Yoga: Significance in Indian Philosophy

~ Sahitya Penumetcha ’10

Although many people in the western world now associate yoga with exercise its initial conception in India had a much broader context and was significant to Indian philosophy. The word yoga, derived from the Sanskrit yug, has various meanings including “to control”, “to yoke”, and “to unite”. Yoga, in ancient times, was as a lifestyle of physical and mental discipline practiced by gurus in order to achieve moksa, the liberation from the cycle of reincarnation and suffering and transcendence of worldly existence.There are many different types of yoga including Raja Yoga, Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Hatha Yoga.  The concept of yoga began more than 3,000 years ago and is mentioned in many ancient Hindu texts like the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita, the Mahabharatha, and the Shiva Samhita. Patanjali, a sage who lived around second century BCE, is thought to be the founder of yoga philosophy. He developed a characteristic of Raja yoga known as the “eight-limbed yoga” which outlines a lifestyle including abstentions from violence, lying, greed, possessiveness and sensuality, and observance of purity, contentment, study and surrender to god. Raja Yoga also incorporates the ideas of concentration and meditation to control the senses and cease mental activity. Other branches of yoga include Karma Yoga-the yoga of action, Bhakti Yoga-the yoga of devotion, and Jnana Yoga- the yoga of knowledge. Hakti Yoga, a fifth branch of yoga, is dedicated to the purification of the body which then leads to the purification of the mind. It focuses on the asanas or postures that have become popular today.

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