Beginning yoga is not easy for most people. However, humans have been studying yoga scholastically for over 2700 years. Yoga may even be as much as 10,000 years old. We may never know the true age of the practice due to the fact that the tradition was originally transmitted orally. Many consider the Pashupati seal of the Indus Valley Civilization to be the oldest record of Shiva and indicates the practice of yoga likely existed 5,000 years ago.
With the tremendous benefits this sort of activity can provide, it is no surprise that it has been adapted for the modern world. From improving your flexibility to soothing joint and muscle pain, to assisting with mental health and disabilities, to even healing major bodily injuries and improving the quality of sleep yoga has a tremendous amount to offer modern human beings. Starting a yoga practice is much simpler than you might expect. To help you begin, this post will explore what you’ll need to start your journey inwards.
Before you even think about spending money, you will need to look for someone who can guide you to setting goals and exploring what you want from the practice of yoga. This is where yoga studios come in handy, but if you are athletic and healthy, you might just flip on a youtube video and follow an instructor like Yoga with Adrienne. There are also several services that offer online yoga like glo.com or poweryoga.com. Bryan Kest, the founder of poweryoga.com, is one of my favorite instructors and I can’t recommend him highly enough.
It is relatively difficult to start yoga without personalized advice and instruction, especially as we age and our bodies have more issues. Private instruction can be excellent for this, though it will often be more fun to go somewhere with a group of others to practice yoga. These are quite common in outdoor parks or membership gyms. However, I recommend finding a local studio and practicing with a few different teachers until you find one that you like. Everyone is different, and everyone has different goals in yoga. Create goals and find teachers to help you achieve them.
Once you have a guide, it will be time to start thinking about the clothing you’re going to wear for yoga. Wear clothing that breathes and allows for your full range of motion, especially if you are trying hot yoga. Shorts, leggings, and obviously yoga pants are all acceptable, but ensure that the fabric isn’t transparent when wet, because you will likely sweat during a class, and if you try hot yoga, you will probably sweat through your clothes. Many students wear skin tight clothing to keep it from moving when you are upside down and in downward dog, but I always take my shirt off when I practice and wear board shorts to avoid unnecessary laundry. The biggest thing is that you need to make sure that your clothing isn’t going to restrict your movement or get in the way.
Yoga equipment is very simple. The vast majority of classes only require a yoga mat. My favorite brand is Manduka. You may also want to get a foam roller, a block, and a strap, as some yoga positions can be more relaxing with props.
Whether you’re practicing yoga with a group or by yourself, it is crucial that you have an appropriate space. Avoid any areas with bugs, rodents, or dirt/filth. The ideal space helps you to feel calm, privacy to make sure that you are comfortable. Outdoor areas can be perfect for this: gardens, parks, and even beaches all offering tranquil environments that can enhance your yoga. You will often be able to find more than one class or studio near you and you can often try discounted introductory packages to compare and find the right space for you. If you live in Roseville or Auburn, make sure you check out East Wind Yoga, where I teach!
Most people talk themselves out of practicing yoga. This is the biggest barrier to beginning for most people. Keep in mind that you DO NOT have to be flexible to start yoga. In fact, inflexibility is the reason many of us practice! You can always improve! Make sure you talk to your instructor about any injuries you may have, or health complications that could affect you during the stretching and workout routines.
In short, yoga has never been more popular, with people across the world embracing the practice and the tremendous health benefits it can provide. Remember that you just have to show up and the rest usually takes care of itself! Try to let go 😀
This year I have decided to do something deeper and more durable for my yoga students.
Ever since India, I’ve wanted to share the daily Mysore style of yoga practice with my community and this dream is finally coming to fruition! Get into the best shape of your life with yoga!
Date and Times
Saturday, February 1st, I will be leading the Primary Series of Ashtanga from 1PM to 3pm. I will host this every Saturday at 1PM leading up to June 13th, which will be our 20th and final workshop for the series.
I will also be coaching and mentoring each student that wants to start a daily yoga practice from the Primary Series. I want to help YOU!
It’s time to transform your life! It will be A LOT of hard work, but the reward of better mental and physical health is extraordinarily valuable. This will also get your body into shape, lean, toned, and thin if you eat properly as well.
