Skip to main content
Select Source:

Yoga

Yoga

Definition

The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit word which means yoke or union. Traditionally, yoga is a method joining the individual self with the Divine, Universal Spirit, or Cosmic Consciousness. Physical and mental exercises are designed to help achieve this goal, also called self-transcendence or enlightenment. On the physical level, yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen, and align the body. These postures are performed to make the spine supple and healthy and to promote blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, keeping all the bodily systems healthy. On the mental level, yoga uses breathing techniques (pranayama ) and meditation (dyana ) to quiet, clarify, and discipline the mind. However, experts are quick to point out that yoga is not a religion, but a way of living with health and peace of mind as its aims.

Purpose

Yoga has been used to alleviate problems associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, migraine headaches, asthma, shallow breathing, backaches, constipation, diabetes, menopause, multiple sclerosis, varicose veins, carpal tunnel syndrome and many chronic illnesses. It also has been studied and approved for its ability to promote relaxation and reduce stress.

As of late 2002, yoga is increasingly recommended for dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, and other disorders in premenopausal women, in Europe as well as in the United States.

Yoga can also provide the same benefits as any well-designed exercise program, increasing general health and stamina, reducing stress, and improving those conditions brought about by sedentary lifestyles. Yoga has the added advantage of being a low-impact activity that uses only gravity as resistance, which makes it an excellent physical therapy routine; certain yoga postures can be safely used to strengthen and balance all parts of the body. A study published in late 2002 summarized recent findings about the benefits of yoga for the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. The review noted that yoga is still viewed as a "trendy" form of exercise rather than one with documented medical benefits.

Meditation has been much studied and approved for its benefits in reducing stress-related conditions. The landmark book, The Relaxation Response, by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, showed that meditation and breathing techniques for relaxation could have the opposite effect of stress, reducing blood pressure and other indicators. Since then, much research has reiterated the benefits of meditation for stress reduction and general health. Currently, the American Medical Association recommends meditation techniques as a first step before medication for borderline hypertension cases. Some 2002 studies indicate that yogic meditation by itself is effective in lowering serum cholesterol as well as blood pressure.

Modern psychological studies have shown that even slight facial expressions can cause changes in the involuntary nervous system; yoga utilizes the mind/body connection. That is, yoga practice contains the central ideas that physical posture and alignment can influence a person's mood and self-esteem, and also that the mind can be used to shape and heal the body. Yoga practitioners claim that the strengthening of mind/body awareness can bring eventual improvements in all facets of a person's life.

Description

Origins

Yoga originated in ancient India and is one of the longest surviving philosophical systems in the world. Some scholars have estimated that yoga is as old as 5,000 years; artifacts detailing yoga postures have been found in India from over 3000 b.c. Yoga masters (yogis ) claim that it is a highly developed science of healthy living that has been tested and perfected for all these years. Yoga was first brought to America in the late 1800s when Swami Vivekananda, an Indian teacher and yogi, presented a lecture on meditation in Chicago. Yoga slowly began gaining followers, and flourished during the 1960s when there was a surge of interest in Eastern philosophy. There has since been a vast exchange of yoga knowledge in America, with many students going to India to study and many Indian experts coming here to teach, resulting in the establishment of a wide variety schools. Today, yoga is thriving, and it has become easy to find teachers and practitioners throughout America. A recent Roper poll, commissioned by Yoga Journal, found that 11 million Americans do yoga at least occasionally and 6 million perform it regularly. Yoga stretches are used by physical therapists and professional sports teams, and the benefits of yoga are being touted by movie stars and Fortune 500 executives. Many prestigious schools of medicine have studied and introduced yoga techniques as proven therapies for illness and stress. Some medical schools, like UCLA, even offer yoga classes as part of their physician training program.

PATANJALI (CIRCA SECOND CENTURY b.c.-CIRCA SECOND CENTURY b.c.)

There is little historical information available on Patanjali, who is credited with developing yoga, one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy. Several scholars suggest several persons may have developed yoga under the pseudonym of Patanjali. In any case, Patanjali existed around 150 b.c. in India. He developed yoga based on a loose set of doctrines and practices from the Upanishads, themselves a set of mystical writings. The Upanishads are part of the Aranyakas, philosophical concepts that are part of the Veda, the most ancient body of literature of Hinduism. Patanjali gave these combined philosophical and esoteric writings a common foundation in his Yoga Sutra, a set of 196 concise aphorisms (wise sayings) that form the principles of yoga. He also drew upon Samkhya, the oldest classic system of Hindu philosophy. Patanjali's yoga accepted Samkhya metaphysics and the concept of a supreme soul. He established an eight-stage discipline of self-control and meditation. The individual sutras (verses) lay out the entire tradition of meditation. They also describe the moral and physical disciplines needed for the soul to attain absolute freedom from the body and self.

Classical yoga is separated into eight limbs, each a part of the complete system for mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Four of the limbs deal with mental and physical exercises designed to bring the

Yoga Positions
Name Description
Abdominal massage Kneel with arms folded. Bend torso toward ground and lower forehead to the floor. Slowlly raise up, switch arms, and repeat.
Boat Lying on stomach, raise head, torso, arms, and legs off the ground and stretch. Arms should be outstretched and pointing towards feet.
Bow Lying on stomach, hold ankles from behind and slowly raise head, torso, and thighs off floor.
Bridge Lying on back with knees bent and feet flat on floor, raise pelvis off floor and arch back. Arms should be stretched out on floor with hands grasped.
C On hands and knees, move head and buttocks as far left as possible. Inhale as you return center and repeat on the right side.
Camel While kneeling, arch back and bend head back toward feet. Hold heels with hands and exhale while in movement.
Cat On hands and knees, arch back and exhale while in movement, rounding shoulders and back.
Child Kneeling with arms to the side, roll torso to floor and rest forehead on the ground.
Cobra Stretched out on floor with stomach down, place elbows parallel to shoulders and raise torso up. Arms should straighten with hands flat on floor.
Corpse Lie on back with feet and arms outstretched. Breathe deeply.
Dog On hands and knees, dip back and lift head and buttocks up. Exhale.
Downward Dog On hands and knees form and inverted V by pushing pelvis up and pressing hands and heels to floor. Exhale while in movement.
Half Cobra Stretched out on floor with stomach down, place elbows parallel to shoulders and raise torso up. Keep arms bent and only raise torso off the ground as far as the navel.
Half Locust Lying on stomach with hands beneath the body, raise legs one at a time while tensing buttocks. Repeat with other leg.
Half Lotus Sit with legs crossed (only one leg should be over the other) and knees touching the floor.
Half-Moon Standing with feet together, hold hands above the head with arms outstretched. Exhale and stretch to the left. Inhale and return to center. Repeat on other side.
Hand and thumb squeeze Make a fist around thumb and squeeze. Release slowly and repeat on other hand.
Head to knee Sitting with right leg outstretched and the left leg bend toward the body with the left foot touching the right leg, stretch head to right knee. Repeat on other side.
Hero On hands and knees, cross left knee in front of right knee while sitting back between the heels. Hold heels with hands.
Knee down twist Lying on back with arms outstretched, place right foot on left knee and swivel right knee to the left side of floor. While in movement, turn head to left side. Repeat on opposite side.
Locust Lying on stomach with hands under the body, squeeze buttocks and lift legs up and outward. Keep legs straight.
Mountain Standing with feet together, inhale while raising arms straight above the head and clasp hands together. Exhale while lowering arms.
Pigeon Kneeling, slide the left leg straight out from behind and inhale, stretching torso up. Release and repeat on other side.
Plow Lying on back, inhale and raise legs over head while keeping hands flat on floor for support.
Yoga Positions (continued)
Name Description
Posterior stretch Sitting with legs outstretched and feet together, stretch head to toes.
Rag Doll While standing, exhale and bend over toward toes, cupping elbows with hands. Breathe deeply.
Seated angle Sitting with legs outstretched in a V shape, stretch arms to toes and head to floor.
Shoulder crunch With back straight, slowly lift shoulder to ear and lower. Repeat on other side.
Shoulder stand Lying on back, lift legs up and support back with hands. Slowly angle legs over head and then extend upward.
Sphinx Lying on stomach with elbows parallel to shoulders and palms on the ground, push torso up and look upward.
Spider Press fingertips together and move palms in and out.
Spinal twist Sitting with right foot crossed over left leg and right leg held with left arm. Twist while supporting body with right hand on the floor. Repeat on other side.
Standing angle Inhale and step into V position, stretching arms out and then down toward floor.
Standing yoga mudra Standing with arms at sides, inhale and raise arms in front. Exhale and swing arms to back.
Tree While standing, place one foot on the opposite thigh and outstretch arms above the head. Hold hands above with index fingers straight and the remaining fingers clasped.
Triangle With arms parallel to floor and legs outstretched, turn one foot out and stretch to that side, keeping arms straight. Repeat on other side.
Upward Dog Lying on stomach with hands down near the chest, lift torso off the floor while raising on toes. Hands should raise, but remain palms down. Arch back slightly.
Warrior I Raise arms over head with palms together and lunge forward with one foot, keeping thigh parallel to the ground.
Warrior II With arms straight out and parallel to the ground and legs in V, turn one foot out and lunge to the side, keeping hips straight.
Yoga Mudra Sitting on heels, round torso to the ground with forehead to the floor while stretching arms overhead. Inhale while in movement and exhale while lowering arms.

mind in tune with the body. The other four deal with different stages of meditation. There are six major types of yoga, all with the same goals of health and harmony but with varying techniques: hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, jnana, and tantra yoga. Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced branch of yoga in America, and it is a highly developed system of nearly 200 physical postures, movements and breathing techniques designed to tune the body to its optimal health. The yoga philosophy believes the breath to be the most important facet of health, as the breath is the largest source of prana, or life force, and hatha yoga utilizes pranayama, which literally means the science or control of breathing. Hatha yoga was originally developed as a system to make the body strong and healthy enough to enable mental awareness and spiritual enlightenment.

There are several different schools of hatha yoga in America; the two most prevalent ones are Iyengar and ashtanga yoga. Iyengar yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar, who is widely considered as one of the great living innovators of yoga. Iyengar yoga puts strict emphasis on form and alignment, and uses traditional hatha yoga techniques in new manners and sequences. Iyengar yoga can be good for physical therapy because it allows the use of props like straps and blocks to make it easier for some people to get into the yoga postures. Ashtanga yoga can be a more vigorous routine, using a flowing and dance-like sequence of hatha postures to generate body heat, which purifies the body through sweating and deep breathing.

The other types of yoga show some of the remaining ideas which permeate yoga. Raja yoga strives to bring about mental clarity and discipline through meditation, simplicity, and non-attachment to worldly things and desires. Karma yoga emphasizes charity, service to others, non-aggression and non-harming as means to awareness and peace. Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion and love of God, or Universal Spirit. Jnana yoga is the practice and development of knowledge and wisdom. Finally, tantra yoga is the path of self-awareness through religious rituals, including awareness of sexuality as sacred and vital.

A typical hatha yoga routine consists of a sequence of physical poses, or asanas, and the sequence is designed to work all parts of the body, with particular emphasis on making the spine supple and healthy and increasing circulation. Hatha yoga asanas utilize three basic movements: forward bends, backward bends, and twisting motions. Each asana is named for a common thing it resembles, like the sun salutation, cobra, locust, plough, bow, eagle, tree, and the head to knee pose, to name a few. Each pose has steps for entering and exiting it, and each posture requires proper form and alignment. A pose is held for some time, depending on its level of difficulty and one's strength and stamina, and the practitioner is also usually aware of when to inhale and exhale at certain points in each posture, as breathing properly is another fundamental aspect of yoga. Breathing should be deep and through the nose. Mental concentration in each position is also very important, which improves awareness, poise and posture. During a yoga routine there is often a position in which to perform meditation, if deep relaxation is one of the goals of the sequence.

Yoga routines can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two or more hours, with one hour being a good time investment to perform a sequence of postures and a meditation. Some yoga routines, depending on the teacher and school, can be as strenuous as the most difficult workout, and some routines merely stretch and align the body while the breath and heart rate are kept slow and steady. Yoga achieves its best results when it is practiced as a daily discipline, and yoga can be a life-long exercise routine, offering deeper and more challenging positions as a practitioner becomes more adept. The basic positions can increase a person's strength, flexibility and sense of well-being almost immediately, but it can take years to perfect and deepen them, which is an appealing and stimulating aspect of yoga for many.

Yoga is usually best learned from a yoga teacher or physical therapist, but yoga is simple enough that one can learn the basics from good books on the subject, which are plentiful. Yoga classes are generally inexpensive, averaging around 10 dollars per class, and students can learn basic postures in just a few classes. Many YMCAs, colleges, and community health organizations offer beginning yoga classes as well, often for nominal fees. If yoga is part of a physical therapy program, its cost can be reimbursed by insurance.

Preparations

Yoga can be performed by those of any age and condition, although not all poses should be attempted by everyone. Yoga is also a very accessible form of exercise; all that is needed is a flat floor surface large enough to stretch out on, a mat or towel, and enough overhead space to fully raise the arms. It is a good activity for those who can't go to gyms, who don't like other forms of exercise, or have very busy schedules. Yoga should be done on an empty stomach, and teachers recommend waiting three or more hours after meals. Loose and comfortable clothing should be worn.

Precautions

People with injuries, medical conditions, or spinal problems should consult a doctor before beginning yoga. Those with medical conditions should find a yoga teacher who is familiar with their type of problem and who is willing to give them individual attention. Pregnant women can benefit from yoga, but should always be guided by an experienced teacher. Certain yoga positions should not be performed with a fever, or during menstruation.

Beginners should exercise care and concentration when performing yoga postures, and not try to stretch too much too quickly, as injury could result. Some advanced yoga postures, like the headstand and full lotus position, can be difficult and require strength, flexibility, and gradual preparation, so beginners should get the help of a teacher before attempting them.

Yoga is not a competive sport; it does not matter how a person does in comparison with others, but how aware and disciplined one becomes with one's own body and limitations. Proper form and alignment should always be maintained during a stretch or posture, and the stretch or posture should be stopped when there is pain, dizziness, or fatigue. The mental component of yoga is just as important as the physical postures. Concentration and awareness of breath should not be neglected. Yoga should be done with an open, gentle, and non-critical mind; when one stretches into a yoga position, it can be thought of accepting and working on one's limits. Impatience, self-criticism and comparing oneself to others will not help in this process of self-knowledge. While performing the yoga of breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dyana), it is best to have an experienced teacher, as these powerful techniques can cause dizziness and discomfort when done improperly.

Side effects

Some people have reported injuries by performing yoga postures without proper form or concentration, or by attempting difficult positions without working up to them gradually or having appropriate supervision. Beginners sometimes report muscle soreness and fatigue after performing yoga, but these side effects diminish with practice.

Research and general acceptance

Although yoga originated in a culture very different from that of modern America, it has been accepted and its practice has spread relatively quickly. Many yogis are amazed at how rapidly yoga's popularity has spread in the United States and Canada, considering the legend that it was passed down secretly by handfuls of adherents for many centuries.

There can still be found some resistance to yoga, for active and busy Americans sometimes find it hard to believe that an exercise program that requires them to slow down, concentrate, and breathe deeply can be more effective than lifting weights or running. However, ongoing research in top medical schools is showing yoga's effectiveness for overall health and for specific problems, making it an increasingly acceptable health practice.

KEY TERMS

Asana A position or stance in yoga.

Dyana The yoga term for meditation.

Hatha yoga Form of yoga using postures, breathing methods and meditation.

Meditation Technique of concentration for relaxing the mind and body.

Pranayama Yoga breathing techniques.

Yogi (female, yogini) A trained practitioner of yoga.

The growing acceptability of yoga as an alternative therapy for certain disorders or conditions is reflected in the fact that the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is conducting a series of clinical trials of ypga. As of the summer of 2004, NCCAM has five clinical trials in progress, evaluating yoga as a treatment for chronic low back pain; insomnia; depression in patients diagnosed with HIV infection; and shortness of breath in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The fifth clinical trial is an evaluation of yoga in improving attention span in aging and multiple sclerosis.

Resources

BOOKS

Ansari, Mark, and Liz Lark. Yoga for Beginners. New York: Harper, 1999.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. The Best Alternative Medicine, Chapter 10, "Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga: From Buddha to the Millennium." New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

PERIODICALS

Bielory, L., J. Russin, and G. B. Zuckerman. "Clinical Efficacy, Mechanisms of Action, and Adverse Effects of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies for Asthma." Allergy and Asthma Proceedings 25 (September-October 2004): 283-291.

Engebretson, J. "Culture and Complementary Therapies" Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery 8 (November 2002): 177-184.

Gerritsen, A. A., M. C. de Krom, M. A. Struijs, et al. "Conservative Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials." Journal of Neurology 249 (March 2002): 272-280.

Kronenberg, F., and A. Fugh-Berman. "Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopausal Symptoms: A Review of Randomized, Controlled Trials." Annals of Internal Medicine 137 (November 19, 2002): 805-813.

Lee, S. W., C. A. Mancuso, and M. E. Charlson. "Prospective Study of New Participants in a Community-Based Mind-Body Training Program." Journal of General Internal Medicine 19 (July 2004): 760-765.

Manocha, R., G. B. Marks, P. Kenchington, et al. "Sahaja Yoga in the Management of Moderate to Severe Asthma: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Thorax 57 (February 2002): 110-115.

Raub, J. A. "Psychophysiologic Effects of Hatha Yoga on Musculoskeletal and Cardiopulmonary Function: A Literature Review." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 8 (December 2002): 797-812.

Tonini, G. "Dysmenorrhea, Endometriosis and Premenstrual Syndrome" [in Italian] Minerva Pediatrica 54 (December 2002): 525-538.

Vyas, R., and N. Dikshit. "Effect of Meditation on Respiratory System, Cardiovascular System and Lipid Profile." Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 46 (October 2002): 487-491.

Yoga International Magazine. R.R. 1 Box 407, Honesdale, PA 18431. http://www.yimag.com.

Yoga Journal. P.O. Box 469088, Escondido, CA 92046. http://www.yogajournal.com.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Yoga Association. http://www.americanyogaassociation.org.

International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). 4150 Tivoli Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90066.

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Clearinghouse. P. O. Box 7923. Gaitherburg, MD 20898. (888) 644-6226. Fax: (866) 464-3616. http://nccam.nih.gov.

Yoga Research and Education Center (YREC). 2400A County Center Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. (707) 566-0000. http://www.yrec.org.

OTHER

NCCAM Yoga Clinical Trials. http://nccam.nih.gov/clinicaltrials/yoga.htm.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-1

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga

Definition

The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit word that means yoke or union. Traditionally, yoga is a method joining the individual self with the Divine, Universal Spirit, or Cosmic Consciousness. Physical and mental

YOGA POSITIONS
Name Description
Abdominal massage Kneel with arms folded. Bend torso toward ground and lower forehead to the floor. Slowly raise up, switch arms, and repeat.
Boat Lying on stomach, raise head, torso, arms, and legs off the ground and stretch. Arms should be outstretched and pointing towards feet.
Bow Lying on stomach, hold ankles from behind and slowly raise head, torso, and thighs off floor.
Bridge Lying on back with knees bent and feet flat on floor, raise pelvis off floor and arch back. Arms should be stretched out on floor with hands grasped.
C On hands and knees, move head and buttocks as far left as possible. Inhale as you return center and repeat on the right side.
Camel While kneeling, arch back and bend head back toward feet. Hold heels with hands and exhale while in movement.
Cat On hands and knees, arch back and exhale while in movement, rounding shoulders and back.
Child Kneeling with arms to the side, roll torso to floor and rest forehead on the ground.
Cobra Stretched out on floor with stomach down, place elbows parallel to shoulders and raise torso up. Arms should straighten with hands flat on floor.
Corpse Lie on back with feet and arms outstretched. Breathe deeply.
Dog On hands and knees, dip back and lift head and buttocks up. Exhale.
Downward Dog On hands and knees form an inverted V by pushing pelvis up and pressing hands and heels to floor. Exhale while in movement.
Half Cobra Stretched out on floor with stomach down, place elbows parallel to shoulders and raise torso up. Keep arms bent and only raise torso off the ground as far as the navel.
Half Locust Lying on stomach with hands beneath the body, raise legs one at a time while tensing buttocks. Repeat with other leg.
Half Lotus Sit with legs crossed (only one leg should be over the other) and knees touching the floor.
Half-Moon Standing with feet together, hold hands above the head with arms outstretched. Exhale and stretch to the left. Inhale and return to center. Repeat on other side.
Hand and thumb squeeze Make a fist around thumb and squeeze. Release slowly and repeat on other hand.
Head to knee Sitting with right leg outstretched and the left leg bent toward the body with the left foot touching the right leg, stretch head to right knee. Repeat on other side.
Hero On hands and knees, cross left knee in front of right knee while sitting back between the heels. Hold heels with hands.
Knee down twist Lying on back with arms outstretched, place right foot on left knee and swivel right knee to the left side of floor. While in movement, turn head to left side. Repeat on opposite side.

exercises are designed to help achieve this goal, also called self-transcendence or enlightenment. On the physical level, yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen, and align the body. These postures are performed to make the spine supple and healthy and to promote blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, keeping all the bodily systems healthy. On the mental level, yoga uses breathing techniques (pranayama ) and meditation (dyana ) to quiet, clarify, and discipline the mind. However, experts are quick to point out that yoga is not a religion, but a way of living with health and peace of mind as its aims.

