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The Complete Yoga Poses

Most of us know yoga as a set of poses performed in a gym or yoga studio setting. The majority of
yoga styles practiced today were invented in the last quarter of the 20th century and are either a far
cry from yoga’s roots or have no authentic lineage.
If we really want to examine the roots of yoga, we need to go back to the Harrapan culture, dating
back 3,500 years, when yoga was a meditative practice. According to some, around 1500 BCE,
Harrapan culture was diminished due to Aryan invasion. Barbarians from Normandy introduced the
caste system and enforced a set of religious rituals that involved blood sacrifice practices. Along
with these religious practices came sacred scriptures called the Vedas, a large body of spiritual texts
originating in India. The word “yoga” was first mentioned in the oldest of the Vedas, Rig Veda. It
referred to the concept of discipline.
Fast forward to 800 BCE. The Upanishads, a collection of texts that contain some of the earliest
concepts of Hinduism, prescribed the method of achieving enlightenment by studying under a teacher
and dedicating one’s life to a yoga practice. The Upanishads outlined two paths to enlightenment:
Karma Yoga (selfless dedication to the service of others) and Jnana Yoga (intense study of spiritual
writings). Around the 3rd century BCE, the Maitrayaniya Upanishad prescribed a six-step process to
enlightenment, which included mastering pranayama (breath control), pratyaharia (sense
withdrawal), dhyana (meditation), dharana (one-pointed concentration), tarka (self-reflection), and
samadhi (absolute absorption) in order to unite the Atman (individual’s spirit) and Brahman
(universal spirit or source of creation). The sacred syllable om appeared in this particular Upanishad
as a symbol of union between mind and breath.
At around the same time that Maitrayaniya Upanishad was introduced, Bhagavad Gita gained
prominence. This scripture combined and mythological tales that later made their way into a
celebrated collection of tales, Mahabharata. Three methods of devotion were outlined inBhagavad
Gita: Karma Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Bhakti Yoga (devotion).
Compiled around 400 CE by Patanjali, The Yoga Sutras introduced the eight-fold path to yoga
practice, which is considered to be the classical yoga manual and the foundation of many of today’s
yoga practices, particularly Ashtanga Yoga. We will hear more about this eight-fold path in The Eight
Limbs of Yoga (here), which include yama (self-restraint) niyama (self-purification by self-restraint
and discipline), asana (seat or posture), pranayama (control of breath), pratyahara (sense
withdrawal), dharana (one-pointed concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (total
absorption).
Around the 4th century CE, Tantra Yoga emerged. This new form of yoga celebrated the physical body
as a vehicle to enlightenment. The philosophy behind Tantra Yoga can be summarized by the idea of
uniting all the dualities within a human body (e.g., male and female; good and evil), which gave
Tantra a very sexual reputation. This is, however, a common misunderstanding, since Tantra practices
extend far beyond sexuality. Download for free.

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