The coolest part about this workshop is that you can take it with you. This series isn’t going anywhere and is great for decompressing after traveling, or being cooped up in a desk or small space. There are so many benefits from a yoga practice.
Remaining Workshop Dates:
The entire Series will be donation based. This DOES NOT mean free. It just means that you pay what you feel is right. Single Workshop sessions are $20 (if you only attend one).
Q. What is the primary series?
A. The primary series is a specific sequence of yoga postures taught in Mysore India by the Jois family. It is widely regarded as the most advanced practice of physical yoga.
Q. Is it beginner friendly?
A. Yes, absolutely. This workshop is perfect for people new to yoga. Everyone from the experience teacher to the brand new yogi can learn the primary series. The series gets longer as you get more advanced, but the warm up is perfect for someone who has never practiced yoga before.
Q. Can I come to the workshop for free?
A. No. If you have circumstances preventing you from paying 5$ for a 2 hour class, we can talk about it, but the exchange of energy needs to be mutual. I have starved enough.
Q. Can I bring friends?
A. Of course! Please have them contact me to sign-up, or share this page with them.
Q. Do I have to attend every workshop? Can I choose a few to attend?
A. Yes, I understand that people are busy and that you may not be able to attend every workshop. I only ask that you let me know your plans when we start.
Q. How are you going to help me to practice every day?
A. I will be supplying large amounts of resources and information at the workshop dates. I will also be posting online about my own practice and will be enabling my students to practice as much as possible.
What a great day for yoga on Saturday afternoon, it
was so much fun to share the Ashtanga yoga workshop on the Primary Series, or Mysore style of yoga practice with my friends in the East Wind community a little over two weeks ago. The Ashtanga yoga series workshop was difficult and taxing, but the participants were all warriors! Everyone who showed up got a great series of postures in which to practice their breath control and challenge their bodies and we got to have some fun chanting and challenging our minds and bodies.
The Second Workshop is on 3/3 in Auburn
In this Second Ashtanga Workshop, we will be practicing the first 11 postures of the Ashtanga Intermediate Series:
Kapotanasana A & B
Ashtanga Yoga Workshop #2 will also focus on advanced seated postures and modifications to help the body to find the stretch that the asana implies.
The Ashtanga Yoga Workshop will last 2 hours, but we will start to practice for longer if we all want to. Drop-backs might happen in this workshop, so get ready for some hands on backbends and handstands!
In the Second Ashtanga Yoga Workshop, we get to have some fun practicing advanced postures! Please ensure that you check your ego at the door to avoid any injuries and to optimally enjoy the difficulty of this practice 😉
Nadi Shodana or the Intermediate Series of Ashtanga has a total of about 40 postures
I have included some links to the postures so you can reference them before the workshop begins. We will be doing the same chaturanga basics and flow basics at the beginning of the workshop because working on alignment is a constant in the yoga practice to maintain the integrity of the postures. Get ready for some fun!
Ashtanga Workshop designed For INTERMEDIATE to ADVANCED practitioners
This series will include additional workshops to cover various aspects of the postures and sequences that work up to the primary series, which is relatively advanced. These will accompany the primary series workshop as sister series. This is an opportunity for both practiced ashtangi and those that are brand new to the series to learn from the practice. Yogi’s should know sun salutation A and B or have practiced yoga for more than 1 year, with some regularity.
Space is Limited to 16 Spots. Reserve yours today by contacting Elliot @ [email protected]
Ashtanga Workshop Schedule:
1:00-1:10 Minute Discussion, materials will have been previously provided via email
1:11-1:15 Chant the Opening Mantra
1:15-2:50 Practice the primary series with various modifications
2:50-3:00 Questions, spare time for fall-backs, handstands, etc..
3:00 Closing Mantra
The History of the Primary Series
Pattabhi Jois began teaching the primary series in 1948 in Mysore, India where I traveled in January 2015. The Jois Shala is now much larger than Pattabhi Jois’ first class capacity of 8 students. Pattabhi Jois is one of a short list of Indians who were instrumental in transmitting yoga from India to the West in the 20th century.