Origins

Yoga originated in ancient India and is one of the longest surviving philosophical systems in the world. Some scholars have estimated that yoga is as old as

Locust Lying on stomach with hands under the body, squeeze buttocks and lift legs up and outward. Keep legs straight.
Mountain Standing with feet together, inhale while raising arms straight above the head and clasp hands together. Exhale while lowering arms.
Pigeon Kneeling, slide the left leg straight out from behind and inhale, stretching torso up. Release and repeat on other side.
Plow Lying on back, inhale and raise legs over head while keeping hands flat on floor for support.
Posterior stretch Sitting with legs outstretched and feet together, stretch head to toes.
Rag Doll While standing, exhale and bend over toward toes, cupping elbows with hands. Breathe deeply.
Seated angle Sitting with legs outstretched in a V shape, stretch arms to toes and head to floor.
Shoulder crunch With back straight, slowly lift shoulder to ear and lower. Repeat on other side.
Shoulder stand Lying on back, lift legs up and support back with hands. Slowly angle legs over head and then extend upward.
Sphinx Lying on stomach with elbows parallel to shoulders and palms on the ground, push torso up and look upward.
Spider Press fingertips together and move palms in and out.
Spinal twist Sit with right foot crossed over left leg and right leg held with left arm. Twist while supporting body with right hand on the floor. Repeat on other side.
Standing angle Inhale and step into V position, stretching arms out and then down toward floor.
Standing yoga mudra Standing with arms at sides, inhale and raise arms in front. Exhale and swing arms to back.
Tree While standing, place one foot on the opposite thigh and outstretch arms above the head. Hold hands above with index fingers straight and the remaining fingers clasped.
Triangle With arms parallel to floor and legs outstretched, turn one foot out and stretch to that side, keeping arms straight. Repeat on other side.
Upward Dog Lying on stomach with hands down near the chest, lift torso off the floor while raising on toes. Hands should raise, but remain palms down. Arch back slightly.
Warrior I Raise arms over head with palms together and lunge forward with one foot, keeping thigh parallel to the ground.
Warrior II With arms straight out and parallel to the ground and legs in V, turn one foot out and lunge to the side, keeping hips straight.
Yoga Mudra Sitting on heels, round torso to the ground with forehead to the floor while stretching arms overhead. Inhale while in movement and exhale while lowering arms.

5,000 years; artifacts detailing yoga postures have been found in India from over 3000 b.c. Yoga masters (yogis ) claim that it is a highly developed science of healthy living that has been tested and perfected for all these years. Yoga was first brought to America in the late 1800s when Swami Vivekananda, an Indian teacher and yogi, presented a lecture on meditation in Chicago. Yoga slowly began gaining followers, and flourished during the 1960s when there was a surge of interest in Eastern philosophy. There has since been a vast exchange of yoga knowledge in America, with many students going to India to study and many Indian experts coming here to teach, resulting in the establishment of a wide variety of schools. Today, yoga is thriving, and it has become easy to find teachers and practitioners throughout America. A recent Roper poll, commissioned by Yoga Journal, found that 11 million Americans do yoga at least occasionally and six million perform it regularly. Yoga stretches are used by physical therapists and professional sports teams, and the benefits of yoga are being touted by movie stars and Fortune 500 executives. Many prestigious schools of medicine have studied and introduced yoga techniques as proven therapies for illness and stress . Some medical schools, like UCLA, even offer yoga classes as part of their physician training program.

Benefits

Yoga has been used to alleviate problems associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol , migraine headaches, asthma , shallow breathing, backaches, constipation , diabetes, menopause, multiple sclerosis, varicose veins , and many chronic illnesses. It also has been studied and approved for its ability to promote relaxation and reduce stress. On the other hand, some researchers are now questioning claims that yoga is beneficial for such conditions as carpal tunnel syndrome .

As of late 2002, yoga is increasingly recommended for dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome , and other disorders in premenopausal women, in Europe as well as in the United States.

Yoga can also provide the same benefits as any well-designed exercise program, increasing general health and stamina, reducing stress, and improving those conditions brought about by sedentary lifestyles. Yoga has the added advantage of being a low-impact activity that uses only gravity as resistance, which makes it an excellent physical therapy routine; certain yoga postures can be safely used to strengthen and balance all parts of the body. A study published in late 2002 summarized recent findings about the benefits of yoga for the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. The review noted that yoga is still viewed as a "trendy" form of exercise rather than one with documented medical benefits.

Meditation has been much studied and approved for its benefits in reducing stress-related conditions. The landmark book, The Relaxation Response, by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, showed that meditation and breathing techniques for relaxation could have the opposite effect of stress, reducing blood pressure and other indicators. Since then, much research has reiterated the benefits of meditation for stress reduction and general health. Currently, the American Medical Association recommends meditation techniques as a first step before medication for borderline hypertension cases. Some 2002 studies indicate that yogic meditation by itself is effective in lowering serum cholesterol as well as blood pressure.

Modern psychological studies have shown that even slight facial expressions can cause changes in the involuntary nervous system; yoga utilizes the mind/body connection. That is, yoga practice contains the central ideas that physical posture and alignment can influence a person's mood and self-esteem, and also that the mind can be used to shape and heal the body. Yoga practitioners claim that the strengthening of mind/body awareness can bring eventual improvements in all facets of a person's life.

PATANJALI
(c. 2nd century b.c.)


There is little historical information available on Patanjali, who is credited with developing yoga, one of the six systems of Hindu philosophy. Several scholars suggest several persons may have developed yoga under the pseudonym of Patanjali. In any case, Patanjali existed around 150 b.c. in India. He developed yoga based on a loose set of doctrines and practices from the Upanishads, themselves a set of mystical writings. The Upanishads are part of the Aranyakas, philosophical concepts that are part of the Veda, the most ancient body of literature of Hinduism. Patanjali gave these combined philosophical and esoteric writings a common foundation in his Yoga Sutra, a set of 196 concise aphorisms (wise sayings) that form the principles of yoga. He also drew upon Samkhya, the oldest classic system of Hindu philosophy. Patanjali's yoga accepted Samkhya metaphysics and the concept of a supreme soul. He established an eight-stage discipline of self-control and meditation. The individual sutras (verses) lay out the entire tradition of meditation. They also describe the moral and physical disciplines needed for the soul to attain absolute freedom from the body and self.

Ken R. Wells

Description

Classical yoga is separated into eight limbs, each a part of the complete system for mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. Four of the limbs deal with mental and physical exercises designed to bring the mind in tune with the body. The other four deal with different stages of meditation. There are six major types of yoga, all with the same goals of health and harmony but with varying techniques: hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, jnana, and tantra yoga. Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced branch of yoga in America, and it is a highly developed system of nearly 200 physical postures, movements, and breathing techniques designed to tune the body to its optimal health. The yoga philosophy believes the breath to be the most important facet of health, as the breath is the largest source of prana, or life force, and hatha yoga utilizes pranayama, which literally means the science or control of breathing. Hatha yoga was originally developed as a system to make the body strong and healthy enough to enable mental awareness and spiritual enlightenment.

There are several different schools of hatha yoga in America; the two most prevalent ones are Iyengar and ashtanga yoga. Iyengar yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar, who is widely considered as one of the great living innovators of yoga. Iyengar yoga puts strict emphasis on form and alignment, and uses traditional hatha yoga techniques in new manners and sequences. Iyengar yoga can be good for physical therapy because it allows the use of props like straps and blocks to make it easier for some people to get into the yoga postures. Ashtanga yoga can be a more vigorous routine, using a flowing and dance-like sequence of hatha postures to generate body heat, which purifies the body through sweating and deep breathing.

The other types of yoga show some of the remaining ideas that permeate yoga. Raja yoga strives to bring about mental clarity and discipline through meditation, simplicity, and non-attachment to worldly things and desires. Karma yoga emphasizes charity, service to others, non-aggression and non-harming as means to awareness and peace. Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion and love of God, or Universal Spirit. Jnana yoga is the practice and development of knowledge and wisdom. Finally, tantra yoga is the path of self-awareness through religious rituals, including awareness of sexuality as sacred and vital.

A typical hatha yoga routine consists of a sequence of physical poses, or asanas, and the sequence is designed to work all parts of the body, with particular emphasis on making the spine supple and healthy and increasing circulation. Hatha yoga asanas utilize three basic movements: forward bends, backward bends, and twisting motions. Each asana is named for a common thing it resembles, like the sun salutation, cobra, locust, plough, bow, eagle, and tree, to name a few. Each pose has steps for entering and exiting it, and each posture requires proper form and alignment. A pose is held for some time, depending on its level of difficulty and one's strength and stamina, and the practitioner is also usually aware of when to inhale and exhale at certain points in each posture, as breathing properly is another fundamental aspect of yoga. Breathing should be deep and through the nose. Mental concentration in each position is also very important, which improves awareness, poise, and posture. During a yoga routine there is often a position in which to perform meditation, if deep relaxation is one of the goals of the sequence.

Yoga routines can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two or more hours, with one hour being a good time investment to perform a sequence of postures and a meditation. Some yoga routines, depending on the teacher and school, can be as strenuous as the most difficult workout, and some routines merely stretch and align the body while the breath and heart rate are kept slow and steady. Yoga achieves its best results when it is practiced as a daily discipline, and yoga can be a life-long exercise routine, offering deeper and more challenging positions as a practitioner becomes more adept. The basic positions can increase a person's strength, flexibility, and sense of well-being almost immediately, but it can take years to perfect and deepen them, which is an appealing and stimulating aspect of yoga for many.

Yoga is usually best learned from a yoga teacher or physical therapist, but yoga is simple enough that one can learn the basics from good books on the subject, which are plentiful. Yoga classes are generally inexpensive, averaging around 10 dollars per class, and students can learn basic postures in just a few classes. Many YMCAs, colleges, and community health organizations offer beginning yoga classes as well, often for nominal fees. If yoga is part of a physical therapy program, its cost can be reimbursed by insurance.

Preparations

Yoga can be performed by those of any age and condition, although not all poses should be attempted by everyone. Yoga is also a very accessible form of exercise; all that is needed is a flat floor surface large enough to stretch out on, a mat or towel, and enough overhead space to fully raise the arms. It is a good activity for those who cannot go to gyms, who do not like other forms of exercise, or have very busy schedules. Yoga should be done on an empty stomach, and teachers recommend waiting three or more hours after meals. Loose and comfortable clothing should be worn.

Precautions

People with injuries, medical conditions, or spinal problems should consult a doctor before beginning yoga. Those with medical conditions should find a yoga teacher who is familiar with their type of problem and who is willing to give them individual attention. Pregnant women can benefit from yoga, but should always be guided by an experienced teacher. Certain yoga positions should not be performed with a fever , or during menstruation .

Beginners should exercise care and concentration when performing yoga postures, and not try to stretch too much too quickly, as injury could result. Some advanced yoga postures, like the headstand and full lotus position, can be difficult and require strength, flexibility, and gradual preparation, so beginners should get the help of a teacher before attempting them.

Yoga is not a competitive sport; it does not matter how a person does in comparison with others, but how aware and disciplined one becomes with one's own body and limitations. Proper form and alignment should always be maintained during a stretch or posture, and the stretch or posture should be stopped when there is pain, dizziness , or fatigue . The mental component of yoga is just as important as the physical postures. Concentration and awareness of breath should not be neglected. Yoga should be done with an open, gentle, and non-critical mind; when one stretches into a yoga position, it can be thought of as accepting and working on one's limits. Impatience, self-criticism, and comparing oneself to others will not help in this process of self-knowledge. While performing the yoga of breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dyana), it is best to have an experienced teacher, as these powerful techniques can cause dizziness and discomfort when done improperly.

Side effects

Some people have reported injuries by performing yoga postures without proper form or concentration, or by attempting difficult positions without working up to them gradually or having appropriate supervision. Beginners sometimes report muscle soreness and fatigue after performing yoga, but these side effects diminish with practice.

Research & general acceptance

Although yoga originated in a culture very different from modern America, it has been accepted and its practice has spread relatively quickly. Many yogis are amazed at how rapidly yoga's popularity has spread in America, considering the legend that it was passed down secretly by handfuls of followers for many centuries.

There can still be found some resistance to yoga, for active and busy Americans sometimes find it hard to believe that an exercise program that requires them to slow down, concentrate, and breathe deeply can be more effective than lifting weights or running. However, ongoing research in top medical schools is showing yoga's effectiveness for overall health and for specific problems, making it an increasingly acceptable health practice.

Training & certification

Many different schools of yoga have developed in America, and beginners should experiment with them to find the best-suited routine. Hatha yoga schools emphasize classical yoga postures, and raja yoga schools concentrate on mental discipline and meditation techniques. In America, there are no generally accepted standards for the certification of yoga teachers. Some schools certify teachers in a few intensive days and some require years of study before certifying teachers. Beginners should search for teachers who show respect and are careful in their teaching, and should beware of instructors who push them into poses before they are ready.

Resources

BOOKS

Ansari, Mark, and Liz Lark. Yoga for Beginners. New York: Harper, 1999.

Bodian, Stephan, and Georg Feuerstein. Living Yoga. New York: Putnam, 1993.

Carrico, Mara. Yoga Journal's Yoga Basics. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.

Iyengar, B.K.S. Light on Yoga. New York: Schocken, 1975.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. The Best Alternative Medicine, Chapter 10, "Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga: From Buddha to the Millennium." New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

PERIODICALS

Engebretson, J. "Culture and Complementary Therapies." Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery 8 (November 2002): 177184.

Gerritsen, A. A., M. C. de Krom, M. A. Struijs, et al. "Conservative Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials." Journal of Neurology 249 (March 2002): 272280.

Kronenberg, F., and A. Fugh-Berman. "Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopausal Symptoms: A Review of Randomized, Controlled Trials." Annals of Internal Medicine 137 (November 19, 2002): 805813.

Manocha, R., G. B. Marks, P. Kenchington, et al. "Sahaja Yoga in the Management of Moderate to Severe Asthma: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Thorax 57 (February 2002): 110115.

Raub, J. A. "Psychophysiologic Effects of Hatha Yoga on Musculoskeletal and Cardiopulmonary Function: A Literature Review." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 8 (December 2002): 797812.

Tonini, G. "Dysmenorrhea, Endometriosis and Premenstrual Syndrome." [in Italian] Minerva Pediatrica 54 (December 2002): 525538.

Vyas, R., and N. Dikshit. "Effect of Meditation on Respiratory System, Cardiovascular System and Lipid Profile." Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 46 (October 2002): 487491.

Yoga International Magazine. R.R. 1 Box 407, Honesdale, PA 18431. <http://www.yimag.com>.

Yoga Journal. P.O. Box 469088, Escondido, CA 92046. <http://www.yogajournal.com>.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Yoga Association. <www.americanyogaassociation.org.>.

International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). 4150 Tivoli Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90066.

Yoga Research and Education Center (YREC). 2400A County Center Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. (707) 566-0000. <www.yrec.org.>.

OTHER

Yoga Directory. <http://www.yogadirectory.com>.

Yoga Finder Online. <http://www.yogafinder.com>.

Douglas Dupler

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-0

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

YOGA.

The word yoga comes from a Sanskrit verbal root meaning "to yoke, harness" and in general refers to one or another of the many psycho-physical techniques in Indian religions designed to obtain discipline and control over the body and mind. In its classical contexts, yoga could refer to any one of a whole variety of such self-disciplinary practices. In India, yoga transcended sectarian boundaries. There are, for example, both Hindu and Buddhist forms of yoga and within each of these religious traditions many different kinds of spiritual methods and practices are designated by this term. None of these "yogic" methods is solely physical. All entail some form of mental discipline, which can be labeled meditation; in Indian religions yoga and meditation almost always went hand in hand. The physical practices of yoga were usually seen at best to be only preliminary to the more spiritual forms of yoga that utilize various kinds of meditation techniques.

It is possible that yoga goes back to the earliest period of Indian history. Figurines and seals found at sites of the Indus Valley civilization, dating back to the second millennium b.c.e., have sometimes been interpreted to indicate the practice of yoga there. In particular, one seal depicts what appears to be a deity sitting in a posture typical of later yoga. In the earliest Sanskrit texts of the Vedic period (c. 15001200 b.c.e.) there are references to ascetics and ecstatics called muni s ("silent sages") who are depicted with long hair, are said to be "girdled by the wind" (meaning, possibly, naked), and are described as having some of the superhuman powers later associated with advanced yoga practice. The Atharva Veda mentions a group called the vratyas who practice asceticism (they are said to be able to stand for a year) and assume other physical postures as part of their disciplinary regimen. They also seemed to have practiced some kind of breath control and envisioned correlations between their bodies and the cosmos. Also already in the Vedic texts we encounter the theory and practice of tapas or "ascetic heat" which, when obtained by the practitioner through various methods of physical and mental asceticism, was said to impart similar powers and spiritual purity. Tapas was in later texts to come to the forefront of the essential disciplinary practices that were involved in yoga.

By the time of the later texts of the Vedic period, the Upanishads of the third or fourth centuries b.c.e., the word and conceptualizations of yoga are encountered frequently. In these texts, yoga means primarily the control of the mind and the senses. The senses are likened to horses which must be "yoked" or "disciplined" by the yogin (yogi) whose "mind is constantly held firm" and whose "senses are under control like the good horses of a charioteer. They consider yoga to be the firm restraint of the senses. Then one becomes undistracted" (Katha Upanishad 3.6; 6.11). In these texts some of the physical practices of yoga are also described. The practitioner is advised to retreat to a pleasant place in the wilderness where he should assume a particular physical posture (or asana ) and "breathe through his nostrils with diminished breath" (the practice of breath-control called in later yogic texts by the name of pranayama ). Yoga is defined in one such Upanishad as "the unity [another possible translation of the word "yoga"] of the breath, mind, and senses, and the relinquishment of all conditions of existence" (Maitri Upanishad 6.25). As the yogin progresses in his practice his body and mind are said to change: "Lightness, healthiness, freedom from desires, clearness of countenance and pleasantness of speech, sweetness of odor and scanty exertionsthese, they say, are the first stage in the progress of yoga" (Shvetashvatara Upanishad 2.13). The final stage of the practice, the goal of yoga, is also depicted in the Upanishadsand will become standard in later yogic texts. It is nothing less that the state of deathlessness or eternal life, often imagined in a body of light that never degenerates or grows old.

Yoga was systematized in different ways in two foundational texts dating to around the turn of the Common Era. In the first of these classical treatises, the Bhagavad Gita or "Song of the Lord," yoga is used to describe three apparently distinct but practically interrelated "paths" or spiritual methods. The first of these is called jnana yoga or the "yoga of wisdom." This path consists of deep contemplation on the nature of reality and recognizing the difference between the phenomenal world of change and the unchanging self. Through such meditation, the yogin penetrates the illusory nature of appearances and realizes the ultimate unity of all things and beings. As the Gita is also a theistic (or pantheistic) text, jnana yoga also entails recognizing God or Krishna in all things.

The second kind of yoga in this syncretistic work is karma yoga, the yoga of action. This method is one of "doing one's duty" as it is laid out by the strictures of caste and stage of life (and not renouncing action in the world as seemed to be required by the earlier Upanishadic treatises). Such worldly activity must, however, be performed in a "yogic" and self-disciplined way. While one cannot avoid action, the yogin should act not out of desire for the fruits of action but rather in a desireless and self-sacrificial way. Renouncing the ends or goals, the practitioner of karma yoga was to perform desireless action dedicated to God. The third yoga outlined in the Bhagavad Gita was termed bhakti, "devotion," and was nothing other than the "yoking" or "union" of the self and God. It is depicted as the easiest of the three methods but also the most efficacious.

The other text of this period to synthesize yoga was the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali. Patanjali defines yoga as the "cessation of the turnings of thought," that is, the purification and becalming of the mind and the correlative attainment of higher states of consciousness. Yoga for Patanjali involves eight "limbs" or parts (ashtanga ), each one leading to the next and culminating in release from suffering and rebirth.

The first two limbs provide the ethical foundation thought to be necessary for any further progress in yoga. The first consists of the five "moral restraints" (yama s): nonviolence, truthfulness, not stealing, chastity, and the avoidance of greed. The second limb, the internal "observances" (niyama s), provides a second set of five virtues the practitioner should perfect. These are mental and physical purity, contentment, tapas or the practice of austerities and asceticism, the study of sacred texts, and devotion to the "Lord" (God or the guru).

The third part of Patanjali's eightfold path consists of the physical postures or asana s. When the yogin has disciplined his or her moral life, the next step is to discipline the physical body. The later traditions of yoga have greatly expanded this dimension of the yogic path. The physical practices are sometimes referred to as hatha yoga (the "yoga of exertion") and are conceived of in terms of a rigorous program of physical exercise and digestive constraint thought to be preparatory to the more advanced and subtle forms of yoga. Some texts claim there are 840,000 yogic physical postures; a standard list gives 84 including, most famously, the "lotus position" (padma asana ). Such postures are designed to make the practitioner's body supple and healthy and help in the general training of self-discipline. Patanjali, however, devotes a mere three verses to the purely physical dimension of yoga, saying only that one should take a position that is "steady and comfortable," for then one is ready to pursue the true goal of yoga, the state of mind wherein one is "unconstrained by opposing dualities."

More subtle than the physical body is the breath, and it is the "restraining of the breath" (pranayama ) that forms the fourth limb of the practice. Here again, later yogic texts go into much greater detail about the various practices of breath awareness and control, including methods for retention of the breath over long periods of time. The breath is regarded as the fundamental life force in yoga, and control and manipulation of it is essential for rejuvenating and immortalizing the body. Its power is such that some texts warn about the dangers entailed in the pranayama practices and, as always, insist that the yogin should only practice under the watchful guidance of a master. Patanjali has little to say about it, restricting his observations to the fact that it basically refers to the control of inhalation, exhalation, and retention of breath and that it has as its purpose the making of a "mind fit for concentration."

The next stage of Patanjali's system is named the "withdrawal of the senses" (pratyahara ) by which is meant the kind of "yoking" of the sense organs that was likened to the reining in of horses. Another very common image for this portion of the yogic training is that of a tortoise who withdraws its limbs into its shell. So too should the yogin disengage the sense organs from the objects of senses and, by means of such detachment, gain mastery over them. The ability to turn away from the distractions of the object of senses and to increasingly turn attention to the mind itself in a concentrated fashion is, of course, crucial for the meditative pursuits that describe the highest and most subtle forms of yoga.

