The main philosophy of yoga is simple: mind, body and spirit are all one and cannot be clearly separated. Yet there is a multitude of philosophical ideas developed by looking into the deeper dimensions of the body, mind and spirit.
The Law of Karma
Central to the philosophy of yoga is the universal spiritual concept of reaping what you sow: the law of Karma.
The Cause of Suffering: The Kleshas
These "afflictions" distort our mind and our perceptions effecting how we think, act and feel. The kleshas not only create suffering, but are said to bind us to the endless cycle of birth and rebirth, and thus preventing us from achieving enlightenment.
The Inward Journey Through the Koshas
The koshas are imagined as layers of an onion and form a barrier from realizing our true nature of bliss and oneness with the universe. Yoga is the tool to peel back these layers to bring our awareness deeper and deeper into our bodies, eventually reaching the innermost core, our True Self.
The Five Yamas: Yoga’s Ethical Codes of Conduct
At the beginning of Patanjali’s eight-fold path of yoga lays the Yamas: the moral, ethical and societal guidelines for the practicing yogi. These guidelines are all expressed in the positive, and thus become emphatic descriptions of how a yogi behaves and relates to her world when truly immersed in the unitive sate of yoga.
The Five Niyamas: Yoga’s Internal Observances
The second limb of Patanjali's eight-limbed yoga system contains the five internal practices of Niyama (observance). These practices extend the ethical codes of conduct provided in his first limb, the yamas, to the practicing yogi’s internal environment of body, mind and spirit. The practice of Niyama helps us maintain a positive environment in which to grow, and gives us the self-discipline and inner-strength necessary to progress along the path of yoga.
The 13 Obstacles of Yoga
The path of yoga can be long and hard, filled with obstacles, pitfalls, and detours. Luckily, yogic philosophy provides a roadside assistance program to aid you when you become stuck. The yogis who have traveled the path before us have left us a troubleshooting guide called the 13 obstacles of yoga.
Moksha and Maya
Moksha (liberation, freedom) is the state of non-ego, where the “me” vanishes and one stands free from all desires, actions and consequences in a total state of oneness.
Sankhya’s Map of the Universe
Sankhya philosophy, one of the oldest and most influential of the six systems (darshans) of Indian thought, has had a profound impact on the beliefs, values and concepts used in the practice of yoga.
The 3 Gunas of Nature
In the philosophy of Yoga, all matter in the universe arises from the fundamental substrate called Prakriti. From this ethereal Prakriti the three primary gunas (qualities) emerge creating the essential aspects of all nature—energy, matter and consciousness. These three gunas are tamas (darkness), rajas (activity), and sattva (beingness).
The Vedas are considered the most sacred and treasured texts of India. The Vedas are a collection of hymns that were received by the ancient rishis (sages) as shruti, divine revelation.
While the Vedas are considered the most sacred and treasured texts of India, it is the Upanishads that transferred the wisdom of the Vedas into practical and personal teachings. Composed over several centuries and in many volumes, the Upanishads reflect a strong need to express and communicate the deep mystical states and spiritual contemplations that the ancient yogis experienced.
The Bhagavad Gita
The Bhagavad Gita is the most treasured and famous of India’s spiritual texts. Composed of 700 verses, the Bhagavad Gita was written in the third or fourth century BCE as part of the epic text the Mahabharata.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika
What is commonly considered Yoga in the West is in actuality just one of the many paths of Yoga, and is technically called Hatha Yoga. The oldest and most widely used ancient text on the physical practices of Hatha Yoga is the Hatha Yoga Pradipika.