The Roots of Yoga
Dive into the series that began the spread of yoga into the West and formed the foundation for modern-day vinyasa yoga. Move beyond the superficial western approach to yoga and into a deeper, vast ocean of personal space, discipline, honor, and care-taking of the incredible gift that is the human body.
Here are the videos I use for practicing the series:
I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru
which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,
which are the refuge, the jungle physician,
which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).
I prostrate before the sage Patanjali
who has thousands of radiant, white heads (as the divine serpent, Ananta)
and who has, as far as his arms, assumed the form of a man
holding a conch shell (divine sound), a wheel (discus of light or infinite time) and a sword (discrimination).
Svasthi Praja Bhyaha Pari Pala Yantam
Nya Yena Margena Mahim Mahishaha
Go Brahmanebhyaha Shubamastu Nityam
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Om Shanti Shanti Shantihi
Closing Mantra Meaning:
May the rulers of the earth keep to the path of virtue
For protecting the welfare of all generations.
May the religious, and all peoples be forever blessed,
May all beings everywhere be happy and free
Sikhism is the fifth largest religion in the world(one of the fastest growing, too) and originated in Northern India in 1469. Sikhis (meaning disciple or learner) are monotheistic, believe in the unity and equality of all mankind, engage in selfless service, and strive for the prosperity of all life. There are over 25 millions Sikhis in the world.
Sikhism originated in a guru tradition in 1469; Guru Nanak was the first to establish what because a religious tradition over the course of centuries. Ten gurus followed in Guru Nanak’s footsteps and after the death of the tenth guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the Guru Granth Sahib became the literal embodiment of the eternal, impersonal guru and serves as a guide for Sikhi’s.
The Ten Sikhi Gurus (each represents a divine attribute) are:
Guru Nanak – Humility
Guru Angad – Obedience
Guru Amar Das – Equality
Guru Ram Das – Service
Guru Arjan – Self-sacrifice
Guru Hargobind – Justice
Guru Har Rai – Mercy
Guru Harkrishan – Purity
Guru Tegh Bahadur – Tranquility
Guru Gobind Singh – Royal Courage
A couple of the Sikhi gurus are also Bhakti saints giving Hinduism an interesting relationship with the origins of the Sikh religion. The goal of the Sikhi is unison with the divine and they believe that no one tradition has a monopoly on the divine and emphasizes the “five thieves” of god’s presence: lust, rage, greed, attachment and conceit.
The Origins of Sikhism
Sikhism was created in the Punjab region, which is between India and Pakistan. In the time of the first Guru, Guru Nanak, there were two competing religions of the Muslims and Hindus. Legend says Nanak went into a river at 28, proclaimed there is no Hindu or Muslim, only god and that he continued to bring Sikhism into the world.
The 5th Guru, Arjan was a scholar and helped to build the Sikh religion by creating the first scripture. However, he was seen as a threat by the state and executed for his faith in 1606.
The 6th Guru, Hargobind eventually moved to militarize the community and the Sikhs learned to fight to preserve their faith. They became relatively peaceful until Tegh Bahadur, the 9th guru, was executed in 1675 by Aurangzeb, the Moghal Emperor. The Moghal Empire consolidated Islam in South Asia, and spread Muslim (and particularly Persian) arts and culture as well as the faith.
The 10th Guru, Gobind Singh, created the Khalsa as a military group so that they could forever defend their faith.
The Sikhs continued to rebel against Muslim oppression and eventually became a state of their own. But then they were defeated by the British. Then they became peaceful for a while, until 1919 when there was a massacre of over 400 dead and 1,000 wounded by British soldiers who fired on a crowd of protesters. A few historians signify this event as the beginning of the decline of the British Empire in India.
The Sikhi god: Ik Onkar
Ik Onkar is the Sikhi word for god and means ‘all pervading spirit’. This spirit has no gender, is beyond time and space, is without form, beyond the comprehension of humans, but not completely unknowable. The spirit is visible everywhere to the spiritually awakened through the heart or “inner eye”. The religion prescribes meditation to allow for communication between god and man.
The Opening Line of the Mool Mantar:
“There is but one all-pervading spirit, and truth is its name! It exists in all creation; it does not fear; it does not hate; it is timeless and universal and self-existent, you will come to know it through seeking knowledge and learning!”
