Yoga Philosophy

Definition - What does Yoga Philosophy mean?

Yoga philosophy, often simply referred to as yoga, is one of the six main darshans, or the orthodox schools of Hinduism. The origins of this philosophy are unclear, but first references can be found in the Upanishads from the 1st millenium B.C.E.

Yoga is a dualist philosophy, working with two fundamental realities: purusha, meaning "pure consciousness," and prakriti, meaning "matter." Every living being is a form of connection of these two realities and every living being is considered a union of body and mind. The path of yoga is guided by ethical principles, yamas and niyamas, and should ultimately result in moksha (spiritual liberation).

Yoga philosophy is closely related to one of the other six schools of Hinduism, Samkhya, but unlike Samkhya, yoga accepts the concept of God, described by Patanjali as Ishvara. Some scholars describe yoga philosophy as "Samkhya with God." While Samkhya states that knowledge is the only path to moksha, yoga says that it should be combined with systematic practice, or personal experimentation.

Yogapedia explains Yoga Philosophy

Yoga philosophy accepts Samkhya's theory of the three gunas - sattva, rajas and tamas - present in every living being. Sattva represents harmony and kindness; rajas represents passion and activity; and tamas represents darkness, destruction and chaos. Although present in every living being, the three gunas are found in different proportions. The theory of the three gunas is a base for yoga philosophy of the mind. Yoga philosophy believes that purusha is sattva and prakriti is tamas.

From the ethical principles of yamas and niyamas, yamas describe the values that should be avoided, such as stealing, lying or violence, while niyamas outline the values that should be followed, such as purity, self-study and contemplation of God.

Yoga philosophy is well described in "The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali," where he outlines the eight limbs, or stages, that one should follow to reach moksha. The eight limbs include the yamas and niyamas, asanas (physical practice), pranayama (breathing exercises), pratyahara (withdrawal), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation) and samadhi (union with God).

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