The sixth, seventh, and eighth limbs of Patanjali's yogic system are progressively higher states of meditative ability and attainment. The sixth is called "concentration" (dharana ), defined as the ability to "bind thought in one place" for long periods of time; it is the essence of what is sometimes known as "one-pointedness" of mind. The mastery of concentration leads the yogin to the next the stage of the path, which is called "meditation" per se (dhyana ), the unwavering attention of the concentrated mind on the meditative object. The culmination of yoga is the attainment of the eighth limb, pure contemplation accompanied by ecstasy or, otherwise described, the trance-like state of pure "enstasis," which is termed samadhi. The end of the yogic path is defined by Patanjali as "meditation that illumines the object alone, as if the subject were devoid of intrinsic form." The "yogin yoked in samadhi " is, according to a later text in this tradition, completed liberatedfree from the "pairs of opposites" or all duality, not bound by the forces of karma, unconquerable, "without inhalation and exhalation," invulnerable to all weapons, and immortal (Hatha Yoga Pradipika 4.108ff.).

Indeed, much of the third chapter of Patanjali's classic text is given over to the extraordinary powers (the "accomplishments" or siddhi s) that are claimed to come along with advanced practice of yoga. These include the ability to know the past and future, the languages of animals, one's previous lives, the thoughts of others, and so on. It is, in fact, said that the perfected yogin becomes omniscient. He or she also attains the power to become invisible, gets the "strength of an elephant," and wins the capability to grow larger or smaller at will. In later texts, abilities such as these are summarized as the eight "great powers" (mahasiddhi s): miniaturization, magnification, levitation, extension, irresistible will, mastery, lordship over the universe, and fulfillment of all desires.

The yoga systematized in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras is sometimes referred to as "classical" or "royal" yoga (raja yoga ), especially in contrast to the hatha yoga, which is envisioned as preparatory to the higher spiritual practices of Patanjali's later limbs. It also came to be the charter text of the school of Hindu philosophy (darshana ) called "Yoga," which in turn was closely related to the dualistic philosophical school known as "Samkhya" (the main difference being the atheistic quality of the latter, although the "Lord" of the Yoga Sutras is more of a Divine Yogin than a creator god). In these philosophical traditions, the purpose of yoga was understood to be the "distinction" or "discrimination" between material nature and the eternal spirit. The spirit or pure consciousness (purusha ) is to be "isolated" from both matter and from ordinary awareness and its afflicted mental experiences. When the purusha becomes thus disentangled, its pure nature can shine forth and the yogin becomes liberated.

The term yoga, as has already been shown, can be applied to a variety of practices and disciplines. Another important use of the term is in the phrase mantra yoga, the "yoga of sacred, efficacious sound." Here yoga refers to the concentration on and repetition of sacred sounds, utterances, syllables, or prayers composed from the Sanskrit language and thought to have inherent transformative power. Such mantras are transmitted from teacher to pupil in an initiatory setting, and it is indeed thought to be primarily the power of the guru that gives the mantra its efficacy. The most famous of such mantras is the sound "om " (sometimes written as "aum " to emphasize the three verbal parts of the utterance) which is regarded as the aural essence of the universe itself. While the texts do claim that mantra yoga will also lead to liberation, it is usually said to be suitable mainly for the practitioner of inferior intellectual capabilities.

Yoga also plays a major role in both Hindu and Buddhist "tantric" or esoteric traditions, which arose around the middle of the first millennium c.e. In Buddhism, tantric practice is divided into four classes, each one regarded higher than the other: action tantras, performance tantras, yoga tantras, and highest yoga tantras. In all forms of tantra, the goal is to transmute the physical body into a body of light, a "rainbow body," through the manipulation of the subtle energies, channels, and power centers (cakra s) of the mystical inner body. This is done through the practices known as guru yoga, the "yoking" of oneself to a tutelary deity or yidam, and the carrying out of a series of visualizations in which one assumes the being of that deity and meditates in that way. There is also a form of "Taoist yoga" in China that bears comparison to the Indian yogas.

Yoga has entered the West mostly as physical exercise and often not as the holistic worldview it was in its original contexts. Increasingly, however, Westerners are aware of the ethical and meditative dimensions to yoga and these elements are finding their way into the practice of yoga outside of India.

See also Asceticism: Hindu and Buddhist Asceticism ; Buddhism ; Hinduism ; Meditation, Eastern .

bibliography

Akers, Brian Dana, trans. The Hatha Yoga Pradipika. Woodstock, N.Y.: YogaVidya.com, 2002.

Eliade, Mircea. Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. 2nd ed. Princeton University Press, 1969.

Feuerstein, Georg. The Philosophy of Classical Yoga. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1996.

. The Shambhala Encyclopedia of Yoga. Boston: Shambhala Press, 2000.

Hume, Robert Ernst, trans. The Thirteen Principal Upanishads. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1975.

Miller, Barbara Stoler. Yoga: Discipline of Freedom. New York: Bantam Books, 1998.

Varenne, Jean. Yoga and the Hindu Tradition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976.

Brian Smith

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga

"Yoga." New Dictionary of the History of Ideas. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga

General term for various spiritual disciplines in Hinduism. The word "yoga" implies "yoking" (as with oxen to the ox-cart) or "union," expressing the linking of man with divine reality. This union is a transcendental experience beyond the plane of words and ideas and has to be achieved by release from the limiting fields of physical, emotional, mental, and intellectual experience. This requires purification at all levels and according to Hindu belief might take many lifetimes, but sincere exertions in one birth should bear fruit in the next.

Yoga's widespread introduction to the West is thought to have begun with Swami Vivekananda's yoga presentation at the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, 1893. Influential twentieth century yogis since then have included Ramana Maharshi, Indra Devi, Selvarajan Yesudian, Swami Sivananda, Sri Yogendra, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, of the Transcendental Meditation movement. In the 1960s and 1970s, Richard Hittleman and Lilias Folan (of Lilias, Yoga, and You ) brought yoga to the American mainstream through television. Yoga's popularity is also due to endorsements from celebrities such as Sting and Madonna. Yoga's allure as a stress reliever has also helped the practice to gain popularity with Americans who try to regain control over their hectic lifestyles. It is estimated that more than two million people throughout the world practice some discipline of yoga.

The existence of many spiritual disciplines and practices in India allowed for a multitude of forms and beliefs. Most religious systems are aligned to one or more forms of yoga, though most commonly they will emphasize one of the traditional spiritual paths. Some would judge the adoption of a particular spiritual path to be linked to age, occupation, personality, or a particular interest in life.

The six principle branches of yoga are:

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga is the path of love and devotion. An individual with an emotional temperament can transform those emotions, to be absorbed in spiritual service instead of being attached to physical or sensory gratification. Love can be centered on a familiar form of God, a great saint, or some great task in life. In bhakti yoga, the whole universe, whether animate or inanimate, is seen as permeated by divinity. Bhakti (meaning loving devotion) is the practice of self-surrender for the purpose of identifying with the source of love, the higher self.

The Hare Krishna, which became notable in the West in the last generation, follow a form of Hinduism that emphasizes this type of yoga.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is known as the path of inner power. It is the science of physical exercises most familiar to Westerners. In hatha yoga the mind, body, and spirit are linked, and the purification of the body is intended to enhance mental and spiritual development, balance, and harmony. Good physical health, however, is an essential prerequisite to the strenuous disciplines of this yoga system.

Hatha yoga consists of a number of asanas, or physical postures, that develop flexibility in associated muscle groups throughout the body, and favorably affect the tone of veins and arteries. They are also believed to improve the function of the ductless glands through persistent gentle pressure. In Patanjali's system, asana was chiefly directed to the achievement of a firm cross-legged sitting position for meditation. Other yoga authorities, however, have elaborated the stages of Patanjali yoga to meet the requirements of different temperaments, so that they may be harmonized.

The asanas differ from Western gymnastics in that they feature static postures instead of active movements, though some asanas are linked sequentially. There are theoretically some 8,400,000 asanas, of which 84 are said to be the best and 32 the most useful for good health. These are named after animals, geometic structures, mountains, or plants. An asana is considered to be mastered when the yogi can maintain the position without strain for three hours. Asanas may be supplemented by special symbolic gestures and positions called mudras.

Various cleansing techniques, called kriyas, of the nasal passages, throat, stomach, and bowels can be practiced in conjunction with asanas. Pranayama, breathing exercises, are also employed to arouse kundalini or vital energy. Some systems focus upon the arousal of kundalini as the central spiritual discipline.

Hatha yoga had largely died out in India but was revived in the nineteenth century in Maharashtra, western India, from whence it radiated out into the world during the twentieth century.

Jnana or Sankya Yoga

Jnana yoga is the path of knowledge, science, and wisdom. This begins with fine distinctions that may be evolved from careful observation; study and experiment; combining knowledge with the ability to reflect, meditate, and develop intuition. It is the way of transcendent knowledge, and is geared for those prone to intellectual curiosity, reason, and analysis.

Karma Yoga

Karma yoga is the science of karma or selfless action. Karma yoga teaches the student that all actions have inescapable consequences, some producing immediate results, others delayed results, and some bearing fruit in future lives. Emphasis is placed on altruistic actions that purify the individual soul and release it from petty desires. In karma yoga, actions are spiritualized by dedicating them to selfless service and divine will. Karma yoga calls for union with God through right action, and service for service sake, without regard for accomplishment or glory or attribution.

Mantra Yoga

Mantra yoga is the path of sacred sound. It is the science of sound vibration, prayer, and hermetic utterance. According to Hindu mystical belief, the world evolved from the essence of sound, through the diversity and intricacy of vibration and utterance.

One of the most sacred mantra s is the three-syllabled OM or AUM, origin of the universe, comparable with the Hebrew Shemhamphorash and the creative Word of God in the Gospel of John. The reading of Hindu scriptures is both begun and ended with the sacred sound AUM.

Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga is the path of stillness, whose goal is to quiet the mind through meditation to create a state of focused, unbroken concentration. It is also known as the path of spiritual science, particularly suitable for those of a more abstract or metaphysical temperament. This path combines religious study with refinement of all levels of the individual, culminating in transcendental awareness. Raja yoga is the summation of all other yogas. Ancient textbooks of hatha yoga emphasize that it should only be practiced in conjunction with raja yoga.

Other yoga paths are usually derivatives of the principle six. They include:

Asparsha Yoga

This is the yoga of non-contact. A form of jnana yoga, asparsha seeks reintegration through non-touching, avoiding all forms of contact with others.

Astanga Yoga

Astanga yoga is often known as the path of Patanjali. The sage Patanjali (ca. 200 B.C.E.) taught a comprehensive yoga system that became a spiritual school unto itself. According to Patanjali, in order to experience true reality one must transcend the body and mind. In his Yoga Sutras he outlined the following special stages:

yama and niyama -ethical restraints and moral observations.
asana -physical postures.
pranayama -breathing exercises. This uses various cleansing techniques of the nasal passages, throat, stomach, and bowels; it is used to enhance the pranayama.
pratyahara -sense withdrawal.
dharana -concentration.
dhyana -meditation.
samadhi -superconsciousness.

Japa Yoga

A branch of mantra yoga, japa (meaning recitation) yoga emphasizes repetition of prayers, hymns and sacred syllables.

Kundalini Yoga

Utilizing hatha yoga and mantra yoga techniques to arouse kundalini, or divine creative energy. This path focuses on the arousal of kundalini as the central focus of spiritual exercise. Whether kundalini rising occurs because of the exercises or on its own accord remains a matter of debate.

Kriya Yoga

Based on teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, author of Autobiography of a Yogi. Kriya yoga stresses the path to Eternal Tranquility, emphasizing the stillness of sensory input.

Laya Yoga

Laya yoga is the yoga of absorption. It underscores absorption in meditation, merging the mind and breath in the divine. In this practice the yogi immerses himself in the universe, becoming a part of the universal body.

Siddha Yoga

This path is based on the teachings of Swami Muktananda. Siddha (meaning guru) yoga emphasizes the intervention and guidance of a teacher to raise kundalini.

Tantric Yoga

A derivative of karma and bhakti yogas, tantric yoga is associated with arousal of sexual energy and its conversion into kundalini, or creative energy. It is the human reflection of the divine union between the male (shiva ) and female (shakti ) as aspects of the divine. It is concerned with techniques and disciplines intended to transform the sexual act into a kundalini-raising experience.

Tantric yoga has often been implicated as an arena for sexual abuses in the West. Less-than-enlightened yogis have been entangled in clandestine affairs with students, later forced to step down from the position of spiritual leader.

Yantra Yoga

Yantra yoga is a form of jnana yoga, in which meditation is accomplished through contemplation of a geometric figure.

No single pathway of yoga is regarded as an alternative to another, and many of the paths intertwine and intersect, as a means of purifying and harmonizing individual temperaments. An intellectual person might profitably concentrate on bhakti yoga or karma yoga; an emotional temperamented one might benefit from jnana yoga and hatha yoga. Likewise, the practice of hatha yoga without proper actions, devotion, and ethical codes might be harmful or result simply in gymnastics without spiritual development.

Sources:

Bernard, Theos. Hatha Yoga. London: Rider, 1950. Reprint, New York: Samuel Weiser, 1970.

Bhagavadgita of The Song Divine. Gorakhpur, India: Gita Press, 1943.

Danielou, Alain. Yoga: The Method of Re-Integration. London: Christopher Johnson, 1949. Reprint, New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1956.

Dvivedi, M. N., trans. The Yoga-Sutras of Patanjali. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1890.

Feuerstein, Georg. The Shambala Guide to Yoga. Boston: Shambala Publications, Inc., 1996.

. "A Short History of Yoga." Yoga Research and Education Center 1999. http://www.yrec.org/.

Giri, Swami Satyeswarananda. "Original Kriya Yoga at a Glance." SpiritWeb 1992. http://www.spiritweb.org/. April 20, 2000.

Gopi Krishna. The Awakening of Kundalini. New York: E. P. Dutton, 1975.

The Secret of Yoga. New York: Harper & Row, 1972.

Grupta, Yogi. Yoga and Long Life. New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1958.

Isherwood, Christopher, and Swami Prabhavananda, trans. The Bhagavad Gita: The Song of God. Hollywood, Calif.: Marcel Road, 1944.

Iyengar, B. K. S. Light of Yoga. New York: Schrocken Books, 1966.

Keutzer, Kurt and Narayan Prakash. "The Lineage of Swami Shivom Tirth." SpiritWeb 1996. http://www.spiritweb.org/. April 20, 2000.

Majumdar, S. M. Introduction to Yoga Principles and Practices. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1964. Reprint, Secacus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1976.

Melton, J. Gordon. New Age Encyclopedia. Detroit: Gale Research, 1990.

Mishra, Rammurti. Fundamentals of Yoga. New York: Lancer Books, 1969.

Radhakrishnan, S., trans. Bhagavad Gita. London: Allen & Unwin, 1948.

Radha, Swami Sivananda. Hatha Yoga: the Hidden Language. Boston: Timeless Books, 1989.

Rosen, Richard, "Georg Feuerstein on Reviving Yoga Research." Yoga International (July 1999): 36-43.

The Sounds of Yoga-Vedanta; Documentary of Life in an Indian Ashram. New York: Folkways Records, Long-playing record album FR 8970.

Vishnudevananda, Swami. The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga. New York: Bell Publishing, 1960. Reprint, New York: Pocket Books, 1971.

Wood, Ernest. Yoga. London, 1959. Reprint, Baltimore, Md.: Penguin, 1962.

"Yoga Paths." SpiritWeb 2000. http://www.spiritweb.org/. April 20, 2000.

Yogananda, Paramhansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship Publishers, 1972.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga

Definition

Yoga is an ancient system of breathing practices, physical exercises and postures, and meditation intended to integrate the practitioner's body, mind, and spirit. It originated in India several thousand years ago, and its principles were first written down by a scholar named Patanjali in the second century B.C. The word yoga comes from a Sanskrit word, yukti, and means "union" or "yoke." The various physical and mental disciplines of yoga were seen as a method for individuals to attain union with the divine.

In the contemporary West, however, yoga is more often regarded as a beneficial form of physical exercise than as a philosophy or total way of life. As of 2002, more than six million people in the United States were practicing some form of yoga, with 1.7 million claiming to practice it regularly.

Purpose

Yoga has been recommended as an adjunct to psychotherapy and standard medical treatments for a number of reasons. Its integration of the mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions of human life is helpful to patients struggling with distorted cognitions or pain syndromes. The stretching, bending, and balancing involved in the asanas (physical postures that are part of a yoga practice) help to align the head and spinal column; stimulate the circulatory system, endocrine glands, and other organs; and keep muscles and joints strong and flexible. Yoga programs have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and anxiety levels. The breath control exercises, known as pranayama, emphasize slow and deep abdominal breathing. They benefit the respiratory system, help to induce a sense of relaxation, and are useful in pain management. The meditation that is an integral part of classical yoga practice has been shown to strengthen the human immune system. Although Western medical researchers have been studying yoga only since the 1970s, clinical trials in the United States have demon strated its effectiveness in treating asthma, osteoarthritis, heart disease, stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, anxiety, and mood disorders. Other reports indicate that yoga merits further research in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and substance abuse. Studies done in Germany have focused on the psychological benefits of yoga. One clinical trial done in 1994 at the University of Wurzburg found that the volunteer subjects who had practiced yoga scored higher in life satisfaction, with lower levels of irritability and pychosomatic complaints, than the control group.

One of the advantages of yoga as a complementary therapy is its adaptability to patients with a wide variety of physical and psychiatric conditions. There are a number of different schools of yogaover 40, according to one expert in the fieldand even within a particular school or tradition, the asanas and breathing exercises can be tailored to the patient's needs. One can find special yoga courses for children; for people over 50; for people with fibromyalgia, arthritis, or back problems; for cancer patients; and for people struggling with weight. Although most people who take up yoga attend classes, it is possible to learn the basic postures and breathing techniques at home from beginners' manuals or videotapes. Patients who feel self-conscious about exercising in the presence of others may find yoga appealing for this reason. The American Yoga Association has produced a manual and videotape for beginners, as well as a book called The American Yoga Association's Easy Does It Yoga for persons wih physical limitations. In addition, yoga does not require expensive equipment or special courts, tracks, or playing fields. An area of floor space about 6 ft by 8 ft, a so-called "sticky mat" to keep the feet from slipping, and loose clothing that allows the wearer to move freely are all that is needed.

Precautions

Patients with a history of heart disease, severe back injuries, inner ear problems or other difficulties with balance, or recent surgery should consult a physician before beginning yoga. Pregnant women are usually advised to modify their yoga practice during the first trimester.

People diagnosed with a dissociative disorder should not attempt advanced forms of pranayama (yogic breathing) without the supervision of an experienced teacher. Some yogic breathing exercises may trigger symptoms of derealization or depersonalization in these patients.

Yoga should not be practiced on a full stomach. It is best to wait at least two hours after a meal before beginning one's yoga practice. In addition, while yoga can be practiced outdoors, it should not be done in direct sunlight.

One additional precaution is often necessary for Westerners. Yoga is not a competitive sport, and a "good" practice is defined as whatever one's body and mind are capable of giving on a specific day. Westerners are, however, accustomed to pushing themselves hard, comparing their performances to those of others, and assuming that exercise is not beneficial unless it hurts an attitude summed up in the phrase "no pain, no gain." Yoga teaches a gentle and accepting attitude toward one's body rather than a punishing or perfectionistic approach. A person should go into the stretches and poses gradually, not forcibly or violently. Stretching should not be done past the point of mild discomfort, which is normal for beginners; frank pain is a warning that the body is not properly aligned in the pose or that the joints are being overstressed. Most people beginning yoga will experience measurable progress in their strength and flexibility after a week or two of daily practice.

Description

There are six major branches of yoga: hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, jnana, and tantra yoga. Hatha yoga, the type most familiar to Westerners, will be discussed more fully in the following paragraph. Raja yoga is a spiritual path of self-renunciation and simplicity; karma yoga emphasizes selfless work as a service to others. Bhakti yoga is the path of cultivating an open heart and single-minded love of God. Jnana yoga is the sage or philosopher's approach; it cultivates wisdom and discernment, and is considered the most difficult type of yoga. Tantra yoga emphasizes transcending the self through religious rituals, including sacred sexuality.

Hatha yoga is the best-known form of yoga in the West because it is often taught as a form of physical therapy. A typical hatha yoga practice consists of a sequence of asanas, or physical poses, designed to exercise all parts of the body in the course of the practice. The asanas incorporate three basic types of movement: forward bends, backward bends, and twists. Practitioners of hatha yoga have over 200 asanas to choose from in creating a sequence for practice. The postures have traditional Indian names, such as Eagle Pose, Half Moon Pose, or Mountain Pose. There are steps for entering and leaving the pose, and the student is taught to concentrate on proper form and alignment. The pose is held for a period of time (usually 1020 seconds), during which the practitioner concentrates on breathing correctly. Mental focus and discipline is necessary in order to maintain one's poise and balance in the asana. At the close of the practice, most students of yoga rest in a position that allows for a period of meditation. Most yoga practices take about an hour, although some are as short as 20 minutes.

There are a number of different styles of hatha yoga taught in the United States, the best known being Iyengar, Bikram, Kripalu, and ashtanga yoga. Iyengar yoga, which was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, emphasizes attention to the details of a pose and the use of such props as blocks and belts to help students gain flexibility. Bikram yoga, taught on the West Coast by Bikram Choudhury, is practiced in heated rooms intended to make participants sweat freely as they warm and stretch their joints and muscles. Kripalu yoga, sometimes called the yoga of consciousness, emphasizes breathing exercises and the proper coordination of breath and movement. It also teaches awareness of one's psychological and emotional reactions to the various poses and movements of the body. Ashtanga yoga, developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, is the basis of socalled power yoga. Ashtanga yoga is a physically demanding workout that is not suitable for beginners.

Preparation

Good preparation for yoga requires spiritual and mental readiness as well as appropriate clothing and a suitable space. Many practitioners of yoga begin their practice with simple breathing exercises and stretches intended to clear the mind as well as open up the lungs.

Clothing should be comfortable and allow free movement. Some women prefer to practice in a dancer's leotard or similar garment made of stretchy fabric, but a simple tunic or beach cover-up worn over a pair of running shorts works just as well. Brassieres should not be worn during practice because they tend to restrict breathing. Men often practice in swim trunks or running shorts. Both men and women can use an oversize men's cotton T-shirt as a practice garment these are inexpensive, easy to wash, and nonbinding. The feet are bare.

Aftercare

As was mentioned earlier, traditional hatha yoga practice ends the sequence of asanas with a pose in which meditation is possible, either sitting or lying flat on the back. Other than quiet resting, no particular aftercare is necessary.

