Ashram Yoga – The Spiritual Tradition of Yoga From Past to Present

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By JeffreyThurber

The History of Yoga and its Growth, Change, and Development

Yoga began its emergence into civilization some 10,000 years ago through the Tantric tradition. Evidence of deities resembling Shiva and Parvati were found in the Indus Valley civilization after archaeologists began to excavate numerous statues from ancient city grounds, reminiscence of the 10,000 year old tradition. This was the yoga of the pre-Vedic, pre-Aryan age, in which the top the tradition flourished throughout various parts of India. Shiva being the central figure in a majority of these recovered statutes gives evidence to the historical doctrine that denotes Shiva as the founder of the yogic system.

In the yogic tradition, Shiva is traditionally considered to be the symbol of supreme consciousness. His partner and counter force is Parvati, who represents supreme knowledge, will and action. For about the is also responsible for all creation as she is the acting force within the universe. This force or energy is also known as kundalini shakti, the cosmic force which is dormant within all living beings. Our Rusty is also regarded as the mother of the entire universe. Her grace and guidance is responsible for the liberation of the soul, releasing the individuals from the bondage of worldly matter. Concho said to be imparted to humans through Parvati out of love and compassion for her children. Yoga was a manifestation an extension of the Tantric system. Just as Shiva and Parvati are inseparable, so too are tantra and the yogic system.

Tantra is derived from two Sanskrit words, those of tanoti and trayati. Trayati means liberation and Tanoti literally translated as expansion. We can then assume that tantra is the science of expanding the consciousness and liberating the energy known as shakti within the body. Tantra is the way to attain liberation from the bondage is of the world in the physical identification with the body and objects associated with it.

In tantra we pursue the path of liberation by first understanding and gaining insight into the limitations and capacities of the body and mind. After we have understood these limitations, we then begin to explore the expansion of consciousness which eventually leads to the liberation of energy within the body. After we have crossed these various levels the individual consciousness expands and is liberated into the universal consciousness which permeates through the entire universe.

The yoga of yore

For a long time in history yoga was a secret system with its practices and techniques hidden from public view. In ancient times yoga was an oral tradition, its teachings and practices number inscribed or written on parchment. Only through the guru disciple relationship was the teachings of yoga revealed, and only to those who are ready to study the spiritual practices and techniques. This system was very productive and useful as it ensured clear understanding and a strong relationship between the disciple, the guru, and a spiritual teachings. Much importance was given to the personal experience of the yogic system, and the correct path was outlined by the guru who helped remove any confusions or ignorance regarding the spiritual practices and techniques. Only through sincere aspiration with the guru’s guide their disciples; disciples who pursued too much intellectual contemplation or were seeking the path of yoga in order to gain boons or powers were denied the teachings and access to the knowledge of yoga.

The first time that yoga was written in the book are inscribed on paper was within the ancient tantras. Later it was also revealed through the Vedas which were written sometime around 500 BC. Although the Vedas do not give any particular reference to any spiritual practices or techniques, they do you know the system of yoga through metaphors and symbolic representation. It is said that the Vedas were revealed to me rishis and saints who were immersed in a deep yogic state of meditation known as samadhi.

It wasn’t until the Upanishads that yoga began to take a definite shape and noticeable form within a written system. The Upanishads contained the essence of the Vedas, revealing the most essential points inscribed in the numerous books that collectively made the Vedas. The Upanishads are said to be the culmination of the Vedas and together they make up the a Vedantic.

The next significant texts in the history of yoga was the Patanjali yoga Sutras which are said to have been written in the second century A.D. Patanjali’s yoga sutras formed the raja yoga system, a definite and unified perspective of yoga with references to techniques, philosophy, and spiritual ideals. Patanjali’s yoga sutras are often referred to as the eight fold path of yoga. The eighth sequences consisted of yama(self-restraint), niyama (self observance), asana, pranayama, pratyahara(withdrawal of the senses),dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi. Whether practiced in sequence or as a complete system the eight fold path provided a clear perspective of the spiritual path. It also gave an outline for how to accomplish the unification of individual consciousness with the universal cosmos.

Later in the sixth century BC yoga began to adopt the Buddha’s meditation practices as well as the ethical and moral philosophy that later became the outline for Buddhism. Unfortunately this transition and adaptation removed a lot of the preparatory practice that were designed by the yogis to prepare one for meditation practices, many of which are necessary and often times vital to the preliminary preparation for contemplation and concentration.

Yoga philosophy believes that before any meditation practice can be done the elements of the body and mind must be balanced in harmony with one another. For this reason Gorakhnath presented an extended series of practices to prepare the body for meditation. These practices were later employed as the hatha yoga system. Later one of the major authorities on hatha yoga composed the hatha yoga pradipikia, a text that is widely used today and is referred to as Light on Yoga.

The practice of yoga in the 20th and 21st century.

While the spiritual philosophy and practices of yoga have endorsed a higher order of living and thinking, today yoga has been disseminated for a wide variety of purposes and practices, some spiritual, some not. Although many people practice yoga in order to gain wisdom of the spiritual life, there are also many who utilize yoga in order to aid in the health, fitness, stability, balance, and well-being of the human body, mind, and soul. With modern language in mind, many forms of yoga have emerged including yoga psychology, yoga therapy, yoga fitness, yoga dance, and just about any synergy imaginable especially those associated with the arts and other forms of self-expression although we have not the time to discuss all of these.

What makes yoga fundamentally one of the most successful systems for human well-being is the fact that yoga practically and systematically works with all the aspects of the human body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Yoga is a holistic principle which works to unify the various elements in the body. Once these elements have been balanced than unification with higher orders can be achieved including that of community unification, harmony with nature, and merging with the cosmic divine. But these higher orders do not have to be pursued in order for yoga to be useful. Today yoga has successfully been used as an alternative form of therapy for diseases, disorders, and dysfunctions.

Yet this modern development has not prevented or limited the existence of the traditional science of yoga, one which revolves around principles of spirituality and higher goals for human life. Fundamentally, yoga still exists as a science and practice which can be used in order to expand the elements of the human mind, body, and spirit, influencing each of these levels of human existence in order to enhance the quality of life. Ultimately yoga can lead one towards the divine which is also recognized as a sense or being of universal theme, one in which the infinite elements in the universe are united under one cosmic force and consciousness which are responsible for all of existence.

The modern expression of yoga combined with the ancient traditions of India have led yoga into a new dimension of philosophy, psychology, medicine, therapy, and spiritual science of which all are practiced both domestically in India and nearly all other countries abroad. Yoga is no longer limited by the confines of society and has unfurled itself within a global society in which all individuals can seek refuge under the spiritual order and science of yoga. As people begin to explore full potential of consciousness, life’s fundamental purpose is revealed and our true nature is expressed in its fullest form. Although Indian’s have benefited from the science of yoga for nearly 10,000 years, yoga is now making its way into the daily lives of people all over the globe. Whether it is introduced as a medicinal practice or a technique for building muscles and agility, yoga eventually carries each individual towards the higher goals that are embedded in the practices and techniques outlined by the yogic science.


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