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The origins, context, and essence of yoga


Yoga has become a widespread phenomena, in almost every city of every continent there are many yoga schools, centers or studios offering different styles and approaches to this ancient method. Contemporary yoga can take on many different forms, very often quite detached from the roots and essence of the teachings of yoga. 


The main purpose of yoga practice is to free ourselves from unnecessary psychological suffering (dukkha) and come to a realization of the true nature of the Self that brings about a profound life-changing insight and wisdom.


Yoga is not meant to be a fitness exercise although the body is used in different ways along with a special kind of breathing as a part of the yoga process. Getting more flexible, strong, healthy and fit can be a common and wonderful byproduct but they are not by any means the goal of the practice, all practices should lead towards meditation which is the only way to go to the advanced stages of yoga.


Yoga is one of six Darśanas (Classical schools of thought of ancient India), the exact origin is uncertain although there are a few landmarks that have a significant contribution to the evolution of the teachings throughout the centuries. Yoga tradition has clearly been affected by other traditions, whether parallel ones in India or Western ones in the past century or so. 

The conventional yoga lineage is based on The Yoga Sutras which dates back around 2000 years. It was authored by a yogi named Pattanjali who collected all the accumulated spiritual knowledge of his time, leaning mainly on the Samkhya schools of thought, and organized it as an all encompassing treatise of spiritual wisdom and practice that is referred to as Raja Yoga. The most famous part of the text is the presentation of the eight-limb yoga method (Ashtanga Yoga) which is a holistic system of practices that covers every level of human experience with the purpose of guiding one in a process of spiritual liberation and Self-realization. 

In the Centuries after Patanjali’s time there were other yoga scriptures that had a big impact on the evolution of yoga as well as heavy influence from parallel traditions such as some Buddhist and Tantric schools, and also Advaita Vedanta and others. 

Around the 13-15th century CE, Hatha Yoga started to emerge as a structured set of physical practices that were based on the main concepts of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra but also techniques that evolved much later, shifting from a dualistic point of view of the human condition to a more non-dualistic one. Hatha Yoga Pradipika, written in the 15th century, is the foundation of what most people call yoga these days.

What is yoga

The word yoga comes from the root ‘yuj’ in Sanskrit which means to link together or to create a union, it can describe a method or practice, but also a special inner stage that comes from the practice. This state is one in which there is inner peace and clarity, wisdom that allows one to see the inner workings of the mind and body as they are, radiance and profound joy that come from being in complete harmony with every moment that comes and goes.


Yoga has two main paths that intersect in many ways, one is the liberation of one’s Self from the impact of dukkha (self-manufactured psychological suffering), and the other is the realization on the deepest level of the nature of Self. Much was written in many yoga texts about the human condition and the different ways that one can maximize the potential for living a good life, the most important factor is the nature of the heavily conditioned mind which through an effective yoga practice is gradually weakened and leads to a state of freedom from habitual reactivity.

Different yoga traditions developed along the centuries, mainly Raja Yoga (yoga of spiritual wisdom and insight), Bhakti Yoga (yoga of devotion and love), Mantra Yoga (yoga of reciting or chanting), Laya Yoga (also known as Kundalini yoga), Jñāna Yoga (yoga of knowledge or wisdom). However, the most commonly-practiced style today is Hatha Yoga which is yoga of the physical body, using the body and breath in different ways, which in combination with the other traditions is meant to lead one to reach the goals of yoga.


In modern times there have been many different schools and styles of Hatha Yoga that have been created, the most known ones are one that were started in India in the 20th century such as Ashtanga-Vinyasa, Iyengar Yoga, Sivananda Yoga, Viniyoga, Vinyasa Krama, Svastha Yoga and more, and ones that were founded in the West in latter years such as Jivamukti Yoga, Power Yoga, Vinyasa Yoga, Bikram Yoga, Kundalini Yoga, Yin Yoga, Anusara Yoga and many many more (seems like everyday someone is inventing their own brand of yoga).

Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga

In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali offers an eight-limb method that covers all levels of human experience in order to effectively take one towards the main goals of yoga. The eight limbs in a nutshell are:

  1. yama - restraints, our attitudes toward our environment.

  2. niyama -  observances, our attitudes toward ourselves.

  3. āsana -  yoga postures and movements, the practice of gross and subtle body exercises.

  4. prāṇāyāma - expanding prana, the practice of breathing exercises.

  5. pratyāhāra - the restraint or withdrawal of our senses.

  6. dhāraṇā - meditative concentration, the practice of fixing our mind on one object.

  7. dhyāna - mindfulness meditation, seeing things as they are.

  8. samādhi - spiritual absorption, complete integration between subject and object, highest state of yoga.


There is a lot more to study on this topic, if it’s of interest find a class, a book or any other source you like that allows you to dive deeper.

Hatha-Vinyasa Yoga

The main approach to yoga taught by Oren is simply called Hatha-Vinyasa which is a general term describing a breath-centered yoga practice that is based on the concept of Vinyasa which is linking breath and movement together to create a unique effect on the body, breath and mind. This technique is meant to calm the nervous system but also energize us in different ways, and most importantly it focuses the mind in this process of bringing body and breath together. This style of teaching is based on the core principles taught by T. Krinamacharya who is considered the father of modern yoga, and also grounded in the essence of the teachings of the Yoga Sutras as well as other classic teachings of yoga.

Under the big umbrella of Hatha-Vinyasa Yoga you can expect to be guided in different ways that bring your attention to the smallest details of experience in the physical body and breath. Through a process of refinement of awareness that comes from continuous practice in this way, you will discover more and more subtle levels of experience that will hopefully take you further on your path.

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