Risks

Most reported injuries in yoga result from lack of concentration or attempts to perform difficult poses without working up to them. People who have consulted a physician before starting yoga and practice under the supervision of an experienced teacher are unlikely to suffer serious injury.

Normal results

Normal results following yoga practice are improved posture, lowered blood pressure, increased flexibility in the joints, higher energy levels, and a sense of relaxation.

Abnormal results

Abnormal physical results would include serious injuries to joints or muscles; abnormal psychological results would include dissociative episodes.

Resources

BOOKS

Choudhury, Bikram, with Bonnie Jones Reynolds. Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1978.

Feuerstein, Georg, and Stephan Bodian, eds. Living Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide for Daily Life. New York: JeremyP. Tarcher/Perigee, 1993.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. "Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga: From Buddha to the Millennium." Chapter 10 in The Best Alternative Medicine. New York: Simon and Schuster,2002.

PERIODICALS

Janakiramaiah, N., B. N. Gangadhar, P. J. Naga Venkatesha Murthy, and others. "Antidepressant Efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in Melancholia: A Randomized Comparison with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Imipramine." Journal of Affective Disorders 57 (January-March 2000): 255259.

Shaffer, H. J., T. A. LaSalvia, and J. P. Stein. "Comparing Hatha Yoga with Dynamic Group Psychotherapy for Enhancing Methadone Maintenance Treatment: A Randomized Clinical Trial." Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 3 (July 1997): 5766.

Shannahoff-Khalsa, D. S., and L. R. Beckett. "Clinical Case Report: Efficacy of Yogic Techniques in the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders." International Journal of Neuroscience 85 (March 1996): 117.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Yoga Association. <www.americanyogaassociation.org>.

International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). 4150 Tivoli Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066.

Yoga Research and Education Center (YREC). 2400A County Center Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. (707) 566-0000. <www.yrec.org>.

Rebecca J. Frey, Ph.D.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/psychology/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga

Definition

The term "yoga" comes from a Sanskrit word meaning "union." Yoga combines physical exercises, mental meditation, and breathing techniques to strengthen the muscles and relieve stress.

Purpose

Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years as a life philosophy to join the individual self with what practitioners call the Divine, Universal Spirit, or Cosmic Consciousness. However, very few individuals in the United States as of 2004 practiced yoga in this way; rather, yoga is performed as part of an exercise program to increase general health, reduce stress, improve flexibility and muscle strength, and alleviate certain physical symptoms, such as chronic pain . Because yoga is a low-impact activity and can include gentle movements, it is commonly used as part of physical therapy and rehabilitation of injuries.

Clinical and psychological studies have demonstrated that performing yoga has the following benefits:

  • Physical postures strengthen and tone muscles, and when performed in rapid succession, can provide cardiovascular conditioning.
  • Meditation and deep breathing can reduce stress, thereby lowering blood pressure and inducing relaxation.
  • Mind/body awareness can influence mood and self-esteem to improve quality of life.

In addition to exercise and stress reduction, yoga is also used therapeutically to help children and adolescents with medical conditions. Yoga instructors experienced in adapting yoga postures for individuals with special needs teach yoga to children and adolescents with Down syndrome , cerebral palsy , seizure disorders, spinal cord injury , multiple sclerosis, cancer ,

autism , Asperger's syndrome, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), psychiatric disorders, learning disabilities, and other disabilities to help improve physical and mental functioning. Many physicians may recommend yoga for patients with hypertension , asthma , stress-related disorders, and depression. Growing interest in alternative and complementary medicine has increased the popularity of yoga in the United States and spurred research into its medical benefits. Many hospitals offer alternative or integrative medicine centers that include yoga classes.

Some yoga instructors have even pioneered yoga for infants and toddlers, practiced with one or both parents. Yoga for infants and toddlers can improve sleep , ease digestive problems, facilitate neuromuscular development, strengthen the immune system, deepen parent-child bonds, serve as an outlet for creative play and self-expression, and reduce stress and anxiety for both parents and children.

Description

Yoga originated in ancient India and is considered one of the longest surviving philosophical systems in the world. Some scholars have estimated that yoga is as old as 5,000 years; artifacts detailing yoga postures have been found in India from over 3000 B.C. A recent poll conducted by Yoga Journal found that 11 million Americans do yoga at least occasionally and 6 million perform it regularly.

Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced branch of yoga in the United States, and it is a highly developed system of nearly 200 physical postures, movements, and breathing techniques. The yoga philosophy maintains that the breath is the most important facet of health, as the breath is the largest source of "prana," or life force, and hatha yoga uses "pranayama," which literally means the science or control of breathing.

A typical hatha yoga routine consists of a sequence of physical poses, called asanas, and the sequence is designed to work all parts of the body, with particular emphasis on making the spine supple and increasing circulation. Each asana is named for a common thing it resembles, like the sun salutation, cobra, locust, plough, bow, eagle, tree, and the head to knee pose, to name a few. Poses named after animals are especially appealing to children, and children's yoga programs focus on those poses that mimic animals and trees. Each pose has steps for entering and exiting it, and each posture requires proper form and alignment. A pose is held for some time, depending on its level of difficulty and one's strength and stamina, and the instructor cues participants when to inhale and exhale at certain points in each posture, as breathing properly is a fundamental aspect of yoga postures. Breathing should be deep and through the nose. Mental concentration in each position is also very important, which improves awareness, poise, and posture. During a yoga routine there is often a position in which to perform meditation, called dyana, if deep relaxation is one of the goals of the sequence.

Yoga routines can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two or more hours, with one hour being a good time investment to perform a sequence of postures and a meditation. For children, 30 minutes may be the maximum span of attention for practicing yoga. Some yoga routines, depending on the teacher and school, can be as strenuous as the most difficult workout, especially those called ashtanga, or power, yoga. Other routines merely stretch and align the body while the breath and heart rate are kept slow and steady. Power yoga is only appropriate for children and adolescents who have practiced yoga for some time, or who are engaged in advanced athletic activities. Yoga achieves its best results when it is practiced as a daily discipline, and yoga can be a life-long exercise routine, offering deeper and more challenging positions as a practitioner becomes more adept. The basic positions can increase a person's strength, flexibility, and sense of well-being almost immediately, but it can take years to perfect and deepen them, which is an appealing and stimulating aspect of yoga for many.

Precautions

Children and adolescents with injuries, medical conditions, or spinal problems should consult a physician before beginning yoga. For children with special needs, parents should find a yoga teacher who is properly trained and experienced and can give children individual attention. Certain yoga positions should not be performed by a person who has a fever or is menstruating.

Children and adolescents who are beginners at yoga should always be properly supervised, since injuries are possible, and some advanced yoga postures, like the headstand and full lotus position, can be difficult and require strength, flexibility, and gradual preparation. Proper form and alignment should always be maintained during a stretch or posture, and the stretch or posture should be stopped if pain, dizziness , or excessive fatigue occurs.

While yoga can be used therapeutically to help alleviate certain symptoms in children with various medical conditions, it is not a cure. A physician should be consulted for standard medical treatment.

Risks

Injuries have been reported when yoga postures were performed without proper form or concentration, or by attempting difficult positions without working up to them gradually or having appropriate supervision. Beginners sometimes report muscle soreness and fatigue after performing yoga, but these side effects diminish with practice.

Parental concerns

Parents should make sure that the yoga instructor is qualified to teach yoga to children. Yoga instructors experienced in teaching adults may not understand that teaching children requires different skills and methods. Yoga certifications and/or training in teaching children are available.

KEY TERMS

Asana A position or stance in yoga.

Dyana The yoga term for meditation.

Hatha yoga A form of yoga using postures, breathing methods, and meditation.

Meditation A practice of concentrated focus upon a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, reduce stress, promote relaxation, and enhance personal and spiritual growth.

Pranayama The yoga practice of breathing cirrectly and deeply.

Yogi (female, yogini) A trained yoga expert.

Yoga classes for children, adolescents, and teens are held at local schools, community centers, fitness clubs, and YMCAs. In addition, yoga videos for children are available online at <www.collagevideo.com>. For children who want to perform yoga at home, parental supervision is necessary.

Resources

BOOKS

Caldwell, Micheala, et al. The Girls' Yoga Book: Stretch Your Body, Open Your Mind, and Have Fun. Berkeley, CA: Maple Tree Press, 2005.

Hall, Doriel. Yoga for New Mothers: Getting Your Body and Mind Back in Shape the Natural Way after Birth. New York: Anness, 2005.

Iyengar, B. K. S. Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health. London: Korling Kindersley Limited, 2001.

PERIODICALS

Cohen, L., et al. "Psychological Adjustment and Sleep Quality in a Randomized Trial of the Effects of a Tibetan Yoga Intervention in Patients with Lymphoma." Cancer 100 (May 15, 2004): 22532260.

Cooper, S., et al. "Effect of Two Breathing Exercises (Buteyko and Pranayama) on Asthma: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Thorax 58 (August 2003): 67479.

Leschin-Hoar, C. "Seeking Yoga's Soothing Touch: Many Say Children with Medical Issues Benefit from its Use." Boston Globe November 20, 2003.

Oken, B. S., et al. "Randomized Controlled Trial of Yoga and Exercise in Multiple Sclerosis." Neurology 62 (June 8, 2004): 20582064.

Raub, J. A. "Psychophysiologic Effects of Hatha Yoga on Musculoskeletal and Cardiopulmonary Function: A Literature Review." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 8 (December 2002): 797812.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Yoga Association. Web site: <www.americanyogaassociation.org>.

International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). Web site: <www.iayt.org>.

WEB SITES

Itsy Bitsy Yoga. Benefits of Yoga for Babies and Toddlers. Available online at <www.itsybitsyyoga.com/babyandtoddleryogabenefits.htm> (accessed November 15, 2004).

Lipson, E. "Yoga Works! Medical Science Is Finally Validating What Yogis Have Known for Thousands of Years." Yoga Journal, Winter 19992000. Available online at <www.yogajournal.com/health/115.cfm> (accessed November 15, 2004).

Orkin, Lisa. "Yoga Helps Kids Find Balance in Their Lives." The Yoga Site: The Online Yoga Resource Center, August 2004. Available online at <www.yogasite.com/yoga%20kids.htm> (accessed November 15, 2004).

Sumar, Sonia. "Yoga for the Special Child," August 2004. Available online at <www.specialyoga.com/> (accessed November 15, 2004).

"Yoga." Nemours Foundation: TeensHealth, August 2001. Available online at <www.kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/exercise/yoga.html> (accessed November 15, 2004).

Jennifer E. Sisk, MA

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-2

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-2

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

yoga

yoga The word ‘yoga’ refers primarily to an ancient Hindu spiritual tradition intended to overcome the narrow sense of individual selfhood, though its usage ranges from the very general to the specific and highly technical. The word is probably derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, which implies a yoke or harness, invoking the notion that when the ox and the cart are connected via the yoke, the resulting complex is greater than the sum of its parts. In its most general sense, yoga involves harnessing or integrating the forces of embodiment (mind, body, and spirit) in order to transcend embodiment.

Sometime around 200 bce, a man named Patanjali developed a system of yoga which ostensibly synthesized previous yogic traditions. It corresponds to a model of the human organism found in the sacred Hindu texts, the Vedas. This model is known as the ‘sheath’ model, and describes the human organism as a series of concentric sheaths or envelopes, all composed of matter of varying degrees of fineness or subtlety. The spectrum of human material ranges from the most crude or dense, to the most absolutely fine or subtle, and therefore the most ‘real.’ The goal of Patanjali's yoga is to identify progressively with the finer aspects of one's being until purification leads to identification with the True Self, residing at the core of the sheaths.

Patanjali's yoga, sometimes called Raja or ‘royal’ or ‘grand’ yoga because of its broadly synthetic ambitions, involves eight steps or stages, of which the first five are considered ‘external’ and the last three ‘internal.’ This relates to the sheath model. In Indian medical theory, for instance, which also bases itself in part on the sheath model, disease always begins from the outside and works its way in, so that even mental illness is a form of physical illness that has progressed to the innermost sheaths. Healing, then, must also begin with the physical and proceed to the spiritual.

These eight steps of the yogic path are meant to be accomplished sequentially. That is, one masters the first, and adds the second. When the second is mastered, the third is added, and so on.

The first five or ‘external’ stages are:

Yama or ‘restraint’

The path begins with self-discipline, or the adoption of a basic moral code of non-karmic or ‘unselfish’ activity. The yogi forsakes stealing, lying, cheating, killing, and other exploitative and self-gratifying behaviours.

Niyama or ‘purity’

Purity involves both hygiene and diet. In terms of hygiene, radical ablutions or cleansing rituals are performed, such as swallowing a length of gauze and pulling it back out again, in order to scour the intestinal tract. Thus hygiene goes beyond the superficial conception of cleanliness which governs ordinary life. Diet is also important, since the outermost sheaths are composed of the food that we eat. Dense foods such as meat are to be avoided, and subtle, refined foods are to be preferred. Also important are the mode of preparation and the sizes and times of meals. Fasting is also an important purity practice, but is seen as a hygienic concern, and not a dietary one.

Asana or ‘postures’

The twisting, bending, and stretching that are commonly associated with the practice of yoga serve a number of purposes. The holding of postures prepares the body to sit for long periods of time in meditation, enables the overcoming of the boredom reflex, and is held to stimulate the endocrine system and thus to be important, since the endocrine system affects our emotions; this stage of yoga begins to affect the emotional as well as the physical sheaths.

Pranayama or ‘breathing exercises’

Prana is the life force which enters the body with the breath and which is metabolized from the foods we eat. Breathing exercises improve the ability of the body to metabolize prana. Also, since breathing affects emotions, breath work helps to regulate and refine the emotional sheath. Finally, breathing also represents a bridge between those physiological functions which we believe we can control (voluntary) and those which we cannot (involuntary). Adept yogis claim to be able to control metabolism, reflex, and brainwave activity — events slow or virtually stop the heartbeat.

Pratyahara or ‘sensory withdrawal’

At this stage, the yogi is able to use the power of concentration to withdraw attention and identification from the outermost, physical, ‘external’ sheaths. This means that sensory input is blocked out or ignored through an effort of will. The only sound one hears is the pounding of the heart, and this explains why a yogi might want to slow or stop the heartbeat, in order to establish true peace and quiet and facilitate inwardness.

The last three, or ‘internal’ stages are:

Dharana or ‘concentration’

Concentration in this sense involves what is described as single-pointedness, that is, the fixation of mind, body, and spirit on a common focal point. Here, the image of the third eye is invoked to suggest the strengthening of spiritual vision to the point where it is capable of sustaining a single object for long periods of time, like an eye staring at an object.

Dhyana or ‘meditation’

Dhyana refers to meditation, or a sense of radical self-awareness. To return to the metaphor of the third eye, once it has been trained to stare unblinkingly at a single object for a long period of time, it then turns inward upon itself, watching itself watch itself. This awareness takes place without judgment or evaluation, and drives a wedge between our experience and our Self. We watch or ‘witness’ our own experience as though it were only virtually real, as though it were a drama or play. We cease to identify with it.

Samadhi or ‘bliss-trance’

This condition is one of complete effacement of individuality. One no longer identifies with one's body or ego; one's actions are selflessly motivated and non-karmic. This virtually guarantees that liberation will occur with death, which will take place once the consequences of past karmic action have been borne.

Alan Fox


See also breath; Buddhism and the body; third eye.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"yoga." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"yoga." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

"yoga." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga (Skt., ‘yoking’, ‘joining’). The means or techniques for transforming consciousness and attaining liberation (mokṣa) from karma and rebirth (saṃsāra) in Indian religions. The mind (manas, citta) is thought to be constantly fluctuating, but through yoga it can be focused, one-pointedness (ekāgrata) developed, and higher states of consciousness (samādhi) experienced. Such control of consciousness, which is taught by a guru, also results in the attainment of paranormal powers (siddhi).

Techniques of meditative absorption (dhyāna, samādhi) were developed in the Śramana tradition which constrained Jainism and Buddhism, emphasizing control of consciousness as the means of liberation. Although the early Upaniṣads speak of the interiorization of the sacrifice, the actual term ‘yoga’ and technical terms such as āsana do not appear until the late Upaniṣads (500 BCE onwards).

Classical yoga is referred to as one of the six systems of Indian philosophy (darśana). Expressed in Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra (2nd–3rd cents. CE) it represents a refinement of ideas and practices found in the Upaniṣads. Patañjali states the goal of yoga to be quite simply the ‘cessation of mental fluctuation’ (cittavṛtti nirodha) which results in higher levels of consciousness or absorptions (samādhi) and the purification of the self (ātman). The Yoga Sūtra advocates rāja or eightfold (aṣṭaṅga) yoga.

The Bhagavad-gītā addresses yoga specifically, in that here Kṛṣṇa is the object of the yogin's meditation. The Gītā advocates three kinds of yoga, karma-yoga, the performance of action without attachment to its result, jñāna yoga, knowledge of God, and bhakti yoga, devotion to God (which the Gītā evidently regards as the highest).

Yoga became associated with the theistic traditions of Vaiṣṇavism, Śaivism, and Śaktism, the object of meditation becoming the deities of those traditions. During this period (900–1600 CE) various yoga techniques were developed along with ideas about the physiology of the subtle body (liṅga/ sūkṣma śarīra)—for example in the Yoga Upaniṣads. The Nāth tradition developed Haṭha-yoga, though the latter is not confined to this one tradition. The yoga of Tantrism places particular emphasis on practices involving sound and vision, that is the visualization of maṇḍalas, yantras, and deities (devatā), mantra, and kuṇḍalinī yoga. Tantrism also uses sexual intercourse (maithuna) as a form of yoga.

Today yoga is an integral part of Hinduism. Important modern Hindus have advocated various kinds of yoga. For example, Aurobindo advocated a form of Tantric yoga, calling it Integral Yoga, Rāmakrishna practised bhakti yoga, and Ramana Mahaṛshi the yoga of knowing the identity of the self and God. Many of the new religions encourage the practice of some kind of yoga. For example, the Vedānta Society practises jñāna yoga, ISCKON/Hare Krishna (International Society …), bhakti yoga, and the 3HO (Healthy, Happy, Holy Organization) a form of Tantric yoga. Haṭha yoga has become very popular in the West, though more as an aid to health than as a soteriology.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga

"Yoga." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

yoga

yoga (yō´gə) [Skt.,=union], general term for spiritual disciplines in Hinduism, Buddhism, and throughout S Asia that are directed toward attaining higher consciousness and liberation from ignorance, suffering, and rebirth. More specifically it is also the name of one of the six orthodox systems of Hindu philosophy. Both Vedic and Buddhist literature discuss the doctrines of wandering ascetics in ancient India who practiced various kinds of austerities and meditation. The basic text of the Yoga philosophical school, the Yoga Sutras of Patañjali (2d cent. BC), is a systematization of one of these older traditions. Contemporary systems of yoga, such as those of Sri Aurobindo Ghose and Sri Chinmoy Ghose, stress that spiritual realization can be attained without the withdrawal from the world characteristic of the older traditions. Yoga is usually practiced under the guidance of a guru, or spiritual guide.

Patañjali divides the practice of yoga into eight stages. Yama, or restraint from vice, and niyama, or observance of purity and virtue, lay the moral foundation for practice and remove the disturbance of uncontrolled desires. Asana, or posture, and pranayama, or breath control, calm the physical body, while pratyahara, or withdrawal of the senses, detaches the mind from the external world. Internal control of consciousness is accomplished in the final three stages: dharana, or concentration, dhyana, or meditation, and samadhi. Through such practices yogis acquire miraculous powers, which must ultimately be renounced to attain the highest state. In samadhi the subject-object distinction and one's sense of an individual self disappear in a state usually described as one of supreme peace, bliss, and illumination. A common feature of different traditions of yoga is one-pointed concentration on a chosen object, whether a part of the body, the breath, a mantra, a diagram, a deity, or an idea.

Hindu tradition in general recognizes three main kinds of yoga: jnana yoga, the path of realization and wisdom, bhakti yoga, the path of love and devotion to a personal God, and karma yoga, the path of selfless action. Other classifications exist. Patañjali's yoga is known as raja, or "royal," yoga. Hatha yoga, which stresses physical control and postures, is widely practiced in the West, where it is the dominant form of yoga and is often divorced from yoga's spiritual traditions. In the United States, yoga as a physical and quasispiritual exercise regime has been popular especially since the 1960s. Kundalini yoga, especially associated with Tantra, is based on the physiology of the "subtle body," according to which seven major centers of psychic energy, called chakras, are located along the spinal column, with the kundalini, or "coiled" energy in latent form, located at the base of the spine. When the kundalini is activated by yogic methods, it ascends the spine through the main subtle artery of the sushumna, "opening" each chakra in turn. When the kundalini reaches the topmost chakra in the brain, samadhi is attained.

See S. Dasgupta, Yoga as Philosophy and Religion (1924, repr. 1973); I. K. Taimni, The Science of Yoga (1967); E. Wood, Yoga (1967); M. Eliade, Yoga (1969); P. Sinha, Yoga (1970); J. Varenne, Yoga and the Hindu Tradition (1976); R. Love, The Great Oom: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America (2010); S. Syman, The Subtle Body: The Story of Yoga in America (2010); W. J. Broad, The Science of Yoga (2012).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"yoga." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"yoga." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

"yoga." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

yoga

yoga (Sanskrit, ‘union’) Term used for a number of Hindu disciplines to aid the union of the soul with God. Based on the Yoga sutras of Patañjali (active 2nd century bc), the practice of yoga generally involves moral restraints, meditation, and the awakening of physical energy centres through specific postures (asanas) or exercises. Devoted to freeing the soul or self from earthly cares by isolating it from the body and the mind, these ancient practices became popular in the West during the second half of the 20th century as a means of relaxation, self-control, and enlightenment.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"yoga." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"yoga." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-0

"yoga." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

yoga

yoga a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practised for health and relaxation; the name comes from Sanskrit, and means literally ‘union’.