The ultimate goal of a Sikh is to be completely united with god. They achieve this state of liberation (mukti) by focusing on god rather than themselves.
Maya: the Worldly Illusion
Maya is a spiritual concept that has evolved over time and crosses over nearly every eastern religion in one way or another. Literally, Maya means delusion, extraordinary illusions of power, the veil of perception, magic, and “unreality”.
These worldly illusions are viewed as a direct opponent of realizing god in this lifetime (the goal of the Sikh is to realize god). It is believed that the object of Maya, or object of the senses, lust, desire, attachment, ego, greed, and anger which are known as the 5 thieves and are believed to take away from the individual’s relationship with god by distracting and hurting the individual.
Once god is fully realized, the individual is considered jivanmukta and liberated in this lifetime, which is a belief also shared in Hinduism. After this liberation, the individual is ceaselessly united with Brahman (the supreme truth underlying all of reality, but hidden by it). Sikhs also believe in reincarnation and karma.
The Khalsa – the Nation of Sikhs
The Khalsa is the collective body of all Sikhs. The Khalsa was initiated on March 30 1699 by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh guru. The word Khalsa means “sovereign”, “free”, or most often “pure”. Being initiated into the Khalsa is a type of baptism and males are entitled Singhs (lion) while females are titled Kaurs (princess).
The Khalsa is responsible for all executive, military, and civil authority in the Sikh society. They are considered the pinnacle of Sikhism and perform no rituals and believe in no superstitions. They only believe in god who is the master and creator of all, the only destroyer/creator.
A Sikh is defined as any human being who faithfully believes in one immortal being; ten gurus, from Guru Nanak to Guru Gobind Singh, the teachings of the ten gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth guru.
Culture, Observations, and Rituals of Sikhism
Most Sikhs wake up early to meditate on the name of god. Then he/she bathes in a pool of nectar (I’m not really sure what this means, probably some type of sweet herbs and spices). Then he chants the name of the lord. All sins, misdeeds, and negativity is erased through this process. When the sun rises, the Sikh is to meditate on the name of god again. The idea of the Sikh’s existence is to worship god so that they can maintain a close relationship to god.
There are 5 K’s(panj kakaar) or articles of faith that baptized Sikhs are obligated to wear:
Kesh – uncut hair, usually tied and wrapped in a Dastar (a style of turban)
Kanga – a wooden comb, usually under the dastar
Kachera – cotton undergarments worn by both sexes to symbolize chastity
Kara – an iron bracelet, a weapon and a symbol of eternity
Kirpan – an iron dagger of differing sizes. In the UK it is very small and in Punjab it can be up to three feet long.
Sikhs are also very interested in music, many instruments were supposedly created by gurus. These instruments include the Rebab, the dilruba, the taus, the jori, and the sarinda. They would often play drums or Nagaras while marching into battle.
The Modern Sikh and Sikh Statistics
There are about 27 million Sikhs worldwide and 83% live in India. 76% live in Punjab where they form 2/3rds of the populace. Sikhs were some of the first to migrate to Britain from India and were used in the Indian Civil service and so were spread out over the entire British empire. Many have spread throughout Europe and Northern America.
The caste system is still very prevalent within the Sikh religion, even though their gurus denounced the system. Untouchables, or Dalits still face harsh discrimination.
The first gurdwara (place of worship) was established in the United States in Stockton, California.
Discrimination against Sikhs has risen since the 9/11 attacks. They are said to be often confused with Arabic or Muslim Middle Eastern men because of their turbans and CNN suggested an increase in hate Crimes against Sikh men after the attacks. I’ll leave it to a few clips from CNN and other news to show you what I mean by discrimination (it involves racism and persecution because of ignorance).
The U.S. has the highest murder rate of affluent democracies. America had an extreme homicide rate of 5.4 per 100,000 people in 2008-2009, compared with a 1.43 rate in England and Wales and a 1.3 rate in Italy. Japan has 1/10 of the murders of the US. Don’t be surprised about how often this happens.
[September 24th, 2013] A Columbia University professor who wrote about hate crimes against Sikhs may have become a victim of one himself when 12 to 15 people attacked him while shouting anti-Muslim slurs, police said.
