing awareness and sensitivity to one's own prana balance, and as an aid in purifying both physically and mentally. Hatha yoga kriyas (or cleansing activities) are also very helpful for those who are attempting purification and are coming from a toxic past. Some schools of yoga recommend fasting one day every week, while other schools recommend no fasting avoiding all extremes in order to maximize the yogic energy.
The authentic yogic diet is free from extremes and thus should not produce stress, conflict, or tension. It exists as a gift not as a contest, penance, or end in itself, but as an aid to spiritual growth, self enlightenment, and healing. As a practice eating should is nourishing to the combination/unity of body, mind, and spirit. So it is never wise to be harsh, stressful or abusive, but rather to integrate what we eat with how we eat and its results being mindful of the intelligent co-evolutionary Source of the food -- the miracle and love process that sustains and created it and us. When we come back into harmony with mother earth, with our natural condition, honoring our body, accessing our natural intuition, and our heart, then we will know authoritatively (with confidence) what food is best (if any). Yoga is a gradual integrative way of bringing peace, love, healing, happiness, fulfillment, and consciousness into our daily life in order that we may reach our highest creative potential on the planet and within that context then "what" we take in as nourishment can play a very important role.
"At the top of the body, above the head,
there is the lotus with a thousand petals,
shining like the light of heaven:
it is the giver of liberation.
Its secret name is Kailasa,
the mountain where Siva dwells.
He who knows this secret place
is freed from samsara."
from the "Shiva-Samhita", I.196, Trsl. by J. Varenne, "Yoga in the Hindu Tradition", Univ. of Chicago Press, 1976.
Back to Top
To articles specific to Hatha Yoga
Longer article just on Hatha Yoga
The Timeless Body of Infinite Light and it's Finite Manifestations
The Variety of Yoga Teachings and Teachers: How to Contact Your Inner Teacher (a large document)
Hatha Yoga Asana Practice: An Energy Body Approach
The Energy Body, the Five Koshas, and Three Kayas
The Stages of Life: Birth, Youth, Old Age, Sickness and Death
Chakra and Energy Healing
A Chakra Purification Meditation
Swara Yoga:Utilizing the Energy Valves at the Nares (swaras) as a Liberation technique
Yoga is not a Religion
Patanjali Yoga Sutratranslation
Hatha Yoga Purification Practices