The yoga widely known in the West is based on hatha yoga, which forms one aspect of the ancient Hindu system of religious and ascetic observance and meditation, the highest form of which is raja yoga and the ultimate aim of which is spiritual purification and self-understanding leading to samadhi or union with the divine.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"yoga." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"yoga." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga

"yoga." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

yoga

yo·ga / ˈyōgə/ • n. a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation. DERIVATIVES: yo·gic / -gik/ adj.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"yoga." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"yoga." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga-1

"yoga." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga-1

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

yoga

yoga union with the universal spirit. XIX. — Hind. :- Skr. yóga- union.
So yogi Indian ascetic who practises this. XVII. — Hind.:- Skr. yogi-.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"yoga." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"yoga." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga-2

"yoga." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga-2

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

yoga

yogadogger, flogger, Hoggar, hogger, jogger, logger, slogger, Wagga Waggabrolga, Olga, Volgaconga, conger, donga, Rarotonga •pettifogger • footslogger •cataloguer (US cataloger) •auger, augur •ogre, Saratoga, toga, yoga •beluga, cougar, Kaluga, Kruger, Luger •sugar, Zeebrugge •bugger, hugger, lugger, mugger, plugger, rugger, slugger, Srinagar, tugger •mulga, vulgar •hunger, sangha, Younger •scandalmonger • scaremonger •fishmonger •warmonger, whoremonger •ironmonger • hugger-mugger •costermonger • Málaga •Berger, burger, burgher •hamburger • beefburger •cheeseburger • Limburger •Vegeburger • Erzgebirge •Luxembourger

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"yoga." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"yoga." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga-0

"yoga." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/yoga-0

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

YOGA

YOGA . Etymologically, the Sanskrit word yoga derives from the root yuj, meaning "to bind together," "hold fast," or "yoke," which also governs the Latin iungere and iugum, the French joug, and so on. In Indian religion the term yoga serves, in general, to designate any ascetic technique and any method of meditation. The "classical" form of yoga is a darśana ("view, doctrine"; usually, although improperly, translated as "system of philosophy") expounded by Patañjali in his Yoga Sūtra, and it is from this "system" that this article must set out if the reader is to understand the position of yoga in the history of Indian thought. But side by side with classical Yoga there are countless forms of sectarian, popular (magical), and non-Brahmanic yogas such as Buddhist and Jain forms.

Patañjali is not the creator of the Yoga darśana. As he himself admits, he has merely edited and integrated the doctrinal and technical traditions of yoga (Yoga Sūtra 1.1). Indeed, yogic practices were known in the esoteric circles of Indian ascetics and mystics long before Patañjali. Among these practices Patañjali retained those that the experiences of centuries had sufficiently tested. As to the theoretical framework and the metaphysical foundation that Patañjali provides for such techniques, his personal contribution is of the smallest. He merely rehandles the Sākhya philosophy in its broad outlines, adapting it to a rather superficial theism and exalting the practical value of meditation. The Yoga and Sākhya darśana s are so much alike that most of the assertions made by the one are valid for the other. The essential differences between them are two: (1) Whereas Sākhya is atheistic, Yoga is theistic, since it postulates the existence of a "Lord" (Īśvara); (2) Whereas according to Sākhya the only path to final deliverance is that of metaphysical knowledge, Yoga accords marked importance to techniques of purification and meditation.

Thanks to Patañjali, Yoga, which had been an archaic ascetic and mystical tradition, became an organized "system of philosophy." Nothing is known of the author of the Yoga Sūtra, not even whether he lived in the second or third century bce or in the fifth century ce, although claims to both datings have been vigorously defended. The earliest commentary known is the Yogabhāya of Vyāsa (seventh to eighth century ce), annotated by Vācaspatimiśra (ninth century) in his Tattvavaiśāradī. These two works, indispensable for understanding the Yoga Sūtra, are complemented by two works of later centuries. At the beginning of the eleventh century King Bhoja wrote the commentary Rājamārtaa, which is very useful for its insights into certain yogic practices, and in the sixteenth century Vijñānabhiku annotated Vyāsa's text in his remarkable treatise the Yogavārttika.

Ignorance and Suffering

"All is suffering for the sage," writes Patañjali (Yoga Sūtra 2.15), repeating a leitmotif of all post-Upanadic Indian speculation. The discovery of pain as the law of existence has a positive, stimulating value. It perpetually reminds the sage and the ascetic that the only way to attain freedom and bliss is withdrawal from the world, radical isolation. To liberate the self from suffering is the goal of all Indian philosophies and magico-mystical techniques. In India, metaphysical knowledge always has a soteriological purpose, for it is by knowledge of ultimate reality that humanity, casting off the illusions of the world of phenomena, awakens and discovers the true nature of spirit (ātman, purua ). For Sākhya and Yoga, suffering has its origin in ignorance of spirit, that is, in confusing spirit with psychomental states, which are the most refined products of nature (prakti ). Consequently, liberation, absolute freedom, can be obtained only if this confusion is abolished. As the structure and unfolding of nature and the paradoxical mode of being of the self (purua ) are discussed elsewhere, here only the yogic practices themselves will be examined.

The point of departure of yogic meditation is concentration on a single object: a physical object (the space between the eyebrows, the tip of the nose, something luminous, etc.), a thought (a metaphysical truth), or God (Īśvara). This determined and continuous concentration, called ekāgratā ("on a single point"), is obtained by integrating the psychomental flux, sarvārthatā ("variously directed, discontinued, diffused attention"; Yoga Sūtra 3.11). This is the precise definition of yogic technique, and is called cittavtti-nirodha, "the suppression of psychomental states" (Yoga Sūtra 1.2). The practice of ekāgratā tends to control the two generators of psychomental life: sense activity (indriya ) and the activity of the unconscious (saskāra ). A yogin is able to concentrate his or her attention on a single point and become insensible to any other sensory or mnemonic stimulus. It goes without saying that ekāgratā can be obtained only through the practice of numerous exercises and techniques. One cannot obtain ekāgratā if, for example, the body is in a tiring or even uncomfortable posture, or if the respiration is disorganized, unrhythmical. This is why yogic technique implies several categories of physiological practices and spiritual exercises, called aga s, "members," or elements. The eight "members" of classical Yoga can be regarded both as forming a group of techniques and as being stages of the ascetic and spiritual itinerary whose end is final liberation. They are (1) restraints (yama ), (2) disciplines (niyama ), (3) bodily attitudes and postures (āsana ), (4) rhythm of respiration (prāāyāma ), (5) emancipation of sensory activity from the domination of exterior objects (pratyāhāra ), (6) concentration (dhāraā ), (7) yogic meditation (dhyāna ), and (8) enstasis (samādhi;Yoga Sūtra 2.29).

In addition to this classical Yoga comprising eight aga s, there exist a number of aagayoga s, that is, yogic regimens having only six members. Their main characteristic is the absence of the three first aga s (yama, niyama, āsana) and the introduction of a new "member," tarka ("reason, logic"). Attested already in the Maitrāyani Upaniad (second century bce-second century ce), the aagayoga appears especially in certain sects of Hinduism and in the Buddhist Tantras (Grönbold, 1969, 1983).

Restraints and Disciplines

The first two groups of practices, yama and niyama, constitute the inevitable preliminaries for any asceticism. There are five "restraints," namely, ahisā (restraint from violence), satya (restraint from falsehood), asteya (restraint from stealing), brahmacarya (restraint from sexual activity), and aparigraha (restraint from avarice). These restraints do not bring about a specifically yogic state but induce in the adept a purified state superior to that of the uninitiated. In conjunction with the yama s, the yogin must practice the niyama, that is, a series of bodily and psychic disciplines. "Cleanliness, serenity, asceticism [tapas ], study of Yoga metaphysics, and an effort to make Īśvara [God] the motive of all his actions constitute the disciplines," writes Patañjali (Yoga Sūtra 2.32). Obviously, difficulties and obstacles arise during these exercises, most of them produced by the subconscious. The perplexity arising from doubt is the most dangerous. To overcome it, Patañjali recommends implanting the contrary thought (Yoga Sūtra 2.33). To vanquish a temptation is to realize a genuine, positive gain. Not only does the yogin succeed in dominating the objects that he or she had renounced, but also obtains a magic force infinitely more precious than all these objects. For example, he who successfully practices asteya "sees all jewels coming near to him" (Yoga Sūtra 2.37).

Āsana and PrĀĀyĀma

The specifically yogic techniques begin with āsana, the well-known bodily posture of the Indian ascetics. Āsana gives a rigid stability to the body while at the same time reducing physical effort to a minimum and finally eliminating it altogether. Āsana is the first concrete step taken with a view to abolishing the modalities peculiar to the human condition. On the bodily plane, āsana is an ekāgratā; the body is "concentrated" in a single position. Thus, one arrives at a certain neutralization of the senses; consciousness is no longer troubled by the presence of the body. Furthermore, a tendency toward "unification" and "totalization" is typical of all yogic practices. Their goal is the transcendence (or the abolition) of the human condition, resulting from the refusal to obey one's natural inclinations.

The most importantand certainly the most specifically yogicof these various "refusals" is the disciplining of respiration (prāāyāma ), the refusal to breathe like the majority of humankind, that is, unrhythmically. Patañjali defines this refusal as follows: "Prāāyāma is the arrest [viccheda ] of the movements of inhalation and exhalation and it is obtained after āsana has been realized" (Yoga Sūtra 2.49). He speaks of the "arrest," the suspension, of respiration; however, prāāyāma begins with making the respiratory rhythm as slow as possible; and this is its first objective.

A remark in Bhoja's commentary (on Yoga Sūtra 1.34) reveals the deeper meaning of prāāyāma: "All the functions of the organs being preceded by that of respirationthere being always a connection between respiration and conciousness in their respective functionsrespiration, when all the functions of the organs are suspended, realizes concentration of consciousness on a single object." The special relation of the rhythm of respiration to particular states of consciousness, which has undoubtedly been observed and experienced by yogins from the earliest times, has served them as an instrument for "unifying" consciousness. By making respiration rhythmical and progressively slower the yogin can penetratethat is experience in perfect luciditycertain states of consciousness that are inaccessible in a waking condition, particularly the states of consciousness that are peculiar to sleep.

Indian psychology recognizes four modalities of consciousness (besides enstasis): diurnal consciousness, consciousness in sleep with dreams, consciousness in sleep without dreams, and "cataleptic consciousness." Through prāāyāma, that is, by increasingly prolonging inhalation and exhalation (since the purpose of this practice is to allow as long an interval as possible to elapse between the two phases of respiration) the yogin can experience all the modalities of consciousness. For the uninitiated, there is a discontinuity between these several modalities; one passes from the state of waking to the state of sleeping unconsciously. The yogin must preserve continuity of consciousness; that is, he must penetrate each of these states with determination and awareness.

But the immediate goal of prāāyāma is more modest; it induces the respiratory rhythm by harmonizing the three "moments" of breathing: inhalation (pūraka ), retention (kumbhaka ), and exhalation (recaka ) of the inhaled air. These three moments must each fill an equal space of time. Practice enables the yogin to prolong them considerably. The yogin begins by holding his or her breath for sixteen and a half seconds, then for thirty-three seconds, then for fifty seconds, three minutes, five minutes, and so on. (Similar respiratory technique were familiar to the Daoists, to Christian hesychasts, and to the Muslim contemplatives; see Eliade, 1969, pp. 5965).

Yogic Concentration and Meditation

Making respiration rhythmical and, as far as possible, suspending it greatly promotes concentration (dhāraā; Yoga Sūtra 2.5253). The yogin can test the quality of his concentration by pratyāhāra, a term usually translated as "withdrawal of the senses" or "abstraction" but more acurately rendered as the "ability to free sense activity from the domination of external objects." According to the Yoga Sūtra (2.54) and its commentators, the senses, instead of directing themselves toward an object, "abide within themselves" (Bhoja, on Yoga Sūtra 2.54). When the intellect (citta ) wishes to know an exterior object, it does not make use of sensory activity; it is able to know the object by its own powers. Being obtained directly, by contemplation, this knowledge is, from the yogic point of view, more effective than normal knowledge. "Then the wisdom [prajñā ] of the yogin knows all things as they are" (Vyāsa, on Yoga Sūtra 2.45). Thenceforth, the yogin will no longer be distracted or troubled by the activity of the senses, by the subconscious, and by the "thirst of life"; all activity is suspended. But this autonomy of the intellect does not result in the suppression of phenomena. Instead of knowing through forms (rūpa ) and mental states (cittavtti ) as formerly, the yogin now contemplates the essence (tattva ) of all objects directly.

Such autonomy allows the yogin to practice a threefold technique that the texts call sayama. The term designates the last three "members" of yoga (yogāga ), namely concentration (dhāraā ), yogic meditation (dhyana ), and stasis (samādhi ). They do not imply new physiological practices. Dhāraā, from the root dh, meaning "to hold fast," is in fact an ekāgratā, undertaken for the purpose of comprehension. Patañjali's definition of dhāraā is "fixation of the thought on a single point" (Yoga Sūtra 3.1). According to some authors (cf. Eliade, 1969, pp. 6668), a dhāraā takes the time of twelve prāāyāma s (i. e., twelve controlled, equal, and delayed respirations). By prolonging this concentration on an object twelve times, one obtains yogic meditation, dhyana. Patañjali defines dhyana as "a current of unified thought" (Yoga Sūtra 3.2) and Vyāsa adds the following gloss to the definition: "continuum of mental effort to assimilate the object of meditation, free from any other effort to assimilate other objects." It is unnecessary to add that this yogic meditation is absolutely different from any secular meditation.

SamĀdhi and the Lord of the Yogins

Yogic enstasis, samādhi, is the final result and crown of all the ascetic's spiritual efforts and exercises. The term is first employed in a gnoseological sense: Samādhi is the state in which thought grasps the object directly. Thus, there is a real coincidence between knowledge of the object and the object of knowledge. This kind of knowledge constitutes an enstatic modality of being that is peculiar to yoga. Patañjali and his commentators distinguish several sorts, or stages, of samādhi. When it is obtained with the help of an object or idea (that is, by fixing one's thought on a point in space or on an idea), it is called samprajñāta samādhi, "enstasis with support." When, on the other hand, samādhi is obtained apart from any relation to externals, when it is simply a full comprehension of being, it is asamprajñāta samādhi, "undifferentiated stasis."

Because it is perfectible and does not realize an absolute and irreducible state, the "differentiated enstasis" (samprajñāta samādhi ) comprises four stages, called bīja samādhi ("samādhi with seed") or sālambana samādhi ("samādhi with support"). By accomplishing these four stages, one after the other, one obtains the "faculty of absolute knowledge" (tambharāprajñā ). This is in itself an opening toward samādhi "without seed," pure samādhi, for absolute knowledge discovers the state of ontological plenitude in which being and knowing are no longer separated. According to Vijñānabhiku, asamprajñāta samādhi destroys the "impressions [saskāra ] of all antecedent mental functions" and even succeeds in arresting the karmic forces already set in motion by the yogin's past activities (Eliade, 1969, p. 84).

Fixed in samādhi, consciousness (citta ) can now have direct revelation of the self (purua ). For the devotional yogins, it is at this stage that the revelation of the Supreme Self, Īśvara, the Lord, takes place. Unlike Sākhya, Yoga affirms the existence of a God, Īśvara. He is not a creator god, for the cosmos, life, and humanity proceed from the primordial substance, prakti. But in the case of certain persons (i. e., the yogins), Īśvara can hasten the process of deliverance. Īśvara is a self (purua ) that has been eternally free. Patañjali says that the Īśvara has been the guru of the sages of immemorial times (Yoga Sūtra 1.26) and that he can bring about samādhi on condition that the yogin practice īśvarapraidhāna, that is, devotion to Īśvara (Yoga Sūtra 2.45). But it has been seen that samādhi can be obtained without such mystical exercises. In the classical Yoga of Patañjali, Īśvara plays a rather minor role. It is only with the later commentators, such as Vijñānabhiku and Nilakaha, that Īśvara gains the importance of a true God.

The Yogic Powers; Deliverance

By practicing sayama that is, by means of concentration, meditation, and the realization of samādhi the yogin acquires the "miraculous powers" (siddhi s) to which book 3 of the Yoga Sūtra, beginning with sūtra 16, is devoted. The majority of these powers are related to different kinds of supranormal or mystical knowledge. Thus, by practicing sayama in regard to his or her own subconscious residues (saskāra ), the yogins come to know their previous existences (Yoga Sūtra 3.105). Through sayama exercised in respect to "notions" (pratyaya ), the yogin knows the mental states of other people (3.19). Sayama practiced on the umbilical plexus (nābhicakra ) produces knowledge of the system of the body (3.28), on the heart, knowledge of the mind (3.33), and so forth. "Whatever the yogin desires to know, he should perform sayama in respect to that object," writes Vācaspatimiśra (on Yoga Sūtra 3.30). According to Patañjali and the whole tradition of classical Yoga, the yogin uses the innumerable siddhi s in order to attain the supreme freedom, asamprajñāta samādhi, not in order to obtain a mastery over the elements (Yoga Sūtra 3.37). A similar doctrine is found in Buddhism (Eliade, 1969, pp. 177180; Pensa, 1969, pp. 2324).

Through the illumination (prajñā ) spontaneously obtained when reaching the last stage of his or her itinerary, the yogin realizes "absolute isolation" (kaivalya ), that is, liberation of the self (purua ) from the dominance of nature (prakti ). But this mode of being of the spirit is not an "absolute emptiness"; it constitutes a paradoxical, because unconditioned, state. Indeed, the intellect (buddhi ), having accomplished its mission, withdraws, detaching itself from the purua and returning into prakti. The self remains free, autonomous; that is, the yogin attains deliverance. Like a dead person, the yogin has no more real relation with life, but is a jīvanmukta, one "liberated in life." The yogin no longer lives in time and under the domination of time, but in an eternal present.

To recapitulate, the method recommended by the classical form of Yoga comprises a number of different techniques (physiological, mental, mystical) that gradually detach the yogin from the processes of life and the rules of social behavior. The worldly person lives in society, marries, establishes a family; Yoga prescribes solitude and chastity. In opposition to continual movement, the yogin practiced āsana; in opposition to agitated, unrhythmical, uncontrolled respiration, the yogin practices prāāyāma; to the chaotic flux of psychomental life, the yogin replies by "fixing thought on a single point"; and so on. The goal of all these practices always remains the sameto react against normal, secular, and even human inclinations. The final result is a grandiose, although paradoxical, mode of being. Asamprajñāta samādhi realizes the "knowledge-possession" of the autonomous Self (purua ); that is, it offers deliverance, freedom, and, more specifically, the consciousness of absolute freedom.

See Also

Cakras; Īśvara; Jīvanmukti; Patañjali the Grammarian; Purua; Sākhya.

Bibliography

Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra, with the commentary (Yogabhāya or Yogasūtra-bhaya) of Vyāsa and the gloss (Tattvavaiśāradī) of Vācaspatimiśra have been translated into English by James H. Woods as The Yoga System of Patañjali, 3d ed. (Dehli, 1966), and by Rāma Prasāda as Patanjali's Yoga Sutras (Allahabad, 1910). A listing of editions and translations of other, later commentaries can be found on page 372 of my Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, 2d aug. ed. (Princeton, N. J., 1969), which also includes bibliographies on pages 372, 437480, and 533555.

On the Yoga Upaniads, see Yoga Upaniads with the Commentary of Srī Upaniad-Brahma-Yogin, translated and edited by Allādi Mahādeva Sāstrī (Madras, 1920). Among the different works on Yoga, written from different perspectives, one may cite Richard Garbe's Sākhya und Yoga (Strasbourg, 1896); Surendranath Dasgupta's Yoga as Philosophy and Religion (1924; reprint, Calcutta, 1973) and Yoga Philosophy in Relation to Other Systems of Thought (1930; reprint, Delhi, 1974); Hermann Jacobi's "Über das ursprüngliche Yogasystem," Sitzungsberichte der preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 26 (1929): 581627; Sigurd Lindquist's Die Methoden des Yoga (Lund, 1932) and Siddhi und Abhiññā: Eine Studie über die klassischen Wunder des Yoga (Uppsala, 1935); Heinrich Zimmer's Kunstform und Yoga im indischen Kultbild (Berlin, 1926); J. W. Hauer's Der Yoga, als Heilweg: Nach den indischen Quellen dargestellt, 2d. ed. (Stuttgart, 1958); Jean Varenne's Yoga and the Hindu Tradition, translated by Derek Coltman (Chicago 1976); and Georg Feuerstein's The Philosophy of Classical Yoga (Manchester, 1980).

On Īśvara, see my Yoga, 2d aug. ed. (Princeton, N. J., 1969), pp. 68ff., and especially Jan Gonda's "The Īśvara Idea," in Change and Continuity in Indian Religion (The Hague, 1965), pp. 131163.

On different types of yogic meditation, the best work is Strukturen yogische Meditation by Gerhard Oberhammer (Vienna, 1977). See also A. Janácek's "The 'Voluntaristic' Type of Yoga in Patañjali's Yoga-Sūtras," Archiv Orientálni 22 (1954): 6987, and Corrado Pensa's "On the Purification Concept in Indian Tradition, with Special Regard to Yoga," East and West, n. s. 19 (1969): 135. On the recent scientific observations in regard to the physiological and psychological aspects of yogic technique, see Thérèse Brosse's Études instrumentales des techniques du Yoga: Expérimentation psychosomatique (Paris, 1963).

On aagayoga, see Anton Zigmund-Cerbu's "The aagayoga," History of Religions 3 (Summer 1963): 128134; adaga-yoga, edited by Günter Grönbold (Munich, 1969), an edition and German translation of Guabharai-nāma-aagayogatippanī of Raviśrījñāna and Grönbold's "Materialen zur Geschichte des aaga-yoga, IIII," Indo-Iranian Journal 25 (April 1983): 181190 (also published in Zentralasiatische Studien 16, 1982, pp. 337347), and "Der sechsgliedrige Yoga des Kālacakra-Tantra," Asiatische Studien / Études asiatiques 37 (1938): 2545.

My Yoga, cited above, includes discussion of the different forms of yogic practices in Brahmanism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Tantrism (pp. 101274, 384414) and of the yoga of the Jains (pp. 209210, 404405). On the yoga of the Jains, see also Robert H. B. William's Jaina Yoga: A Survey of the Medieval Śrāvākācaras (London, 1963).