Prabhjot Singh, a Sikh and a professor of international and public affairs, said the attackers were yelling “get Osama” and “terrorist” when they swarmed him Saturday night near Central Park in New York.
“There were about 20 of them. A few surrounded me, and started punching me,” Singh said, according to the Sikh Coalition. He suffered injuries to his face, including displaced teeth and a possible fracture in his lower jaw. CNN ARTICLE
[August 5th, 2012] There was a shooting of 6 people in Wisconsin in a hate crime on August 5th 2012. ‘He said members described the attacker as a bald, white man, dressed in a white T-shirt and black pants and with a 9/11 tattoo on one arm — which “implies to me that there’s some level of hate crime there”.’The gunman started shooting in the parking lot, then entered into the temple and proceeded to open fire. Most of the victims were leaders of the church, men with turbans. CNN ARTICLE
[September 13th, 2015] A Sikh American man says he was taunted as a “terrorist” and “bin Laden” by another driver this week, and then beaten unconscious in his car. Police in the Chicago suburb of Darien are investigating the alleged incident as a hate crime and a road rage incident that escalated into a violent attack, Chief Ernest Brown said. CNN ARTICLE
[January 6th, 2016] A $10,000 reward is being offered in the slaying of a 68-year-old Sikh man brutally murdered in a central Fresno convenience store on New Year’s Day. They have video of a light-skinned suspect between 16 and 18 with a red hoodie that waited outside for about 5 minutes for a man named Gill to be in the store alone. Once Gill (Sikh man without any Sikh attire on) was within about a foot, the suspect stabbed Gill repeatedly. Gill tried to push himself away, retreated and picked up a golf club. The suspect knocked Gill to the ground before returning to the cash register, which he could not open. He then took something from a shelf and walked out of the store in the same direction from which he approached. Gill died of his wounds minutes later. Sikhs were anxious about heading back out into the community because of another attack that occurred on December 26th. FRENSO BEE ARTICLE
[March 2nd, 2016] Balwinder Jit Singh says a passenger beat him while calling him a terrorist and a suicide bomber last year in Inglewood. YAHOO NEWS ARTICLE
So this is very real, and its happening right now. This article from THE INTERCEPT talks about how Donald Trumps campaign makes it extremely hard on Sikh’s because hatred and violence are condoned. These are Americans that are discriminated against in our own country. And in lots of cases the police turn a blind eye, refuse to investigate, or whatever nonsense racism and ignorance they can make up. But this seems to happen a lot and we, as a nation, should not allow this kind of intolerance or ignorance. This is the 5th largest religion in the world!
“Study the past if you would define the future” – Confucius
Confucius and Confucianism
Confucius or ‘Kong Qui’ is a celebrated Chinese philosopher that lived in 500 BCE. His thoughts, philosophies and teachings were further developed at the end of his life into the religion of Confucianism which received official sanction shortly after his death. Much of the work commonly attributed to him is considered by scholars to actually be groups of people compiling teachings that he influenced, but only many years after Confucius’ death (you’ll notice this parallels virtually every other older religion). This implies that all of the Confucius quotes you’ve read are probably big groups of people compiling oral traditions that have been passed down for some time rather than original sayings from the sage.
Some scholars consider Confucius to be Socrates equivalent in the East, but this seems relatively unfounded due to the vast array of influences of Eastern spirituality at the time of Confucius. It is sure that Confucius had a profound effect upon the way people though about the home, of ideal government, family, proper social interactions, ancestor worship and respect for elders, and even helped to propagate an early version of the golden rule, but Socrates was unique to the West. Nonetheless, Confucius had a profound impact upon Asia, especially China, and his philosophical influences are still evidenced around the world.
The Life of Confucius
Confucius had a very interesting and elaborate life story, especially for someone who was supposedly born on September 28, 551 BCE in the Lu province near Qufu (see the picture on the right). Confucius’ father was named Hong He and was an officer in the military until he died when Confucius was three. He was raised by his mother in poverty; she died before she turned forty. He was educated at a common school about the 6 arts of rites, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics. At 19 Confucius married and had a son one year later, and later two daughters, one of whom died during childhood. He was a member of the Shi class between the rich and the common and had a great deal of respect for tradition. Confucius’ mother died when he was 23 and he spent three years in morning, as tradition dictated.
