What is yoga?
Yoga, defined is a union. A union between you and all that is not yourself. Modern interpretations of yoga call it a union among mind, body and spirit.
What is the goal of yoga?
If yoga is a union, the goal of yoga is to obtain union. Think about words that can be both nouns and verbs. I am going for a walk versus, I walk to the store. Yoga is a union (noun) but is also the actions required to obtain union (verb). The goal of yoga is to take all necessary actions to attain union.
Why bother with union?
It helps you understand your place in space. Answers the question, “How I fit within the world we live?”. Union allows you to appreciate the people around you and live in harmony and I believe that harmony is better than plain old peace. Harmony is a form of union that allows differences to make the collective more beautiful.
How do you reach this union?
There are many paths to union. Wisdom. Devotion. Asana. Deep Faith. Meditation. Imagine these methods as plants in a flower garden of opportunities. You can smell or appreciate the beauty of any one of these flowers individually or as a collective just like you can choose any or all actions toward union.
How do we know these things?
There are many ancient texts that lay out the lifestyle suggestions that will lead you to yoga, or union. While these texts have survived, the dates things were written and/or compiled are not in a super clear timeline. These five documents are paramount in explaining not just what yoga is, but how to attain it.
- The Vedas
These are the oldest Sanskrit hymns. They were passed on through oral tradition.
Want to know what’s cool as a cucumber? It is believed that the author of the Vedas is the great divine source itself! It is information that was simply known and not heard. Think about that. Known and not heard. The Vedas include directives about devotional practices.
Written copies of the Vedas are as old as the 11th Century but keep in mind that the oral tradition passed on the Vedas long before this. Of the four primary Vedas, the Rig Veda is the oldest.
Patanjali gathered existing sutras about yoga and put them into a document of 196 sutras describing yoga. They are organized into 4 chapters: Concentration, Practice, Progression & Liberation. Patanjali’s Yoga sutras create the knowledge of Astanga Yoga.
What’s super duper amazing about The Sutras? They contain the 8 Fold Path of Patanjali. I believe these specific sutras offer clarity as to how to do yoga, or live a yogic lifestyle in only 8 simple steps!
Patanjali collected these sutras about 400 AD.
- The Upanishads
These were written by multiple authors in an era of multiple beliefs. It is possible that the Upanishads were written by different people in order to answer questions that people had about The Vedas and Sutras.
What’s the most spectacular quality of the Upanishads? It is the fact that they answer the question “Why?” and provide deep discussion instead of just directions and statements as the Vedas and Sutras offer.The Upanishads gave way to the Vedantic school of thought which states that non-dualistic beliefs bring you closer to a relationship between you (your atman) and God.
The Upanishads were collected 1100-500 BC.
The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is an allegory between Lord Krishna and Arjuna and was written as part of the Mahabharata.
Why is the Bhagavad Gita such a powerful story? The Bhagavad Gita brings together devotion, action and knowledge as multiple paths to union.
500-200 BC is the era believed to be when the Bhagavad Gita was written.
- Hatha Yoga Pradipika
This is the paramount text about the physical practices of yoga. No matter the philosophical or spiritual belief, the practices laid out in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika are designed to bring you to samadi or wisdom.
Super cool? This document is radically different from the others as the approach is physical, not spiritual. BUT, even within that context, meditation is still the ultimate vehicle to finding bliss.
1400 AD. Notice that the Hatha Yoga Pradipika is a much younger text than many of the other wisdom texts.