New Sources

Bajpai, R. S. The Splendours and Dimensions of Yoga. New Delhi, 2002.

Burley, Mikel. Hatha-Yoga: Its Context, Theory, and Practice. Delhi, 2000.

Coward, Harold G. Yoga and Psychology: Language, Memory, and Mysticism. Albany, 2002.

Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: The Yoga Sutra attributed to Patanjali. Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller. Berkeley, 1996.

Yoga: The Indian Tradition. Edited by Ian Whicher and David Carpenter. London; New York, 2003.

The Yogasastra of Hemacandra: A Twelfth Century Handbook of Svetambara Jainism. Translated by Olle Quarnström. Cambridge, Mass., 2002.

Mircea Eliade (1987)

Revised Bibliography

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of Religion. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

YOGA

Yoga is one of the most important and best known of the six darshanas, or schools of Hindu philosophy (see hinduism). The classical texts are the Yoga Sutras. These are attributed to Pātañjali, c. 200 b.c., although they probably date from a.d. 400 to 500.

Origins of Yoga. The doctrine and practice of yoga go back to a much earlier period than the texts, perhaps to the very beginning of Indian culture. A figure in the characteristic posture of a yogi was found among the excavations at Mohenjo-Daro, West Pakistan, where the remains date from the 2d millennium b.c. In any case, it is probable that yoga originated among the pre-Aryan peoples of India and has its roots in certain mystical and magical traditions of a very primitive character. The decisive development of yoga took place in about the 6th century b.c. when an ascetical movement arose, perhaps as a result of the doctrine of transmigration, which seems to have entered into Hindu tradition at this time. This ascetical movement was to have a permanent effect on Indian culture, for from it Buddhism and Jainism were born, and the doctrine of the Upanishads took shape under its influence.

The word used for asceticism in India is tapas, which meant literally "heat." In the early stages of the development of Indian asceticism, effort was concentrated on acquiring "interior heat" by which, it was believed, magical powers could be obtained. Even in the early period of the Upanishads, yoga came to be regarded as a means of controlling the senses and the mind to attain a state of mystical union with the Divine Being and a liberation (moka ) from the wheel of life (sasāra ). These two elements of magic and mysticism have always been closely interwoven in yoga, so that on the one hand it is regarded as a means of acquiring preternatural powers, and on the other, as a means of liberating the soul from the bondage of matter and restoring it to its original state as a pure spirit.

Classical Yoga. The yoga of Pātañjali, or classical yoga, is based on the doctrine of the Sānkhya school of philosophy, according to which the soul is by nature a pure spirit (purua ) that has become identified through ignorance (avidyā ) with matter (prakrti ). The purpose of yoga is to set the soul free. Its method is a technique of control of body and mind, conscious and unconscious, until the mind (chitta ) reaches the state of "concentration on a single point" (ekāgrāta ) in which it is no longer subject to the influence of the body. There are eight states or "members" (angas ) in this process, which together compose the system of classical yoga.

Counsels and Disciplines. The first two stages are of a moral nature, and may be compared with the precepts and counsels of Christian perfection. The precepts, literally "restraints" (yama ), are not to kill (ahisā ), not to lie (satya ), not to steal (asteya ), not to be impure (brahmacharya ), and not to be avaricious (aparigraha ). The counsels, or disciplines (niyama ), are cleanliness (shauca ), serenity (satoa ), asceticism (tapas ), the study of scriptures (svādhyāya ), and devotion to God (Īshvarapraidhāna ). The last two disciplines are of particular interest because, although they were of less importance in classical yoga, they provided the basis for the development of religious yoga (bhakti yoga ) that took place in the Middle Ages.

Posture. The next two stages, posture (āsana ) and control of breath (prāāyāma ), were important in the development of Haha yoga. The position of the body is considered of cardinal significance in the control of the mind. The position, according to Pātañjali, should be both firm and pleasant (sthirasukham ). The effort to attain the correct position may require considerable practice, but, once attained, it should become perfectly easy, so that the mind is in no way disturbed by the body. The ideal position is said to be padmāsana, the "lotus" pose in which the yogi is normally depicted; but any position is permitted in which body and mind can be calm and recollected.

Breath Control. The control of the breath (prāāyāma ) is considered to be of even greater importance than the position of the body, since it is held to lead to control of consciousness. By control of the breath the yogi can not only gain control over the body, so as to be able even to suspend the breath altogether for a considerable time, but he can also penetrate into the deepest levels of the unconscious and control its effects. Even in the early stages it is said that prāāyāma brings about physical and psychological harmony.

Withdrawal of the Senses. This stage of yoga (pratyāhāra ) consists of the detachment of the senses from their proper objects, so that the mind is no longer disturbed by any external object but remains recollected in itself. This leads to the three final stages of mental concentration by which the end of yoga is realized. The first of these is "concentration" (dhāranā ), that is, fixing the attention on a single point, such as the tip of the nose, the sphere of the navel, or the "lotus of the heart." The lotus of the heart is not so much a physical point as a psychological "center," and the purpose of the exercise is to bring about a state of psychological unity. It is here that Pātañjali introduces the idea of God in yoga, by saying that the yogi may concentrate on the divine form or "Vishnu in the heart."

Meditation. The next stage is "meditation" (dhyāna ), which is reached when concentration becomes continuous in a "unified current of thought." It should be observed that this is not meditation in the ordinary sense, but a concentration of the mind on an object of thought in such a way as to penetrate to its essence and to enter into the secrets of its nature. This leads to the final stage of "contemplation" (samādhi ), which is a state of total absorption in the object of thought. In this state there is no longer any distinction between the object, the subject, and the act of thought. It is a knowledge by "identity," when the object reveals itself in its state of pure being. It must be observed that this is not a state of trance in the ordinary sense, in which the faculties are suspended, but a state of pure consciousness in which the mind, in perfect lucidity, retains control. Yet even this is not the ultimate state. As long as the mind remains in relation with any object, samādhi is said to be "with seed" (bīja samādhi ); i.e., the seeds of differentiated thought (saskāra ) still remain within the mind. It is only in the state of "seedless" samādhi (nirbīja samādhi ), when the mind is withdrawn from all relation with any object and remains in a state of absolute isolation (kaivalya ) reflecting the pure light of the Self (purua ), that the ultimate goal of yoga is attained and the yogi gains liberation (moka ). He is then what is called jīvanmukta, liberated while yet alive, having altogether transcended the condition of mortal life, and become identified with Being itself.

Though the ultimate purpose of yoga is to attain liberation in this way, yet in the course of yoga it is held that various supernatural, or more properly preternatural, powers (siddhi ) are obtained. By penetrating into the different states of consciousness the yogi is said to be able to know his "former births" and to be able to read the thoughts of men. By penetrating to the essence of the object that he contemplates, and so into the secrets of nature, he is said to gain control over nature, and even to be able to control his body to such an extent that he can become invisible and "fly through the air." He also develops a whole organism of "subtle" senses, sight, hearing, smell, etc., so that he has powers of clairvoyance, clair-audition, etc., and of causing things to materialize. No doubt, there is much exaggeration in these claims, but it would seem that there is in this a systematic development of what has been called the psi faculty, through which very remarkable powers can be acquired. In later times great attention was paid to the development of these powers, and Pātañjali himself devotes a whole book to them. Yet he insists that these powers must be renounced by those who would attain to final liberation, as they are a form of bondage to the material world.

Such is the classical system of yoga, sometimes known as Rāja yoga (Royal yoga), which may be called the typical system of Indian yoga. But in addition to this, though largely based upon it, there are many other forms of yoga. Both Buddhism and Jainism developed their own systems of yoga, different not so much in method itself as in the doctrine underlying the method and the form of "realization" that was sought. For the Jain the purpose of yoga was the elimination of karma, that is, the effects on the soul of the actions of former lives, and its final purification. For the Buddhist it was the attainment of nirvana, the "blowing out" of life and the elimination of the self in the bliss of pure being.

Role of the Bhagavad Gītā in Yoga. One of the most important stages in the development of yoga is to be found in the Bhagavad Gītā. It is here that we can begin to discern the distinction between the three ways of yoga, karma yoga, jñāna yoga, and bhakti yoga. The yoga of Pātañjali is properly a form of jñāna yoga, a way of release by "knowledge." But such a way demanded a life of asceticism (tapas ), which was not possible for the ordinary man. The Bhagavad Gītā declares that the way of release is open also to the ordinary householder by means of "action" (karma ). If a man does the ordinary duties of his state of life in a spirit of detachment, without seeking the "fruits" of his action for himself, he can be saved no less than the ascetic. This is brought into relation with the new concept of bhakti yoga, the way of "devotion" to God, which is now declared to be the supreme way of obtaining liberation. If the ordinary actions of life are offered to God as a sacrifice they become a means of liberation, and it is devotion to God, that is to Krishna, the personal form of God, which is the essential means of liberation. Thus the devotion to God, which in the yoga of Pātañjali had played very little part, becomes the essential form of yoga, and liberation is conceived not as form of "isolation" achieved by the ascetic effort of the soul, but as a mystical union with a personal God achieved through his grace.

Haha Yoga. Opposite to this in every way is what is known as Haha yoga. This form of yoga relies entirely on physical exercises and aims primarily at bodily perfection. In modern times it is considered as a method of acquiring physical health and equilibrium, but in ancient times it was rather a method for acquiring preternatural powers. It belongs, in fact, to the school of tantric yoga, which developed in the Middle Ages (a.d. 5001000).

Tantric Yoga. The aim of tantric yoga was to enable the body to attain to a supernatural condition; not to transcend the body, as in classical yoga, but to transform it. The purpose was to obtain a "diamond" body, that is a body free from all infirmities and virtually immortal. For this purpose the technique of prāāyāma was systematically developed, but various other techniques were added. There were methods of cleansing the body by swallowing a piece of cloth, which was left for some time in the stomach, and of drawing in and expelling water. But more important than this is what has been called a system of "mystical physiology." It was held that the body was made up of a multitude of veins or nerves (nādīs ) and centers (chakras ) in which its powers were concentrated. These are to be regarded not so much as physical but as psychological or "subtle" entities; the chakras are the various centers of psychic energy and the nādīs are the channels through which it is transmitted. It was held that the basic center is at the base of the spine, where the psychic energy is represented as being curled up like a serpent and known as Kudalinī. The purpose of Kudalinī yoga is to lead this energy through the different chakras from the base of the spine to the top of the head by a technique of breathing so that all the different regions of consciousness are awakened. When Kudalinī, the vital energy of shakti, reaches the ultimate center at the top of the head, it unites with Siva, the principle of pure spiritual consciousness, and the whole being is transformed. Whatever may be said of its physical basis, there can be no doubt that Kudalinī yoga is a profound method of psychological transformation, leading to that unification of being which is the ultimate goal of the practice of yoga.

Among the methods used in tantric yoga to reach the final state of equilibrium there are certain practices of a sexual nature. In some schools of tantric yoga a kind of "orgy" was practiced, in which all normal restraints were abandoned, but it is said that even this was often carried out only in a symbolic way. But the practice of intercourse (maithuna ) between a yogi and a yogini was of a different nature. It was never an indulgence in passion, but, on the contrary, an attempt to control sex in such a way as to make it a means of spiritual liberation. The texts insist that in this practice the "semen must not be emitted." It was actually an attempt to control the flow of semen, so as to have complete mastery over the body. Thus by the control of the breath in prāāyāma, the control of every movement of the mind, both conscious and unconscious, and finally by the control of the semen, the whole body was to be controlled and the whole nature transformed.

Purpose and Evaluation of Yoga. In all these forms of yoga, as Mircea Eliade has pointed out, there is a constant effort to return to the state of man before the Fall, to transcend the human state and become "like God." In so far as it relies on human effort and a definite technique to attain this end, yoga may be regarded as a system of magic, and there can be no doubt that this element is often present. But, on the other hand, following the original impulse of the Indian mind in its search for God, there is also a definite desire to attain to spiritual freedom, to be freed from the effects of sin, and in certain schools, at least, to depend on the grace of God rather than on human effort. In this case the goal is not so much magical as mystical. The aim is to separate the soul from its subjection to the body and its passions, to free the mind from its subjection to the senses and the imagination, and to attain to a state of absolute freedom and spiritual consciousness. In this state, it is believed, man can be restored to his original state of unity, above the flux of time and change, free from bondage to the material world, and established in perfect freedom and immortality. It marks the deep aspiration of the Indian soul to return to God, to recover the lost state of Paradise; but, lacking the light of revelation, it is inevitably exposed to the dangers of illusion and of magic and superstition. Yet, on the whole, one must say that the desire to know God is the fundamental motive of yoga.

Bibliography: pĀtaÑjali, The Yoga-System of Pātañjali, tr. j. h. woods (Harvard Oriental Series 17; Cambridge, Mass. 1914); How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms, tr. and ed. s. prabhavananda and c. isherwood (New York 1953). m. eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, tr. w. r. trask (New York 1958); Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3d ed. Tübingen 195765) 6:185557. j. g. woodrofee, ed. and tr., The Serpent Power (Madras 1953).

[b. griffiths]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

"Yoga." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga

Definition

The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit word which means yoke or union. Traditionally, yoga is a method joining the individual self with the Divine, Universal Spirit, or Cosmic Consciousness. Physical and mental exercises are designed to help achieve this goal, also called self-transcendence or enlightenment. On the physical level, yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen, and align the body. These postures are performed to make the spine supple and healthy and to promote blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, keeping all the bodily systems healthy. On the mental level, yoga uses breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dyana) to quiet, clarify, and discipline the mind. However, experts are quick to point out that yoga is not a religion, but a way of living with health and peace of mind as its aims.

Origins

Yoga originated in ancient India and is one of the longest surviving philosophical systems in the world. Some scholars have estimated that yoga is as old as 5,000 years; artifacts detailing yoga postures have been found in India from over 3000 b.c. Yoga masters (yogis) claim that it is a highly developed science of healthy living that has been tested and perfected for all these years. Yoga was first brought to America in the late 1800s when Swami Vivekananda, an Indian teacher and yogi, presented a lecture on meditation in Chicago. Yoga slowly began gaining followers, and flourished during the 1960s when there was a surge of interest in Eastern philosophy. There has since been a vast exchange of yoga knowledge in America, with many students going to India to study and many Indian experts coming here to teach, resulting in the establishment of a wide variety of schools. Today, yoga is thriving, and it has become easy to find teachers and practitioners throughout America. A recent Roper poll, commissioned by Yoga Journal, found that 11 million Americans do yoga at least occasionally and 6 million perform it regularly. Yoga stretches are used by physical therapists and professional sports teams, and the benefits of yoga are being touted by movie stars and Fortune 500 executives. Many prestigious schools of medicine have studied and introduced yoga techniques as proven therapies for illness and stress. Some medical schools, like UCLA, even offer yoga classes as part of their physician training program.

Benefits

Yoga has been used to alleviate problems associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, migraine headaches, asthma, shallow breathing, backaches, constipation, diabetes, menopause, multiple sclerosis, varicose veins, carpal tunnel syndrome and many chronic illnesses. It also has been studied and approved for its ability to promote relaxation and reduce stress.

Yoga can also provide the same benefits as any well-designed exercise program, increasing general health and stamina, reducing stress, and improving those conditions brought about by sedentary lifestyles. Yoga has the added advantage of being a low-impact activity that uses only gravity as resistance, which makes it an excellent physical therapy routine; certain yoga postures can be safely used to strengthen and balance all parts of the body.

Meditation has been much studied and approved for its benefits in reducing stress-related conditions. The landmark book, The Relaxation Response, by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, showed that meditation and breathing techniques for relaxation could have the opposite effect of stress, reducing blood pressure and other indicators. Since then, much research has reiterated the benefits of meditation for stress reduction and general health. Currently, the American Medical Association recommends meditation techniques as a first step before medication for borderline hypertension cases.

Modern psychological studies have shown that even slight facial expressions can cause changes in the involuntary nervous system; yoga utilizes the mind/body connection. That is, yoga practice contains the central ideas that physical posture and alignment can influence a person's mood and self-esteem, and also that the mind can be used to shape and heal the body. Yoga practitioners claim that the strengthening of mind/body awareness can bring eventual improvements in all facets of a person's life.

Description

Classical yoga is separated into eight limbs, each a part of the complete system for mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Four of the limbs deal with mental and physical exercises designed to bring the mind in tune with the body. The other four deal with different stages of meditation. There are six major types of yoga, all with the same goals of health and harmony but with varying techniques: hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, jnana, and tantra yoga. Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced branch of yoga in America, and it is a highly developed system of nearly 200 physical postures, movements and breathing techniques designed to tune the body to its optimal health. The yoga philosophy believes the breath to be the most important facet of health, as the breath is the largest source of prana, or life force, and hatha yoga utilizes pranayama, which literally means the science or control of breathing. Hatha yoga was originally developed as a system to make the body strong and healthy enough to enable mental awareness and spiritual enlightenment.

There are several different schools of hatha yoga in America; the two most prevalent ones are Iyengar and ashtanga yoga. Iyengar yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar, who is widely considered as one of the great living innovators of yoga. Iyengar yoga puts strict emphasis on form and alignment, and uses traditional hatha yoga techniques in new manners and sequences. Iyengar yoga can be good for physical therapy because it allows the use of props like straps and blocks to make it easier for some people to get into the yoga postures. Ashtanga yoga can be a more vigorous routine, using a flowing and dance-like sequence of hatha postures to generate body heat, which purifies the body through sweating and deep breathing.

The other types of yoga show some of the remaining ideas which permeate yoga. Raja yoga strives to bring about mental clarity and discipline through meditation, simplicity, and non-attachment to worldly things and desires. Karma yoga emphasizes charity, service to others, non-aggression and non-harming as means to awareness and peace. Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion and love of God, or Universal Spirit. Jnana yoga is the practice and development of knowledge and wisdom. Finally, tantra yoga is the path of self-awareness through religious rituals, including awareness of sexuality as sacred and vital.

A typical hatha yoga routine consists of a sequence of physical poses, or asanas, and the sequence is designed to work all parts of the body, with particular emphasis on making the spine supple and healthy and increasing circulation. Hatha yoga asanas utilize three basic movements: forward bends, backward bends, and twisting motions. Each asana is named for a common thing it resembles, like the sun salutation, cobra, locust, plough, bow, eagle, tree, and the head to knee pose, to name a few. Each pose has steps for entering and exiting it, and each posture requires proper form and alignment. A pose is held for some time, depending on its level of difficulty and one's strength and stamina, and the practitioner is also usually aware of when to inhale and exhale at certain points in each posture, as breathing properly is another fundamental aspect of yoga. Breathing should be deep and through the nose. Mental concentration in each position is also very important, which improves awareness, poise and posture. During a yoga routine there is often a position in which to perform meditation, if deep relaxation is one of the goals of the sequence.

Yoga routines can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two or more hours, with one hour being a good time investment to perform a sequence of postures and a meditation. Some yoga routines, depending on the teacher and school, can be as strenuous as the most difficult workout, and some routines merely stretch and align the body while the breath and heart rate are kept slow and steady. Yoga achieves its best results when it is practiced as a daily discipline, and yoga can be a life-long exercise routine, offering deeper and more challenging positions as a practitioner becomes more adept. The basic positions can increase a person's strength, flexibility and sense of well-being almost immediately, but it can take years to perfect and deepen them, which is an appealing and stimulating aspect of yoga for many.

Yoga is usually best learned from a yoga teacher or physical therapist, but yoga is simple enough that one can learn the basics from good books on the subject, which are plentiful. Yoga classes are generally inexpensive, averaging around 10 dollars per class, and students can learn basic postures in just a few classes. Many YMCAs, colleges, and community health organizations offer beginning yoga classes as well, often for nominal fees. If yoga is part of a physical therapy program, it can be reimbursed by insurance.

Preparations

Yoga can be performed by those of any age and condition, although not all poses should be attempted by everyone. Yoga is also a very accessible form of exercise; all that is needed is a flat floor surface large enough to stretch out on, a mat or towel, and enough overhead space to fully raise the arms. It is a good activity for those who can't go to gyms, who don't like other forms of exercise, or have very busy schedules. Yoga should be done on an empty stomach, and teachers recommend waiting three or more hours after meals. Loose and comfortable clothing should be worn.

Precautions

People with injuries, medical conditions, or spinal problems should consult a doctor before beginning yoga. Those with medical conditions should find a yoga teacher who is familiar with their type of problem and who is willing to give them individual attention. Pregnant women can benefit from yoga, but should always be guided by an experienced teacher. Certain yoga positions should not be performed with a fever, or during menstruation.

Beginners should exercise care and concentration when performing yoga postures, and not try to stretch too much too quickly, as injury could result. Some advanced yoga postures, like the headstand and full lotus position, can be difficult and require strength, flexibility, and gradual preparation, so beginners should get the help of a teacher before attempting them.

Yoga is not a competive sport; it does not matter how a person does in comparison with others, but how aware and disciplined one becomes with one's own body and limitations. Proper form and alignment should always be maintained during a stretch or posture, and the stretch or posture should be stopped when there is pain, dizziness, or fatigue. The mental component of yoga is just as important as the physical postures. Concentration and awareness of breath should not be neglected. Yoga should be done with an open, gentle, and non-critical mind; when one stretches into a yoga position, it can be thought of accepting and working on one's limits. Impatience, self-criticism and comparing oneself to others will not help in this process of self-knowledge. While performing the yoga of breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dyana), it is best to have an experienced teacher, as these powerful techniques can cause dizziness and discomfort when done improperly.

Side effects

Some people have reported injuries by performing yoga postures without proper form or concentration, or by attempting difficult positions without working up to them gradually or having appropriate supervision. Beginners sometimes report muscle soreness and fatigue after performing yoga, but these side effects diminish with practice.

Research and general acceptance

Although yoga originated in a culture very different from modern America, it has been accepted and its practice has spread relatively quickly. Many yogis are amazed at how rapidly yoga's popularity has spread in America, considering the legend that it was passed down secretly by handfuls of adherents for many centuries.

KEY TERMS

Asana— A position or stance in yoga.

Dyana— The yoga term for meditation.

Hatha yoga— Form of yoga using postures, breathing methods and meditation.