Confucius had a successful political career for a time. This career ended in a political entanglement that forced him into exile. Confucius left with the political enemy and legitimate ruler of the state that was ousted by rebels. Confucius eventually left his ruling duke to travel and further expound his political beliefs in the courts in central and northeast China.
The old man returned home from his travels after many years of expounding his political beliefs but never seeing them taken seriously. After he returned, Confucius divulged his wisdom to disciples and would sometimes act as advisor for government officials occasionally advising on war and crime. He would eventually die at a reported age of 72. Confucius left behind a legacy that would be remembered throughout China and Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and would eventually spread to the west with the help of Jesuit priests.
The philosophy of Confucius is considered by many to be a religion. It is secular so I agree, but it is also a very powerful philosophy. Confucianism has its roots in ancient Chinese tradition and emphasizes the family. During his life, the sage discussed spirituality, the nature of god, and the afterlife. He emphasizes a mean between giving too much and too little when being generous, a reciprocity of actions where one acts as they would be acted upon, and traditional family values.
Confucius also believed in a strong sense of self, where one would cultivate ethics, morals, virtues, and most importantly knowledge. He believed in ruling by example with truth and honesty; if people were led this way, he argued, they would naturally incline themselves towards their superiors. In essence, Confucius’ philosophy was idealistic in a way that was similar to Plato, defining heavenly forms and bodies and using things like astrology to help guide his decisions.
Confucius’ most revolutionary philosophy is his lack of belief in the concept of Democracy because he didn’t believe in the ability of the masses of humanity to govern itself. He believed that people were not created equal therefore did not all have the right to govern themselves. Not everyone had a right of self-government.
The Legacy of Confucius
What did the ancient Chinese sage leave behind? Confucius was mourned shortly after his death in the town of Qufu and it became a place of pilgrimage. His birthday became a day of celebration of several hundred years until more recently China decided it represented its feudal state and banned the ceremony. In the 1990’s it re-allowed the ceremony and celebration. It is now considered to be a veneration of ancient Chinese tradition and culture.
Confucius’ descendants are repeatedly identified and honored by imperial governments. They lived a long and prosperous line that has been verified across several families today with a common Y chromosome. In China there remains a huge interest in the Confucian family tree. He is also often referenced in temples with Lao Tzu and Buddha.
In Westernized yoga, there appears to have been a bit of a confounding of eastern traditions in regards to their application in yogic philosophy. We tend to mix up Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, even Jainism and put them all into the same category of “mindfulness” aimed towards stress reduction and happier, more meaningful living. Not that mindfulness isn’t an appropriate subject, but I think it can be important to differentiate between the Eastern religions especially to understand their unique, individual philosophies.
Yoga doesn’t really have a category. Traditional yoga is very similar to Buddhism, but the yoga sutras of Patanjali seem to be the most authentic “yogic” teachings from a historical perspective. Many scholars would also agree that Patanjali’s sutras are heavily influenced by Buddhism. Ujjayi breathing is influenced by Taoist practices and many of the meditational practices in yoga come from Jain and Buddhist traditions.
Most modern yoga teachers seem to be most influenced by Buddhism when teaching, focusing on concepts of Dharana and Dhyana for meditation that are the same in buddhist texts. Many bring modern science and anatomy into the practice which is a more efficient way to practice because it allows us to understand what is happening while we are performing asanas. With these tools we can avoid injury and progress safely into a fuller and easier practice.
Buddhism teaches that at the center of all things is peace, which is a bit different from the Hindu belief that all things have a divine core. The yoga sutras of Patanjali seem to be more influenced by the Hindu side of things and his concepts in the 8 limbs of yoga support a divine core of all beings. However, the Buddhist state of Nirvana and the Hindu state of Samadhi seem to be very similar conceptually.
Most modern yoga is geared towards balancing the body not necessarily towards complete purification. This is because the whole body purification is more of a youthful activity, it requires a lot more effort once you are older and the body is increasingly more toxic with age (at least as a general rule). Aging well in a yoga practice is not necessarily aligned with yang style of ashtanga or Bikram yoga, but rather a combination of Yin and Yang style of exercises. In this way, modern yoga is more Taoist than Buddhist or Hindu.
