Table of Content IntroductionPatanjali’s Yogasutra : Walking The Path Of YogaAshtanga Or Eight Limbs Of Yoga In YogasutraYogeshwara ShivaShivananda- The Ultimate Bliss Of YogaShiva Samhita- Learning Yoga From AdiyogiYoga In HinduismAdi Shakti In YogaLord Krishna As YogeshvaraVishnu As Lord Dhanavantari And AyurvedaConclusion
Table of Content
Patanjali’s Yogasutra : Walking The Path Of Yoga
Ashtanga Or Eight Limbs Of Yoga In Yogasutra
Shivananda- The Ultimate Bliss Of Yoga
Shiva Samhita- Learning Yoga From Adiyogi
Yoga In Hinduism
Adi Shakti In Yoga
Lord Krishna As Yogeshvara
Vishnu As Lord Dhanavantari And Ayurveda
According to a Hindu
legend, Adi Shesha, the serpent on whose coils Lord Vishnu rested, learned from
Sri Vishnu about the grandeur and powers of Shiva and wished to gain Shiva’s
benevolence and his knowledge. With the blessings of Vishnu, Adi Shesha
descended on the earth, still in his serpent form, and fell in the Anjali
(hands held together like a cup) of a Yogini (female ascetic) named Gonika.
Shesha called the Tapasvini his mother and transformed
his upper half into a human body while retaining his serpent tail. In this
earthly form, Adi Shesha came to be known as Patanjali-
“he who fell or Pata in Anjali”. Patanjali went on to perform penance
and gain Yogeshwara (Lord of Yoga) Shiva’s kindness, as a result of which he
formulated the “Yogasutra”- the cornerstone of the theory and practice of Yoga.
In modern thought,
Yoga is seen as an Indian way of life based around postures (Aasanas) and
breathing exercises (Pranayama) which help one in maintaining a healthy
lifestyle. This image, however, is in no way a true and complete definition of
the place of Yoga in Hinduism.
Yoga Darshana in the
traditional Hindu system is a part of the “Shada-Darshana” or Six Ways of
Seeing (Darshana or Philosophy). The term “Yoga” has Vedic
geneses and originated from the root “yuj” which means to unite or join (with
the Param Brahman). Through “Viyoga” or separation from worldly pleasures and
pains can a person unite with the primordial being.
5" Bronze Maharshi Patanjali - Avatara of Sheshnag
of Yoga is rooted in the Samkhya or Sankhya Darshana which treats gyana or
knowledge as the path to Moksha. In Sankhya, Purusha (soul) and Prakriti
(nature) are the two realities. There is no third or Ishvara in Sankhya.
Maharishi Patanjali developed this knowledge-centric theory of Sankhya further
by including Ishvara or God as the supreme reality, above Purusha and Prakriti,
which is why Yoga is also called “Sankhya with Ishvara”. While Sankhya places
logical inquiry above all, Yoga can be practiced with Sadhana or spiritual
endeavors aimed at a pre-decided goal- Parama-Brahmana.
The Yoga Sutra is a
collection of 195 sutras or formulas. A sutra in Hinduism is an essential
principle that condenses a vast amount of knowledge in short written
formulations. The Yoga Sutra is divided into four Pada or chapters which are-
1. Samadhi Pada
2. Sadhana Pada
3. Vibhuti Pada
4. Kaivalya Pada
The core of Yoga Sutra
is the description of Purusha- the souls which are Chidarupa or form of
consciousness, Prakriti which manifests as Purusha’s nature- intellect, mind,
ego, and Ishvara. Ishvara or the Supreme Being also known as “Purushaishvara”
is omniscient, free, and unharmed by the elements of Prakriti. The Jeeva or
soul remains in the human world unaware of its true nature which leads to
sufferings in life and death. For the lost souls, the path of Yoga-Sadhana is
key to Kaivalya, or liberation from the sorrows of human existence. Through
“Chiitavritthi Nirodha” or control over the changes of mind, the soul begins
walking the path of yoga.
Chitta or human mind
according to Yoga is a dwelling place of ignorance and ego that arise from the
ill-informed actions of an individual. The Chitta remains kshipta (impulsive),
mudha (sluggish), and vikshipta (preoccupied) in the first three states of its
existence. With the knowledge of Yoga and its practice, these states shift to
ekagra (focused) and Niruddha (self-conscious). In the last state, the soul
rises toward Moksha or liberation.