Meditation— Technique of concentration for relaxing the mind and body.

Pranayama— Yoga breathing techniques.

Yogi— A trained yoga expert.

There can still be found some resistance to yoga, for active and busy Americans sometimes find it hard to believe that an exercise program that requires them to slow down, concentrate, and breathe deeply can be more effective than lifting weights or running. However, on-going research in top medical schools is showing yoga's effectiveness for overall health and for specific problems, making it an increasingly acceptable health practice.

Training and certification

Many different schools of yoga have developed in America, and beginners should experiment with them to find the best-suited routine. Hatha yoga schools emphasize classical yoga postures, and raja yoga schools concentrate on mental discipline and meditation techniques. In America, there are no generally accepted standards for the certification of yoga teachers. Some schools certify teachers in a few intensive days and some require years of study before certifying teachers. Beginners should search for teachers who show respect and are careful in their teaching, and should beware of instructors who push them into poses before they are ready.

Resources

BOOKS

Ansari, Mark, and Lark, Liz. Yoga for Beginners. New York: Harper, 1999.

Bodian, Stephan, and Feuerstein, Georg. Living Yoga. New York: Putnam, 1993.

Carrico, Mara. Yoga Journal's Yoga Basics. New York: Henry Holt, 1997.

Iyengar, B.K.S. Light on Yoga. New York: Schocken, 1975.

PERIODICALS

Yoga International Magazine. R.R. 1 Box 407, Honesdale, PA 18431. 〈http://www.yimag.com〉.

Yoga Journal. P.O. Box 469088, Escondido, CA 92046. 〈http://www.yogajournal.com〉.

ORGANIZATIONS

International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). 4150 Tivoli Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90066.

OTHER

Yoga Directory. 〈http://www.yogadirectory.com〉.

Yoga Finder Online. 〈http://www.yogafinder.com〉.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-4

"Yoga." Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-4

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga

Definition

Purpose

Precautions

Description

Preparation

Aftercare

Risks

Normal results

Abnormal results

Resources

Definition

Yoga is an ancient system of breathing practices, physical exercises and postures, and meditation intended to integrate the practitioner’s body, mind, and spirit. It originated in India several thousand years ago, and its principles were first written down by a scholar named Patanjali in the second century b.c. The word yoga comes from a Sanskrit word, yukti, and means “union” or, “yoke.” The various physical and mental disciplines of yoga were seen as a method for individuals to attain union with the divine.

In the contemporary West, however, yoga is more often regarded as a beneficial form of physical exercise than as a philosophy or total way of life. As of 2002, more than 6 million people in the United States were practicing some form of yoga, with 1.7 million claiming to practice it regularly.

Purpose

Yoga has been recommended as an adjunct to psychotherapy and standard medical treatments for a number of reasons. Its integration of the mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions of human life is helpful to patients struggling with distorted cognitions or pain syndromes. The stretching, bending, and balancing involved in the asanas (physical postures that are part of a yoga practice) help to align the head and spinal column; stimulate the circulatory system, endocrine glands, and other organs; and keep muscles and joints strong and flexible. Yoga programs have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering blood pressure and anxiety levels. The breath control exercises, known as pranayama, emphasize slow and deep abdominal breathing. They benefit the respiratory system, help to induce a sense of relaxation, and are useful in pain management. The meditation that is an integral part of classical yoga practice has been shown to strengthen the human immune system. Although Western medical researchers have been studying yoga only since the 1970s, clinical trials in the United States have demonstrated its effectiveness in treating asthma, osteoarthritis, heart disease, stress-related illnesses, high blood pressure, anxiety, and mood disorders. Other reports indicate that yoga merits further research in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and substance abuse. Studies done in Germany have focused on the psychological benefits of yoga. One clinical trial done in 1994 at the University of Wurzburg found that the volunteer subjects who had practiced yoga scored higher in life satisfaction, with lower levels of irritability and pychosomatic complaints, than the control group.

One of the advantages of yoga as a complementary therapy is its adaptability to patients with a wide variety of physical and psychiatric conditions. There are a number of different schools of yoga—over 40, according to one expert in the field—and even within a particular school or tradition, the asanas and breathing exercises can be tailored to the patient’s needs. One can find special yoga courses for children; for people over 50; for people with fibromyalgia, arthritis, or back problems; for cancer patients; and for people struggling with overweight. Although most people who take up yoga attend classes, it is possible to learn the basic postures and breathing techniques at home from beginners’ manuals or videotapes. Patients who feel self-conscious about exercising in the presence of others may find yoga appealing for this reason. The American Yoga Association has produced a manual and videotape for beginners, as well as a book called The American Yoga Association’s Easy Does It Yoga for persons wih physical limitations. In addition, yoga does not require expensive equipment or special courts, tracks, or playing fields. An area of floor space about 6 ft by 8 ft, a so-called “sticky mat” to keep the feet from slipping, and loose clothing that allows the wearer to move freely are all that is needed.

Precautions

Patients with a history of heart disease; severe back injuries; inner ear problems or other difficulties with balance; or recent surgery should consult a physician before beginning yoga. Pregnant women are usually advised to modify their yoga practice during the first trimester.

People diagnosed with a dissociative disorder should not attempt advanced forms of pranayama (yogic breathing) without the supervision of an experienced teacher. Some yogic breathing exercises may trigger symptoms of derealization or depersonalization in these patients.

Yoga should not be practiced on a full stomach. It is best to wait at least two hours after a meal before beginning one’s yoga practice. In addition, while yoga can be practiced outdoors, it should not be done in direct sunlight.

One additional precaution is often necessary for Westerners. Yoga is not a competitive sport, and a “good” practice is defined as whatever one’s body and mind are capable of giving on a specific day. Westerners are, however, accustomed to pushing themselves hard, comparing their performances to those of others, and assuming that exercise is not beneficial unless it hurts—an attitude summed up in the phrase “no pain, no gain.” Yoga teaches a gentle and accepting attitude toward one’s body rather than a punishing or perfec-tionistic approach. A person should go into the stretches and poses gradually, not forcibly or violently. Stretching should not be done past the point of mild discomfort, which is normal for beginners; frank pain is a warning that the body is not properly aligned in the pose or that the joints are being overstressed. Most people beginning yoga will experience measurable progress in their strength and flexibility after a week or two of daily practice.

Description

There are six major branches of yoga: hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, jnana, and tantra yoga. Hatha yoga, the type most familiar to Westerners, will be discussed more fully in the following paragraph. Raja yoga is a spiritual path of self-renunciation and simplicity; karma yoga emphasizes selfless work as a service to others. Bhakti yoga is the path of cultivating an open heart and single-minded love of God. Jnana yoga is the sage or philosopher’s approach; it cultivates wisdom and discernment, and is considered the most difficult type of yoga. Tantra yoga emphasizes transcending the self through religious rituals, including sacred sexuality.

Hatha yoga is the best-known form of yoga in the West because it is often taught as a form of physical therapy. A typical hatha yoga practice consists of a sequence of asanas, or physical poses, designed to exercise all parts of the body in the course of the practice. The asanas incorporate three basic types of movement: forward bends, backward bends, and twists. Practitioners of hatha yoga have over 200 asanas to choose from in creating a sequence for practice. The postures have traditional Indian names, such as Eagle Pose, Half Moon Pose, or Mountain Pose. There are steps for entering and leaving the pose, and the student is taught to concentrate on proper form and alignment. The pose is held for a period of time (usually 10–20 seconds), during which the practitioner concentrates on breathing correctly. Mental focus and discipline is necessary in order to maintain one’s poise and balance in the asana. At the close of the practice, most students of yoga rest in a position that allows for a period of meditation. Most yoga practices take about an hour, although some are as short as 20 minutes.

There are a number of different styles of hatha yoga taught in the United States, the best known being Iyengar, Bikram, Kripalu, and ashtanga yoga. Iyengar yoga, which was developed by B.K.S. Iyengar, emphasizes attention to the details of a pose and the use of such props as blocks and belts to help students gain flexibility. Bikram yoga, taught on the West Coast by Bikram Choudhury, is practiced in heated rooms intended to make participants sweat freely as they

warm and stretch their joints and muscles. Kripalu yoga, sometimes called the yoga of consciousness, emphasizes breathing exercises and the proper coordination of breath and movement. It also teaches awareness of one’s psychological and emotional reactions to the various poses and movements of the body. Ash-tanga yoga, developed by K. Pattabhi Jois, is the basis of so-called power yoga. Ashtanga yoga is a physically demanding workout that is not suitable for beginners.

Preparation

Good preparation for yoga requires spiritual and mental readiness as well as appropriate clothing and a suitable space. Many practitioners of yoga begin their practice with simple breathing exercises and stretches intended to clear the mind as well as open up the lungs.

Clothing should be comfortable and allow free movement. Some women prefer to practice in a dancer’s leotard or similar garment made of stretchy fabric, but a simple tunic or beach cover-up worn over a pair of running shorts works just as well. Brassieres should not be worn during practice because they tend to restrict breathing. Men often practice in swim trunks or running shorts. Both men and women can use an oversize men’s cotton T-shirt as a practice garment—these are inexpensive, easy to wash, and nonbinding. The feet are bare.

Aftercare

As was mentioned earlier, traditional hatha yoga practice ends the sequence of asanas with a pose in which meditation is possible, either sitting or lying flat on the back. Other than quiet resting, no particular aftercare is necessary.

Risks

Most reported injuries in yoga result from lack of concentration or attempts to perform difficult poses without working up to them. People who have consulted a physician before starting yoga and practice under the supervision of an experienced teacher are unlikely to suffer serious injury.

Normal results

Normal results following yoga practice are improved posture, lowered blood pressure, increased flexibility in the joints, higher energy levels, and a sense of relaxation.

Abnormal results

Abnormal physical results would include serious injuries to joints or muscles; abnormal psychological results would include dissociative episodes.

KEY TERMS

Asana —The Indian term for the poses or postures that are done in sequence during hatha yoga practice.

Hatha yoga —The form of yoga most familiar to Westerners; often practiced as a form of physical therapy.

Pranayama —The breathing exercises that accompany the asanas in hatha yoga.

Yogi (feminine, yogini) —A person who is a respected expert in or teacher of yoga.

Resources

BOOKS

Choudhury, Bikram, with Bonnie Jones Reynolds. Bikram’s Beginning Yoga Class. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1978.

Feuerstein, Georg, and Stephan Bodian, eds. Living Yoga: A Comprehensive Guide for Daily Life. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Perigee, 1993.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. “Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga: From Buddha to the Millennium.” Chapter 10 in The Best Alternative Medicine. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2002.

PERIODICALS

Janakiramaiah, N., B. N. Gangadhar, P. J. Naga Venkatesha Murthy, and others. “Antidepressant Efficacy of Sudarshan Kriya Yoga (SKY) in Melancholia: A Randomized Comparison with Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and Imipramine.” Journal of Affective Disorders 57 (January-March 2000): 255–259.

Shaffer, H. J., T. A. LaSalvia, and J. P. Stein. “Comparing Hatha Yoga with Dynamic Group Psychotherapy for Enhancing Methadone Maintenance Treatment: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine 3 (July 1997): 57–66.

Shannahoff-Khalsa, D. S., and L. R. Beckett. “Clinical Case Report: Efficacy of Yogic Techniques in the Treatment of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders.” International Journal of Neuroscience 85 (March 1996): 1–17.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Yoga Association. www.americanyogaassociation.org

International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT). 4150 Tivoli Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90066.

Yoga Research and Education Center (YREC). 2400A County Center Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403. (707) 566-0000. www.yrec.org

Rebecca J. Frey, Ph.D.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." The Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Health. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." The Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Health. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-3

"Yoga." The Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Health. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga-3

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga

The word yoga derives from the Sanskrit root yuj meaning to yoke or to harness. Broadly stated yoga refers to any of the various meditation and ascetic practices designed to train and discipline the mind and body, as well as to the goal of yoga itself called samādhi (or nirodḥa meaning cessation).

Yoga is one of the earliest known spiritual practices. Its history traces possibly as far back as the Indus Valley civilization (c. 2600–1500 bce). Archeological evidence from Mohenjo-dharo, an ancient city in what is now Pakistan, shows a three-horned man sitting in what appears to be mūlābāndhāsana (e.g., seal #222), a posture described in some detail in medieval haṭhayoga texts. In the Vedas (sacred Hindu scriptures), there are numerous references to munīs (sages) and yogīs who perform ascetic and meditative practices (e.g., tapas), and the word yoga appears frequently in the Upaniṣads and in the Mahābhārata (c. fourth century bce). Although there is no systematic approach to yoga until the second to third centuries of this era, yoga is a salient feature of pan-Indian religiosity, including Buddhist and Jain monastic institutions.

PATAÑJALI'S YOGA

The teachings of yoga expounded by Patañjali in the Yogasūtras (c. second-third centuries ce) constitute one of the six darśanas (views) or classical systems of Indian philosophy. In the Yogasūtras, Patañjali defines yoga as samādhi or the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind. To attain this state, Patañjali outlines an eight-limbed (aṣṭāṅga) path emphasizing: (1) yama (restraints or ethical practices, including nonviolence (ahiṁsā), truthfulness (satya), not stealing (asteya), celibacy (brahmacarya), and avoidance of greed (aparigraha); (2) niyama (observances, including cleanliness (śaucha), contentment (saṁtoṣa), acetic practices (tapas), study (svādhyāya), and devotion (Īśvarpraņidhāna); (3) āsana (postures); (4) breathing techniques (prāņāyāma); (5) withdrawal of the senses (pratyāhāra); (6) concentration (dhāraņā); (7) meditation (dhyāna); and, (8) samādhi. The first five limbs (aņgas) constitute the ideals and practices that progressively lead the adept to the final levels of samādhi (called samprajñāta and asamprajñāta). In samādhi, also referred to as kaivalya (aloneness), puruṣa (self, pure consciousness) is isolated from its misidentification with mind and body or matter (prakŗti). It is important to underscore that sexual abstinence plays an integral role in this school intended primarily for male renouncers (sannyāsīn), and the body is typically cast in a supporting role.

HAṬHAYOGA AND TANTRA

Haṭhayoga traces its history to Nāth Siddhasin the twelfth to thirteenth centuries ce in North India. Although the term haṭha literally means force or exertion, it also derives significance from the Sanskrit words ha and ha meaning sun and moon respectively. The implication here is that the nature of reality is ultimately advaita (nondual). The dualistic principles prakŗti and puruṣa found in the orthodox brahmanical system of Patañjali are recast in haṭhayoga as the theistic principles Śiva and Śakti. One of the principle symbols is the androgynous form of Śiva called Ardhanārīśvara (the lord who is half woman). Ardhanārīśvara represents the absolute unity and inseparability of masculine and feminine principles conjoined in one divine body.

Haṭhayoga treatises prescribe a rigorous program of psychophysical practices (sādhana) that are considered necessary to prepare the yogīn/yogīnī for more advanced states of meditation. However, like the tantra sastras with which they are clearly related, haṭhayoga treatises are intended exclusively for the initiated. In tantra and haṭhayoga, the subtle body of the adept, comprised of cakras, nāḍīs, and other elements, constitutes the sacred space wherein the mutual penetration of male and female energies, represented by Śiva and Śakti, occurs. Unitive experiences arise in sādhana by awakening, harnessing, and drawing the kuņḍalīnī (coiled female serpent power) that lies dormant at the base of the spine (in the mulādhāra or root cakra) to the top of the head (in the cranial vault or sahasrārachakra) via such practices as vajrolī, sahajolī, and śakticālanā mudrā.

Tantra adapted and adopted haṭhayoga. The Vāmācāra (left-handed tantra) ritual practice of sexual intercourse (maithuna) is interiorized by sublimating and retaining sexual fluids. Heterosexual sexuality constitutes a fundamental paradigm used to convey the idea of transcendence, and sexual energy is viewed as a medium or channel through which spiritual evolution and control over the body is attained.

GENDER

Most studies of yoga have not questioned the gendered nature of the esoteric cosmophysiology postulated in tantra and haṭhayoga. These traditions typically sanctify an elaborately constructed, gendered vision of the universe claiming complementarity and nonduality. However the polyvalent system of homologues represented often overlook the privileged maleness of their binary structures (e.g., Śiva-Śakti). Hence the system risks displacing its emancipatory goals of nonduality and liberation with a potentially hierarchical gender ideology that inscribes its norms through privileged male identifications.

However it also is important to bear in mind that access to tantra and haṭhayoga teachings and its goals of samādhi and mokṣa are not gender exclusive. Śiva revealed the emancipatory teachings of yoga to his wife Pārvatī, and she herself was considered an adept practitioner or yogīnī. Although, as a rule, women have not participated to the same extent in writing texts, and they often have been excluded from the male monastic organizations, women have asked fundamental questions of philosophy, and are concerned with attaining experiential knowledge through yoga. For example in the Upaniṣads, Maitreyī attained liberation through yoga. Kausalyī, the mother of Rāma, and Shāradā Devī, the wife of Ramakrishna, to name only a few, also practiced yoga. There is sufficient evidence to show that women were students and teachers, if not writers, of the yoga tradition. More often women were portrayed as a locus of fear to be avoided; they were celebrated in their domestic roles as wives and mothers or used in the context of ritual sex. Nevertheless although ambivalent messages exist, there is crucial precedent for female agency and women's participation in yoga from the Vedic period to the early-twenty-first century.

YOGA IN EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA

Yoga in Europe and North America focuses mainly on āsana, with some attention given to prāņāyāma, meditation, chanting, and mantra (e.g., repetition of the sound oṃ). In India, Europe, and North America, yoga has been reformulated by modernity. This process involves the medicalization of yoga into a system of health and fitness that has all but severed it from its philosophical and spiritual heritage. Although many Indian gurus (e.g., Vivekananda, B. K. S. Iyengar, and Kripalu to mention only a few) came to Europe and North America to transmit their particular understanding of yoga, the transnational image of yoga today is primarily a physical one. The commercial and corporate aspects of yoga are most evident in the marketing and sales of books, magazines, videos, and dvds, as well as clothing, health and beauty products designed specifically for yoga, and the proliferation of internet sites creating a worldwide yoga network. Yoga in Europe and North America is gender inclusive.

TANTRA IN EUROPE AND NORTH AMERICA

Many of the neo-tantric elements of European and North American representations have more do with sexuality and relationships than with the spiritual attainment of samādhi. New Age tantric sexuality is primarily a popular amalgam of Indian eroticism (e.g, the Kāmāsūtra), yoga postures and positions, the techniques of massage, and sexual therapies packaged for the commercial consumption of the New Age seeker. This is a unique invention and represents the appropriation of and departure from tantra's cultural context and history and, as such, has little to do with the schools of yoga mentioned earlier in this entry.

see also Buddhism; Hinduism; Tantra.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Eliade, Mircea. 1969. Yoga: Immortality and Freedom, trans. W. R. Trask. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Feuerstein, Georg. 1979. The Yoga-sūtra of Patañjali: A New Translation and Commentary. Folkestone, England: Dawson.

Goldberg, Ellen. 2002. The Lord Who Is Half Woman: An Indian and Feminist Perspective. Albany: State University of New York Press.

White, David Gordon. 1996. The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Whicher, Ian. 1998. The Integrity of the Yoga Darśana: A Reconsideration of Classical Yoga. Albany: State University of New York Press.

                                               Ellen Goldberg

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Culture Society History. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga

Definition

The term yoga comes from a Sanskrit word which means yoke or union. Traditionally, yoga is a method joining the individual self with the Divine, Universal Spirit, or Cosmic Consciousness. Physical and mental

exercises are designed to help achieve this goal, also called self-transcendence or enlightenment. On the physical level, yoga postures, called asanas, are designed to tone, strengthen, and align the body. These postures are performed to make the spine supple and healthy and to promote blood flow to all the organs, glands, and tissues, keeping all the bodily systems healthy. On the mental level, yoga uses breathing techniques (pranayama) and meditation (dyana) to quiet, clarify, and discipline the mind. However, experts are quick to point out that yoga is not a religion, but a way of living with health and peace of mind as its aims.

Purpose

Yoga has been used to alleviate problems associated with high blood pressure , high cholesterol , migraine headaches , asthma , shallow breathing, backaches, constipation , diabetes, menopause , multiple sclerosis , varicose veins , carpal tunnel syndrome and many chronic illnesses. It also has been studied and approved for its ability to promote relaxation] and reduce stress .

Yoga is increasingly recommended for dysmenorrhea, premenstrual syndrome, and other disorders in premenopausal women, in Europe as well as in the United States. Yoga can also provide the same benefits as any well-designed exercise program, increasing general health and stamina, reducing stress, and improving those conditions brought about by sedentary lifestyles. Yoga has the added advantage of being a low-impact activity that uses only gravity as resistance, which makes it an excellent physical therapy routine; certain yoga postures can be safely used to strengthen and balance all parts of the body. A study published in late 2002 summarized recent findings about the benefits of yoga for the cardiovascular and musculoskeletal systems. The review noted that yoga is still viewed as a “trendy” form of exercise rather than one with documented medical benefits.

Meditation has been much studied and approved for its benefits in reducing stress-elated conditions. The landmark book, The Relaxation Response, by Harvard cardiologist Herbert Benson, showed that meditation and breathing techniques for relaxation could have the opposite effect of stress, reducing blood pressure and other indicators. Since then, much research has reiterated the benefits of meditation for stress reduction and general health. Currently, the American Medical Association recommends meditation techniques as a first step before medication for borderline hypertension cases. Some 2002 studies indicate that yogic meditation by itself is effective in lowering serum cholesterol as well as blood pressure.

Modern psychological studies have shown that even slight facial expressions can cause changes in the involuntary nervous system; yoga utilizes the mind/body connection. That is, yoga practice contains the central ideas that physical posture and alignment can influence a person's mood and self-esteem, and also that the mind can be used to shape and heal the body. Yoga practitioners claim that the strengthening of mind/body awareness can bring eventual improvements in all facets of a person's life.