The yoga sutras are undoubtedly Hindu, but they borrow many buddhist teachings and concepts. The past of yoga, Hinduism, and Buddhism seem to be vastly intertwined with the rest of the eastern traditions, most notably Taoism to produce a modern hybrid western style of yoga. Patanjali’s famous quote to still the fluctuations of the mind might be very similar to finding Lao Tzu’s Tao. It is important to remember that eastern traditions tend to be less ordered and regimented than western religions because the religions tend to cross over into each other. If you get a chance to read Patanjali’s yoga sutras then enjoy searching for the different influences of the texts.
Patanjali was the author of the Yoga Sutras, one of the most influential yoga texts in the modern world. Despite what modernized and idealistic yoga blogs and sites will tell you, it was most likely a group of people who lived about 1600 years ago, but could be as old as 2500 years. I say that it was likely a group of people because of the amount of knowledge contained in the sutras and the way that people functioned in groups thousands of years ago. We like to attribute knowledge to one author, rather than recognizing the multitudes of authors, time periods, and influences that a piece of work contains. This is particularly true of the Christian bible.
Patanjali is the not father of modern yoga. That title can be given to Krishnamacharya. Patanjali was more of a founder; the group of people took works from their respective time period and before, then compiled them into digestible teachings that students and teachers could reference on their yoga journeys. He created a framework that Krishnamacharya would later use to create the modern poses, sequences, and specific techniques. Where Patanjali’s yoga begins is in the traditions that Krishnamacharya learned from his father and his father before him. Until yoga became modernized and everyone could start a daily practice of yoga.
As humans we love to idealize about the past and one figure completing this vast amount of infrastructural work for practitioners of yoga, but Patanjali is not a figure that we need to deify or put on a pedestal. There were likely multiple people with the name and likely multiple people who authored the yoga sutras. However, Patanjali’s work on the sutras is enough to keep us busy thinking about our own humanity instead of focusing on the origins of the text, because Patanjali did not seem to claim any credit for the contemporary authors of the yoga sutras.
The 196 sutras, or short teachings from the yoga sutras are fantastic in their comprehensive philosophical scope. They are also written in Sanskrit, which is a great administrative language and is very specifically used in philosophy. They were, however, lost to time in the 12th century until the 19th century when they were revived by modern Indian scholars. During the 19th and 20th century the texts rose in popularity and prominence over the Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vasistha, and other literature on Hatha yoga.
There are four parts to the yoga sutras:
Samadhi Pada – describes oneness with the divine and Samadhi
Sadhana Pada – describes practices and Ashtanga
Vibhuti Pada – describes “supernatural” effects of yoga
Kaivayla Pada – describes moksha, liberation, or enlightenment
Each of the four chapters is an invigorating review of conscious experience and systematic functionality of the human mind. The second chapter is probably the most concrete in terms of advice for actually practicing yoga, rather than philosophy and it is where the eight limbs of yoga or Ashtanga is explained.
Ashtanga is not only a system of acrobatic yoga propagated by Pattabhi Jois, but a philosophical system for achieving Samadhi and Moksha, also known as enlightenment. The eight limbs of yoga are described as scaffolding, or a framework for ascending into the heights of the yoga of knowledge, or Raja yoga, which BKS Iyengar described to be infinite. The eight limbs are as follows
Samadhi – unison and oneness with the divine in bliss
These are the scaffolding that Patanjali assembled to assist individuals in realizing their self. Many of these concepts cross-over into Buddhist ideals of meditation, as you may have already noticed. Once the self is realized, liberation and freedom from the cycles of death and rebirth is afforded to the practitioner.This modernization of Hinduism was very well received in the western world.
In reviewing the history of something as old and popular as yoga it is important to understand that we have only theories and hypotheses about what was happening 1500-2500 years ago. No one really knows the group who made up the author named Patanjali, how old they are, how they compiled their information, or what exact sources they used. Instead we can guess, which is more fun anyways.
Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth, prosperity, love, fortune, and is considered the embodiment of beauty. She is the wife of Vishnu and carries his active energy. Her fours arms represent purusartha, or the four primary aims of human life: Dharma, Kama, Artha, and Moksha and representations of her can be found in many Jain monuments as well. In Nepal and Southeast Asia, Vasudhara mirrors Lakshmi with some minor differences. She is Vishnu’s source of strength while maintaining the universe.
When Vishnu incarnated on Earth, Lakshmi took form as Sita (when Vishnu became Rama), Radha (Krishna’s lover), Rukmini, and Satyabama. In ancient Hindu scripture all women are declared to be embodiments of Lakshmi. The marriage between Lakshmi and Vishnu is the paradigm for Hindu religious wedding ceremonies. Their relationship forms the basis for partnership in Hinduism.
Archeologists suggest that Lakshmi’s worship may have originated around 100BC. Statues and iconography have been dated from the second half of the first millennium CE. In modern India, Lakshmi is regarded as the goddess of wealth and Diwali and Sharad Purnima are festival celebrations held in her honor.
Lakshmi is another great example of a deity that evolved in the ancient Hindu texts and was mentioned only once in the Rig Veda as a kindred mark or sign of auspicious fortune. In the later Arthara Veda, she evolved into a deity with multiple incarnations and large amounts of plurality and is associated with good luck, good fortune, prosperity, success, happiness, and the good. Later, she is regarded as the incarnation of beauty, and the goddess of fortune and was associated with Vishnu. In later myths, she is associated with the creation of the universe, giving diverse gifts to many of the other gods (ie Indra gets force and Sarasvati receive nourishment). In the later epics, such as the Mahabharata, she personifies wealth, riches, beauty, happiness, loveliness, grace, charm, and splendor.
The word Lakshmi is derived from lakṣ (लक्ष्) and lakṣa (लक्ष) which mean to perceive, observe, know, understand and goal, aim, or objective. This together form knowing goals, or perceiving and understanding objectives.
Lakshmi is usually sitting or standing on a lotus flower and carries a couple in her hands which represent the ability to grow beautifully from dirty or filth in circumstances. She is also seen with elephants (symbolizes work, activity, strength, rain, fertility, and abundance) and an owl (symbolizes striving to observe and discover when surrounded by darkness, that also becomes blind in daylight, a reminder to refrain from greed and ignorance after knowledge and wealth is acquired).
Lakshmi also has a multitude of other names: Padma, Kamala, Padmapriya, Padmamaladhara devi, Padmamukti, Padmakshi, Padmahasta, Padmasundari, Vishnupriya, Ulkavahini, Ambika, Manushri, Mohini, Chakrika, Kamalika, Aishwarya, Lalima, Indira, Kalyani, Nandika, Nandini, Rujula, Vaishnavi, Samruddhi, Narayani, Bhargavi, Sridevi, Chanchala, alaja, Madhavi, Sujata, Shreya, Maheshwari, Madhu, Madhavi, Paramaa, Janamodini, Tripura, Tulasi, Ketaki, Malati, Vidhya, Trilochana, Tilottama, Subha, Chandika, Devi, Kriyalakshmi, Viroopa, Vani, Gayatri, Savitri, Apara or Aparajita, Aparna, Aruna, Akhila, Bala, Tara, Kuhu, Poornima, Aditi, Anumati, Avashyaa, Sita, Taruni, Jyotsna, Jyoti, Nimeshika, Atibha, Ishaani, Kalyani, Smriti and probably her most used abbreviation, Sri.
In Eastern Indian traditions, Lakshmi is regarded as a form of Devi, along with Durga or Shakti. Lakshmi, Parvati, and Saraswathi are regionally considered to be from of Durga in West Bengal and Odisha, which are usually considered separate in India. She is the personification of spiritual fulfillment and is the embodiment of Param Prakriti, which purifies, empowers, and uplifts the individual.
It is obvious that Lakshmi represents an elusive and evolving subject of wealth and prosperity as well as the divine feminine aspect of spiritual energy. She is a powerful symbol in Hinduism and is worshipped often in modern India with statues and symbolism apparent in many of the places that I am currently near in Mysore. Her evolution is as interesting as her origins and I continue to find tremendous insight in the symbolism applied to her forms.