Yama (control), Niyama
(rules), Aasana (postures), Pranayama (breathing exercise), Pratyahara (state
of withdrawal), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation), and Samadhi
(total absorption) are the eight components in the practice of Yoga.
1. Yama is practiced
by speaking the truth, observing non-injury to living beings, continence, and
not stealing others’ wealth.
2. Niyama includes
self-cleanliness, contentment with one’s conditions, and austerity in action,
reading the Holy Scriptures of Hinduism, chanting mantras, and devotion to the
3. Aasana is
essentially the posture in which one can remain relaxed.
4. Pranayama is a
breathing exercise performed to have control over the vital airs of the human
5. Pratyahara is the
conscious action of removing one’s sense organs from the sense objects around
6. Dharana is the act
of putting our minds to the object of focus.
7. Dhyana is the
deepening of Dharana, to a point that the object remains constantly in the
8. When Dhyana becomes
a state of existence, and the human being grows unaware of everything including
one’s Self, and only has Ishvara in his mind, this state is Samadhi. One who
reaches this state becomes “Mukta” or free.
These eight steps are
to be followed by a person who seeks to gain supreme knowledge through Yoga
Darshana. The freeing of the soul from the ocean of existence or Bhava-Sagara
is the sole aim of Yoga.
The object of Dharana,
Dhyana, and Samadhi in Yoga is Ishvara, the ultimate divine reality. This
definition of Yoga is reiterated in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita, where Sri Krishna
as Yogeshvara imparts the knowledge of various kinds of Yoga to Arjuna. Karma
Yoga (attaining divine through action), Gyana Yoga (thorough knowledge), and Bhakti
Yoga (through devotion) are the variations, all of which lead to the ultimate
truth, Bhakti being the supreme form of Yoga. Single-minded devotion to God in
action and thought is the path to Parama-Brahmana- an infinite divine being,
one who is Adi (the first) and Ananta (endless). And who better to embody the
powers of Parama-Brahmana than Bhagwan Shiva, the Lord of Patanjali, Yoga, and
Rudra of Veda, Purusha,
and Purushishvara of Yogasutra, Parama-Brahmana of Vedanta and Upanishad,
Maheshwara of Puranas, and Nataraja of Bhakti poetry- Lord Shiva in Hinduism is
a matchless god, with a perplexing persona for an outsider. He is Mahakala- the
divine destroyer on the eve of Pralaya (annihilation), but he is also Shiva,
the auspicious one for his devotees. In the Shaiva Upanishads, he is described
as Pashupati- the Lord of Pashu or soul, who regulates them. A shloka from
Upanishads describes the distinction between Pashu and Pashupati as-
Jivah Pashamukta Sadashivah”- “One who is in Paasha or bondage is Jeeva or
soul, and who is Mukta is Sadashiva.”
From the earliest
periods of Indian history, Shiva is associated with Yoga as its supreme teacher
and Lord of Yogic wisdom. In the seals of Harappa, the Yogi or ascetic
surrounded by animals is thus identified as Pashupati Shiva by many scholars.
Dakshinamurti, one of the most powerful forms of Shiva is his aspect as the
great yogi, whose divine gyana of Yoga, music, dance, and philosophy is
absorbed by the sages who surround him in this form. He is endearingly called
Adi-yogi or the first practitioner of Yoga and Maheshvara or the great Ishvara.
His most potent aniconic symbol is “Om”, the Brahma-Nada or cosmic sound
vibration from which the entire universe originated. Om in Yogic practices is
the simplest and most effective chant used by Yogis, repeating, meditating, and
focusing on which brings the Chitta closer to the essence of Ishvara. We are
already aware of the boons of Shiva which allowed Patanjali to pen down
Yogasutras. The instances of Shiva’s mighty presence in Yoga, and consequently
of Yoga’s inseparability from Hinduism are unending.
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Patanjali charts out
several Yogasiddhis or special powers attained by a person who follows the path
of Yoga. None of these are however comparable to “Shivananda” or the supreme
bliss, which comes from an unwavering union with Maheshvara. The Kundalini
Shakti (visualized in the form of a serpent at the base of the human upper body)
lies in a dormant state in the body. Once a person starts practicing the eight
steps prescribed in Yoga, they experience Kundalini Shakti moving in an upward
direction, crossing Eight-Chakras or stations in the body. These stations are
linked to various human characteristics such as hunger, passion, sensations,
thoughts, etc., which are controlled by a Yogi through the Sadhanas. The last
station in the journey of Kundalini is the Sahasrara or the crown chakra. To
reach this stage, among other things, a Yogi is advised to chant “Om”, the
symbol of Adi Yogi Shiva.