Description

Origins

Yoga originated in ancient India and is one of the longest surviving philosophical systems in the world. Some scholars have estimated that yoga is as old as 5,000 years; artifacts detailing yoga postures have been found in India from over 3000 B.C. Yoga masters (yogis) claim that it is a highly developed science of healthy living that has been tested and perfected for all these years. Yoga was first brought to America in the late 1800s when Swami Vivekananda, an Indian teacher and yogi, presented a lecture on meditation in Chicago. Yoga slowly began gaining followers, and flourished during the 1960s when there was a surge of interest in Eastern philosophy. There has since been a vast exchange of yoga knowledge in America, with many students going to India to study and many Indian experts coming here to teach, resulting in the establishment of a wide variety schools. Today, yoga is thriving, and it has become easy to find teachers and practitioners throughout America. A recent Roper poll, commissioned by Yoga Journal, found that 11 million Americans do yoga at least occasionally and 6 million perform it regularly. Yoga stretches are used by physical therapists and professional sports teams, and the benefits of yoga are being touted by movie stars and Fortune 500 executives. Many prestigious schools of medicine have studied and introduced yoga techniques as proven therapies for illness and stress. Some medical schools, like UCLA, even offer yoga classes as part of their physician training program.

Classical yoga is separated into eight limbs, each a part of the complete system for mental, physical and spiritual well-being. Four of the limbs deal with mental and physical exercises designed to bring the mind in tune with the body. The other four deal with different stages of meditation. There are six major types of yoga, all with the same goals of health and harmony but with varying techniques: hatha, raja, karma, bhakti, jnana, and tantra yoga. Hatha yoga is the most commonly practiced branch of yoga in America, and it is a highly developed system of nearly 200 physical postures, movements and breathing techniques designed to tune the body to its optimal health. The yoga philosophy believes the breath to be the most important facet of health, as the breath is the largest source of prana, or life force, and hatha yoga utilizes pranayama, which literally means the science or control of breathing. Hatha yoga was originally developed as a system to make the body strong and healthy enough to enable mental awareness and spiritual enlightenment.

There are several different schools of hatha yoga in America; the two most prevalent ones are Iyengar and ashtanga yoga. Iyengar yoga was founded by B.K.S. Iyengar, who is widely considered as one of the great living innovators of yoga. Iyengar yoga puts strict emphasis on form and alignment, and uses traditional hatha yoga techniques in new manners and sequences. Iyengar yoga can be good for physical therapy because it allows the use of props like straps and blocks to make it easier for some people to get into the yoga postures. Ashtanga yoga can be a more vigorous routine, using a flowing and dance-like sequence of hatha postures to generate body heat, which purifies the body through sweating and deep breathing.

The other types of yoga show some of the remaining ideas which permeate yoga. Raja yoga strives to bring about mental clarity and discipline through meditation, simplicity, and non-attachment to worldly things and desires. Karma yoga emphasizes charity, service to others, non-aggression and non-harming as means to awareness and peace. Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion and love of God, or Universal Spirit. Jnana yoga is the practice and development of knowledge and wisdom. Finally, tantra yoga is the path of self-awareness through religious rituals, including awareness of sexuality as sacred and vital.

A typical hatha yoga routine consists of a sequence of physical poses, or asanas, and the sequence is designed to work all parts of the body, with particular emphasis on making the spine supple and healthy and increasing circulation. Hatha yoga asanas utilize three basic movements: forward bends, backward bends, and twisting motions. Each asana is named for a common thing it resembles, like the sun salutation, cobra, locust, plough, bow, eagle, tree, and the head to knee pose, to name a few. Each pose has steps for entering and exiting it, and each posture requires proper form and alignment. A pose is held for some time, depending on its level of difficulty and one's strength and stamina, and the practitioner is also usually aware of when to inhale and exhale at certain points in each posture, as breathing properly is another fundamental aspect of yoga. Breathing should be deep and through the nose. Mental concentration in each position is also very important, which improves awareness, poise and posture. During a yoga routine there is often a position in which to perform meditation, if deep relaxation is one of the goals of the sequence.

Yoga routines can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two or more hours, with one hour being a good time investment to perform a sequence of postures and a meditation. Some yoga routines, depending on the teacher and school, can be as strenuous as the most difficult workout, and some routines merely stretch and align the body while the breath and heart rate are kept slow and steady. Yoga achieves its best results when it is practiced as a daily discipline, and yoga can be a life-long exercise routine, offering deeper and more challenging positions as a practitioner becomes more adept. The basic positions can increase a person's strength, flexibility and sense of well-being almost immediately, but it can take years to perfect and deepen them, which is an appealing and stimulating aspect of yoga for many.

Yoga is usually best learned from a yoga teacher or physical therapist , but yoga is simple enough that one can learn the basics from good books on the subject, which are plentiful. Yoga classes are generally inexpensive, averaging around 10 dollars per class, and students can learn basic postures in just a few classes. Many YMCAs, colleges, and community health organizations offer beginning yoga classes as well, often for nominal fees. If yoga is part of a physical therapy program, its cost can be reimbursed by insurance.

Preparations

Yoga can be performed by seniors of any age and condition, although not all poses should be attempted by everyone. Yoga is also a very accessible form of exercise; all that is needed is a flat floor surface large enough to stretch out on, a mat or towel, and enough overhead space to fully raise the arms. It is a good activity for those who can't go to gyms, who don't like other forms of exercise, or have very busy schedules. Yoga should be done on an empty stomach, and teachers recommend waiting three or more hours after meals. Loose and comfortable clothing should be worn.

Precautions

Seniors with injuries, medical conditions, or spinal problems should consult a doctor before beginning yoga. Those with medical conditions should find a yoga teacher who is familiar with their type of problem and who is willing to give them individual attention.

Beginners should exercise care and concentration when performing yoga postures, and not try to stretch too much too quickly, as injury could result. Some advanced yoga postures, like the headstand and full lotus position, can be difficult and require strength, flexibility, and gradual preparation, so beginners should get the help of a teacher before attempting them.

Yoga is not a competive sport; it does not matter how a person does in comparison with others, but how aware and disciplined one becomes with one's own body and limitations. Proper form and alignment should always be maintained during a stretch or posture, and the stretch or posture should be stopped when there is pain , dizziness , or fatigue. The mental component of yoga is just as important as the physical postures. Concentration and awareness of breath should not be neglected. Yoga should be done with an open, gentle, and non-critical mind; when one stretches into a yoga position, it can be thought of accepting and working on one's limits. Impatience, self-criticism and comparing oneself to others will not help in this process of self-knowledge. While performing the yoga of breathing (pranayama) and meditation (dyana), it is best to have an experienced teacher, as these powerful techniques can cause dizziness and discomfort when done improperly.

Side effects

Some people have reported injuries by performing yoga postures without proper form or concentration, or by attempting difficult positions without working up to them gradually or having appropriate supervision. Beginners sometimes report muscle soreness and fatigue after performing yoga, but these side effects diminish with practice.

KEY TERMS

Asana —A position or stance in yoga.

Dyana —The yoga term for meditation.

Hatha yoga —Form of yoga using postures, breathing methods and meditation.

Meditation —Technique of concentration for relaxing the mind and body.

Pranayama —Yoga breathing techniques.

Yogi (female, yogini) —A trained practitioner of yoga.

Although yoga originated in a culture very different from that of modern America, it has been accepted and its practice has spread relatively quickly. Many yogis are amazed at how rapidly yoga's popularity has spread in the United States and Canada. Ongoing research in top medical schools is showing yoga's effectiveness for overall health and for specific problems, making it an increasingly acceptable health practice.

The growing acceptability of yoga as an alternative therapy for certain disorders or conditions is reflected in the fact that the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is conducting a series of clinical trials of ypga. As of the summer of 2004, NCCAM has five clinical trials in progress, evaluating yoga as a treatment for chronic low back pain ; insomnia ; depression in patients diagnosed with HIV infection; and shortness of breath in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The fifth clinical trial is an evaluation of yoga in improving attention span in aging and multiple sclerosis.

Resources

books

Ansari, Mark, and Liz Lark. Yoga for Beginners. New York: Harper, 1999.

Pelletier, Kenneth R., MD. The Best Alternative Medicine, Chapter 10, “Ayurvedic Medicine and Yoga: From Buddha to the Millennium.” New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

periodicals

Bielory, L., J. Russin, and G. B. Zuckerman. “Clinical Efficacy, Mechanisms of Action, and Adverse Effects of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies for Asthma.” Allergy and Asthma Proceedings 25 (September-October 2004): 283–291.

Engebretson, J. “Culture and Complementary Therapies” Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery 8 (November 2002): 177–184.

Gerritsen, A. A., M. C. de Krom, M. A. Struijs, et al. “Conservative Treatment Options for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials.” Journal of Neurology 249 (March 2002): 272–280.

Kronenberg, F., and A. Fugh-Berman. “Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Menopausal Symptoms: A Review of Randomized, Controlled Trials.” Annals of Internal Medicine 137 (November 19, 2002):805–813.

Lee, S. W., C. A. Mancuso, and M. E. Charlson. “Prospective Study of New Participants in a Community Based Mind-Body Training Program.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 19 (July 2004): 760–765.

Manocha, R., G. B. Marks, P. Kenchington, et al. “Sahaja Yoga in the Management of Moderate to Severe Asthma: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Thorax 57 (February 2002): 110–115.

Raub, J. A. “Psychophysiologic Effects of Hatha Yoga on Musculoskeletal and Cardiopulmonary Function: A Literature Review.” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 8 (December 2002): 797–812.

Vyas, R., and N. Dikshit. “Effect of Meditation on Respiratory System, Cardiovascular System and Lipid Profile.” Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology 46 (October 2002): 487–491.

Yoga International Magazine. R.R. 1 Box 407, Honesdale, PA 18431. http://www.yimag.com.

Yoga Journal. P.O. Box 469088, Escondido, CA 92046. http://www.youajournal.com.

other

NCCAM Yoga Clinical Trials. http://nccam.nih.gov/clinicaltrials/yoga.htm.

Douglas Dupler MA

Rebecca J. Frey Ph.D.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." The Gale Encyclopedia of Senior Health: A Guide for Seniors and Their Caregivers. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." The Gale Encyclopedia of Senior Health: A Guide for Seniors and Their Caregivers. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

"Yoga." The Gale Encyclopedia of Senior Health: A Guide for Seniors and Their Caregivers. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/caregiving/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

Yoga

There is no practice associated with Hinduism better known to Americans than yoga, and perhaps no other single term has a greater range of spiritual and secular connotations to those who practice it. The term "yoga" refers variously to an ancient philosophical tradition of orthodox Hinduism, to a number of mental, physical, and spiritual disciplines practiced widely in South Asian religious traditions, and to a range of different practices valued in modern life for their promotion of health and well-being.

Yoga was developed in India in ancient times by religious seekers (yogis) as a spiritual discipline. The etymology of the term derives from the Sanskrit verb yuj, meaning literally to "yoke" or "harness," and in this sense yoga is the harnessing of mental, physical and spiritual potential. Although its precise dating and origins are unclear, the theoretical and practical foundations of yoga were systematized in the Yogasūtra of Patañjali, which many scholars place in the second or third century c.e. This text forms the normative core of classical yoga, one of the six philosophical systems of orthodox Hinduism. The aim of classical yoga is to realize the absolute distinctness of spirit and matter, and thereby to bring about liberation and peace from the domination that the material world exerts over the immaterial spirit. The Yoga-sūtra describes eight steps of practices that cultivate mental tranquility, beginning with the observance of moral principles and culminating in a state of spiritual freedom.

In a more general sense, the term "yoga" is used in South Asia to refer to meditative and religious disciplines practiced not only by Hindus, but also by Jains and Buddhists. Yoga meditation also provided the roots from which forms of Buddhist meditation such as Zen and Vipassana developed and spread across Asia. It was within the Hindu tradition, however, that yoga was most elaborated and developed as a central form of religious practice.

Hindu authorities recognize several different types of yoga. In some contexts, yoga means discipline or religious path and suggests a plurality of different conceptions of the religious life. One important schema, articulated in the Bhagavad Gītā, describes three types of yoga to be followed according to an individual's inclination and abilities: jñāna yoga, the discipline of wisdom; karma yoga, the discipline of works; and bhakti yoga, the discipline of devotion to God. All of these disciplines are aimed at the goal of liberation from the ignorance and limitations of the human condition.

In addition to this threefold schema, other traditions of yoga have developed through the ages. Haṭhayoga, the yoga of physical exertion, may be the yoga most familiar to Americans. It involves disciplining and controlling the body through assuming rigorous physical postures, regulating the breath, and cleansing the body by various purifying techniques. Rāja yoga, "royal yoga," refers to the meditative yoga articulated in the classical system of Patañjali. Kuṇḑalinī yoga, the yoga of serpent power, is a type of esoteric or tantric yoga that involves envisioning the divine energy that lies in a potential but unrealized state at the base of the spinal column, like a coiled serpent. The awakening of this energy and its movement up to the top of the head produces enlightenment. None of these varieties of yoga need preclude the others; haṭha yoga is sometimes conceived to be a preparatory discipline for rāja yoga, and some modern teachers have combined different aspects of some or all of these yogas to form syntheses, as in the case of integral yoga.

Yoga has been known and practiced in the United States for more than a century. It entered America's literary imagination through Trancendentalist Henry David Thoreau's writings, in which he described himself striving to practice "the yoga" and claimed that at "rare intervals, even I am a yogi." However, a more substantial introduction of yoga to America came with the arrival of Swami Vivekananda from India for the 1893 World's Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Swami Vivekananda represented Hinduism at the Parliament with great flair and charisma, and went on to found the Vedanta Society in New York in 1894 to promote the teachings of Vedanta philosophy and yoga.

Although the Vedanta Society attracted a small following of Americans, it was not until the arrival of Paramahamsa Yogananda and the publication of his Autobiography of a Yogi (1946) that yoga began to become familiar to mainstream America. His organization, the Self-Realization Fellowship, attracted a considerable number of Americans to yoga and the teachings of Hinduism. Yogananda taught kriyā yoga, a form of rāja yoga that incorporates concepts and exercises drawing from kuṇḍalinī yoga. Other charismatic Indian teachers have introduced yoga to America, such as the disciples of Sri Aurobindo Ghose (1872–1950) of India, who established international associations and ashrams in the United States to teach his style of yoga. In addition, Sri Swami Satchidananda, a disciple of Swami Sivananda Saraswati, founded Integral Yoga International, an organization with centers across North America promoting yoga and a life of nonviolence, purity, and nonattachment.

The repeal of the Asian Exclusion Act in 1965 brought about the emergence of a vibrant Indian-American community, which has expanded and altered the nature and presence of Hinduism and yoga in America. Temples, ashrams, and summer camps offer yoga classes and retreats, and many Indian-Americans view yoga as a vital aspect of Indian culture and heritage.

Since the 1960s haṭha yoga, the yoga of breathing and postures, has become popular as a form of exercise to promote health, strength, and relaxation, and is often entirely disassociated from its spiritual and religious moorings. While yoga was traditionally undertaken as a means for transcending secular and worldly existence, it has in modern times become a method for people not to free themselves from the human condition, but to find well-being, longevity, and tranquility within it. Its influence has grown steadily in the last several decades, such that yoga classes are now a staple in many fitness and wellness centers. Yoga has also been adopted by the New Age movement among seekers of holistic health practices and eastern wisdom.

Teachers of yoga within Hindu communities as well as New Age and secular yoga organizations often emphasize the scientific nature of yoga. For many Hindus, yoga is a meeting place where science and religion come together, and they view yoga as demonstrating universal and scientific truths of Hinduism. Many non-Hindus regard yoga as a means to inner peace and stress relief, with results that can be scientifically verified. In both cases, the distinctly modern regard for science combines with ancient spiritual teachings to form creative and adaptive responses to the needs and challenges of contemporary American life.


See alsoBhagavad GĪtĀ; Buddhism; Enlightenment; Hinduism; Jainism; New Age Spirituality; Self-Realization Fellowship; Vedanta Society; Zen.

Bibliography

Some of the best sources for further reading on yoga in contemporary America are periodicals, in particular Hinduism Today and Yoga Journal.

Eliade, Mircea. Yoga: Immortality and Freedom. 1973.

Feuerstein, Georg. Encyclopedic Dictionary of Yoga. 1990.

Iyengar, B. K. S. Light on Yoga. 1966.

Stoler Miller, Barbara. Yoga: Discipline of Freedom. 1996.

Maria Hibbets

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Contemporary American Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Contemporary American Religion. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/legal-and-political-magazines/yoga

"Yoga." Contemporary American Religion. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/legal-and-political-magazines/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

Yoga

YOGA

YOGA The Yoga tradition is extremely old. Yogic postures are depicted on the third millennium b.c. seals of the Harappan period. The Rig Veda speaks of the visions (dhi) of harmony stretched on the loom of cosmic existence. This task was compared to harnessing of the plow (yuga). The mind is compared to the flutterings of a bird, indicating its union in the heart with the divine. The Rig Veda asserts that the universe is stationed within the heart, suggesting the yoking of it with the individual's body.

The goal of Yoga is self-transformation and transcendence, achieved by yoking the body and mind with the spirit within. This yoking may be viewed as an interiorization of the ritual that is more commonly done externally.

By the time of the Bhagavad Gītā, the most popular text of Yoga, the teachings are already very ancient. The Mokshadharma section of the Mahābhārata has a longish description of Yoga. Other texts that may belong to the first part of the first millennium b.c. and that also describe Yoga are the Katha, the Shvetāshvatara, and the Maitrāyanīya Upanishads. Around 150 b.c., the teachings were codified by Patanjali in his Yoga Sūtra (Aphorisms of Yoga), which is now termed Classical Yoga. An important early commentary on this text is Vyāsa's Yoga Bhāshya.

The Purāṇas (Ancient tales) also teach Yoga. Another encyclopedic work is the Yoga Vāsishtha, which teaches a nondualistic Jnāna Yoga of seven stages. Yoga teachings are a part of the Tantras of Shakti, the Āgamas of Shiva, and the Saṃhitās of Vishnu worship.

Hatha Yoga is a later development within the Yoga tradition, credited to Gorakshanātha of the eleventh century. The major texts of this Yoga, which has become very popular in the West, are the Hatha Yoga Pradīpikā, the Gheranda Saṃhitā, and the Shiva Saṃhitā. An important early Tamil text on Yoga is Tirumandiram.

Patanjali's Yoga Sūtra speaks of a system of eight limbs:

  1. Moral restraint (yama), comprising nonharming (ahimsā), truthfulness (satya), nonstealing (asteya), chastity (brahmacharya), and noncovetousness (aparigraha)
  2. Discipline (niyama), consisting of purity (shaucha), contentment (santosha), asceticism (tapas), self-study (svādhyāya), and devotion to the Lord (īshvara-pranidhāna)
  3. Posture (āsana)
  4. Breath control (prānayāma)
  5. Sense withdrawal (pratyāhāra)
  6. Concentration (dhāranā)
  7. Meditation (dhyāna)
  8. Absorption (samādhi).

Several kinds of Yoga are described in the texts. These include Jnāna-Yoga, or the path of knowledge; Sānkhya-Yoga, or the path of union through transformation of the elements within the psychical person; Karma-Yoga, the path of selfless action; Bhakti-Yoga, the path of devotion; Mantra-Yoga, the path of sacred sound; and Hatha-Yoga, the path of self-transformation using the arduous path of physical purification.

Breath control, or prānāyāma, is fundamental to yogic practice. Vedic books speak of five kinds of breath (prāna) that mediate the various processes in the body. These may be viewed not only as inhalation and exhalation but also as electric and chemical currents coursing through the body. The five main breaths are: prāna, associated with inhalation and with the regions of heart and head; apāna, associated with exhalation and with the navel and the lower abdomen; udāna, located at the throat and associated with speech and other functions; samāna, the midcurrent located at the abdomen and chiefly responsible for digestion; and vyāna, the diffuse current pervading the entire body.

The Hatha Yoga texts speak of seven (in some texts, as many as thirteen) chakras (centers of energy) in the body:

  1. Mūlādhāra chakra, at the bottom of the spine, is associated with the coiled energy of kundalini and is portrayed as a lotus of four petals. This chakra is associated with the earth element, the sense of smell, and the lower limbs.
  2. Svādhishthāna chakra, at the genitalia, is associated with the water element, the sense of taste, and the hands. It is shown as having six petals.
  3. Manipūra chakra, at the navel, is associated with the fire element, the sense of sight, and the digestive tract. It is portrayed as having ten petals.
  4. Anāhata chakra, at the heart, is associated with the air element, the sense of touch, and the reproductive organs. It is shown with twelve petals.
  5. Vishuddhi chakra, at the throat, is associated with the ether, the sense of hearing, the skin and the mouth, and is shown as having sixteen petals.
  6. Ājnāchakra, at the center of the eyebrows, is associated with the mind and the sense of individuality (ahamkāra). It has two petals.
  7. Sahasrāra chakra, at the crown of the head, is viewed as having a thousand spokes or petals. It is associated with pure consciousness.

The exertions of the yogi make it possible for the kundalini (representing the natural energy of the individual) to rise up and ultimately pierce through to the highest chakra. This joining of the kundalini at the sahasrāra chakra is called the union of Shakti and Shiva, respectively representing body and consciousness. Before reaching the top, the kundalini must pierce through three particularly difficult knots or hurdles (granthi) at the first (at the base of the spine), the third (at the navel), and the fifth (at the throat) chakras. These points are called Brahmā, Vishnu, and Rudra granthis.

The physical body is supposed to be enveloped in an energy sheath, which is the subtle body (sūkshma sharīra). The energy flows around through 72,000 channels (nādis) that are described in the Upanishads. The three main pathways down the spine are the sushumnā at the center, with the idā and the pingalā to the left and right of it. The idā is associated with cooling (and the moon) and the pingalā with heating (and the sun).

In recent decades, the popularity of Yoga has spread around the world. It is practiced for its health benefits as well as its promise of mastery of mind and body through the advanced practice of meditation.

Subhash Kak

See alsoScience

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Feuerstein, Georg. The Essence of Yoga. London: Rider, 1974. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli. Indian Philosophy. London: Unwin Hyman, 1989.

Woodroffe, John. The Serpent Power. Chennai: Ganesh & Co., 1981.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of India. . Encyclopedia.com. 13 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of India. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 13, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

"Yoga." Encyclopedia of India. . Retrieved October 13, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/yoga

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.