Devotion or Bhakti
Yoga is also integral to the practice of Yoga and experiencing Shivananda.
Shaiva Siddhanta and texts describe “Panchachara” as the five ways to reach
Shiva-tattva (the essence of Shiva). These ares-
1. Lingachara, or the
worship of Shiva Linga
2. Sadachara or
devotion to Shiva
3. Shivachara or the
different modes of ritual worship offered to Shiva
4. Ganachara or the
devotion of Shiva-ganas and its methods
5. Bhrityachara or
serving the Shiva Linga
As a part of
Bhrityachara, the Yogi is recommended to offer their body to their Guru or
teacher, Chitta or mind to Shiva, wealth to Maheshvara, and in return put forth
the sole wish of Kaivalya. The Shiva Linga becomes vital in Bhrityachara or the
Yogic worship of Shiva, in which the Yogi must mediate upon the Linga by seeing
it as a union of Bindu (Goddess)
and Nada (Shiva). This fusion of Shiva and Shakti, Kundalini and Param
Brahmana, Purusha, and Prakriti is at the heart of Yoga, whose principles are
codified in a great Hindu text called the “Shiva Samhita”.
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The Shiva Samhita is
attributed to Bhagawan Shiva himself, who narrated the percepts of
Yoga-Darshana to goddess Parvati, which are recorded in this text. It includes
comprehensive discussions on the nature of Param-Hansa (the enlightened Jeeva)
according to Hindu thought, various stages of Yoga, postures, mudras (hand
gestures), types of Yogas, etc. The Samhita differentiates between different
kinds of Sadhakas- those who perform Yogic sadhanas and groups them into four
1. The first group
contains people who can practice mantra chanting in their Sadhanas.
2. In the second group
are people who are allowed to follow Layayoga, the practice of meditating on
individual chakras to evoke Kundalini energy.
3. The third category
is of Sadhakas who are skilled in Hatha-yoga which includes physical exercises and
postures for Yogic sadhana.
4. In the fourth group
are the most devoted Sadhakas of all. These Yogis can practice all three
methods of Yoga.
In Hindu philosophy, Shiva
and Parvati are the manifestations of Purusha and Prakriti, the
primordial male and female aspects, whose extensions are the soul and supreme
divine being. Shiva’s dialogues with Parvati are thus, on a deeper level,
symbolic of the Parama-Brahmana’s interactions with the aatman, leading to its
Shiva as we can see is
the primary and most potent deity for the followers of Yoga. His Panchakshara
mantra (Om Namah Shivaya) for many Yogis is the secret to Kaivalya or Moksha.
Besides Shiva, Yoga, and its practices are included in all the major sects of
Hinduism, where the tutelary deity or Ishta becomes synonymous with the supreme
Ishvara of Yoga.
The supreme goddess or
Adi Shakti in Hinduism is the feminine, active energy of all the gods including
Shiva. In the Puranas, she is mentioned as Yoga-Maya (who creates the sensory
world), Yoga-Nidra (which protects Lord Vishnu in his yogic sleep), and
Yogeshvari (the complementing power of Yogeshvara). In Shakti worship
traditions, Devi is envisioned as 64 or Chausatha Yoginis, each one of which
carries esoteric and material powers. In the Sri Vidya Tantra, goddess
Lalita Tripurasundari (variously called Bhuvaneshwari and Rajarajeshwari)
is the deity of Yoga with whose benevolence a Yogi reaches her heavenly
residence through the practice of Yoga.
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The Bhagavad Gita, a
profound Hindu text which talks about Yoga in great detail, mentions Sri
Krishna as “Yogeshvara” or Lord of Yoga. Vaishnavas and the followers of Sri
Krishna meditate upon him as the materialization of Parama-Brahmana. In
Vaishnavism, Bhakti-yoga, or walking the path of Yoga with firm devotion to
Vishnu is the basis of succeeding in the practice of Yoga.
way in which Lord Vishnu’s powers are intertwined with Yoga Darshana is in the
avatar of Dhanavantari. Bhagwan Dhanavantari is revered in Hinduism as a form
of Vishnu and the god of Ayurveda, who emerged from the churning of
Kshirasagara. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian practice of treating the human body
and mind with the help of natural remedies is another fundamental part of the
Hindu way of life, which together with Yoga ensures that a human being leads a
healthy and long life, materially as well as spiritually. Patanjali in his
Yogasutra talks about certain “anataraya” or obstacles to Yoga, one of which is
Vyadhi or illness. Ayurveda clears the path of Yogi by offering them natural
cures for their ailments so that they are never too distracted from their
Dhanvantari - The Physician of the Gods (Holding the Vase of Immortality and Herbs)
According to Charaka-
“dharmarthakamamoksanam arogyam mulamuttamam” (for the fulfillment of the four
Purushartha or goals of human life, arogya or absence of illness is the
essential state). Unsurprisingly, Lord Shiva who is “Mahamrityunjaya” (he who
has quelled death) is revered in Ayurveda along with Dhanavantari and Patanjali
for the attainment of good health and long life, so that the quest of a Yogi
continues without hindrances.
In addition to
Patanjali’s Yogasutra and the Shiva Samhita, Hindu literature contains texts
such as Yoga-Vasishtha of Valmiki, Yogayajnavalkya Samhita, Yoga-Upanishads,
and numerous commentaries and translations of these books which hold the wisdom
of Yoga in their pages. The emphasis of these Hindu texts on spiritual
upliftment and withdrawal from the external world is not meant to instill
disdain towards the world, albeit these Yogic practices and ideas are
formulated to make a human being a valuable member of their society. A true
yogi can perform all the actions as “Karma Yoga”, all the while being in a
state of complete oneness with the supreme reality. The pinnacle of such an
exemplary state is Shiva- the Lord who is the perfection of a householder and
the foremost Yogi, simultaneously. To recognize and experience the divinity of
Yoga, it has to be practiced in accordance and with the knowledge of the vast
corpus of Hindu texts and beliefs related to it. Just as the Jeeva and
Parama-Brahman are not two but one, Yoga and Hinduism are forever fused into a
single powerful path. Anyone who realizes this truly begins their journey to
Key TakeawaysYoga is an integral part of Hinduism, and the two are deeply connected. The practice of yoga is based on Hindu philosophy and spiritual principles.Yoga is not just a physical exercise, but a holistic system for achieving spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. It encompasses a wide range of practices, including meditation, breathing exercises, and physical postures.The ultimate goal of yoga is to attain liberation, or moksha, from the cycle of birth and death, and to achieve union with the divine.Hinduism and yoga share many common themes and beliefs, such as the idea of karma, the importance of self-realization, and the concept of the chakras.The practice of yoga can help individuals to connect with their inner selves and with the divine, and can lead to greater self-awareness, spiritual growth, and enlightenment.While yoga has become popular worldwide as a form of physical exercise, it is important to remember its spiritual roots and to approach the practice with reverence and respect.Overall, the deep connection between Hinduism and yoga highlights the importance of spiritual practice in achieving greater understanding, fulfillment, and happiness in life.
Yoga is an integral part of Hinduism, and the two are deeply connected. The practice of yoga is based on Hindu philosophy and spiritual principles.
Yoga is not just a physical exercise, but a holistic system for achieving spiritual, mental, and physical well-being. It encompasses a wide range of practices, including meditation, breathing exercises, and physical postures.
The ultimate goal of yoga is to attain liberation, or moksha, from the cycle of birth and death, and to achieve union with the divine.
Hinduism and yoga share many common themes and beliefs, such as the idea of karma, the importance of self-realization, and the concept of the chakras.
The practice of yoga can help individuals to connect with their inner selves and with the divine, and can lead to greater self-awareness, spiritual growth, and enlightenment.
While yoga has become popular worldwide as a form of physical exercise, it is important to remember its spiritual roots and to approach the practice with reverence and respect.
Overall, the deep connection between Hinduism and yoga highlights the importance of spiritual practice in achieving greater understanding, fulfillment, and happiness in life.
Sources And Further Readings
Vasishtha of Valmiki
Rahasya of Nathamuni
Samhita: The Yoga Treatise of Yajnavalkya
The Lord of Yoga by David Frawley
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