Yoga Philosophy (Yog Darshan), Ashtang yog – Yam, Niyam, Aasan, Pranayam, Pratyahar, Dharna, Dhyan and Samadhi.

Yoga Philosophy (Yog Darshan), Astang Yoga


  • An AYUSH system of medicine includes Indian systems of medicine and Homeopathy. AYUSH is an acronym for Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha & Sowa Rigpa, and Homoeopathy.
  • Yoga is essentially spiritual and it is an art and science of healthy living which focuses on bringing harmony between body and mind.
  • The word ‘Yoga’ has two meanings; the first comes from the root ‘Yujir’ or ‘Union’, the second is derived from a different root ‘yuja’ which means ‘Samadhi’ – the highest state of mind and the absolute knowledge. These two are the most important meanings of the word Yoga according to ‘Panini’, the most well-known Sanskrit grammarian.
  • Yoga is being practiced as part of healthy lifestyle and has become part of our spiritual heritage.
  • In the present era, Yoga is popular world-wide because of its spiritual values, therapeutic credentials, its role in the prevention of diseases, promotion of health and management of lifestyle related disorders.
  • Several clinical studies have lucidly demonstrated the therapeutic potentials of Yoga in the treatment of many lifestyle related or psychosomatic disorders. The specialty of this system is that it can get along with any other systems of health care.
  • The aim of Yoga is complete cessation of all kinds of suffering (sorrow) and its root cause ignorance and is known as Moksha or liberation.
  • The main objectives of Yoga are health, happiness, harmony, spiritual quest, personality development, etc.
  • Yoga is as old as civilization. The first archaeological evidence of existence of Yoga is found in Stone Seals of excavated from Indus Valley. Yoga was special feature of Indus Valley Civilization (3000 BC).
  • Yogic literature has been found in Vedas, Upanishadas, Darshanas, Epics, Puranas, Aagmas, Tantras, etc. Rich sources of Yoga have also been available in medieval, modern and contemporary literature.
  • The Yoga referred in the Vedic and Upanishadic literature has been depicted in three important texts called Prasthanatrayi:
    1. Principle Upanishads (Upadeshaprasthana)
    2. Vedanta Sutra of Badarayana (Nyaya Prasthana)
    3. Bhagavad Geeta (Sadhana Prasthana)
  • These texts further lead to different schools of Yoga like Jnana Yoga; Karma Yoga; Bhakti Yoga; Dhyana Yoga;
  • However, the classical Yoga which is one of the Shad Darshanas, has been advocated by the great sage Patanjali, who lived around approximately 200 BC.


Philosophy of Yoga

  • The Yoga school of Hindu philosophy is most closely related to the Samkhya school. In both, the foundational concepts include two realities: Purusha and Prakriti.
  • The Purusha is defined as that reality which is pure consciousness and is devoid of thoughts or qualities.
  • The Prakriti is the empirical, phenomenal reality which includes matter and also mind, sensory organs and the sense of identity (self, soul).
  • A living being is held in both schools to be the union of matter and mind. The Yoga school differs from the Samkhya school in its views on the ontology of Purusha, on axiology and on soteriology



  • The Yoga school considers perception, inference and reliable testimony as three reliable means to knowledge.
  • Yoga school, like Samkhya school, considers Pratyakṣa or Dṛṣṭam (direct sense perception), Anumāna (inference), and Śabda or Āptavacana (verbal testimony of the sages or shāstras) to be the only valid means of knowledge or Pramana. Unlike few other schools of Hinduism such as Advaita Vedanta, Yoga did not adopt the following three Pramanas: Upamāṇa (comparison and analogy), Arthāpatti (postulation, deriving from circumstances) or Anupalabdi (non-perception, negative/cognitive proof)


  • The metaphysics of Yoga school, again like Samkhya school, is a form of dualism. It considers consciousness and matter, self/soul and body as two different realities
  • The Samkhya-Yoga system espouses dualism between consciousness and matter by postulating two “irreducible, innate and independent realities: Purusha and Prakriti.
  • While the Prakriti is a single entity, the Samkhya-Yoga schools admit a plurality of the Puruṣas in this world. Unintelligent, unmanifest, uncaused, ever-active, imperceptible and eternal Prakriti is alone the final source of the world of objects.
  • The Puruṣa is considered as the conscious principle, a passive enjoyer (bhokta) and the Prakriti is the enjoyed (bhogya). Samkhya-Yoga believes that the Puruṣa cannot be regarded as the source of inanimate world, because an intelligent principle cannot transform itself into the unconscious world. This metaphysics is a pluralistic spiritualism, a form of realism built on the foundation of dualism.
  • Yoga school of Hinduism adopts the theory of Guṇa from Samkhya. Guṇas theory states that three gunas (innate tendency, attributes) are present in different proportions in all beings, and these three are sattva guna (goodness, constructive, harmonious), rajas guna (passion, active, confused), and tamas guna (darkness, destructive, chaotic).
  • These three are present in every being but in different proportions, and the fundamental nature and psychological dispositions of beings is a consequence of the relative proportion of these three gunas.
  • When sattva guna predominates an individual, the qualities of lucidity, wisdom, constructiveness, harmonious, and peacefulness manifest themselves; when rajas is predominant, attachment, craving, passion-driven activity and restlessness manifest; and when tamas predominates in an individual, ignorance, delusion, destructive behavior, lethargy, and suffering manifests.
  • The guṇas theory underpins the philosophy of mind in Yoga school of Hinduism.
  • The early scholars of Yoga philosophy, posits that the Puruṣa (consciousness) by its nature is sattva (constructive), while Prakriti (matter) by its nature is tamas (chaotic).
  • It further posits that individuals at birth have buddhi (intelligence, sattvic). As life progresses and churns this buddhi, it creates ahamkara (ego, rajasic). When ego in turn is churned by life, manas (temper, mood, tamasic) is produced.
  • Together, buddhi, ahamkara and manas interact and constitute citta (mind) in Yoga school of Hinduism. Unrestrained modification of citta causes suffering. A way of life that empowers one to become ever more aware of one’s consciousness and spirituality innate in buddhi, is the path to one’s highest potential and a more serene, content, liberated life.


  • Yoga school of Hinduism holds that ignorance is the cause of suffering and saṁsāra.[6] Liberation, like many other schools, is removal of ignorance, which is achieved through discriminative discernment, knowledge and self-awareness.
  • The Yoga Sūtras is Yoga school’s treatise on how to accomplish this. Samādhi is the state where ecstatic awareness develops, state Yoga scholars, and this is how one starts the process of becoming aware of Purusa and true Self.
  • It further claims that this awareness is eternal, and once this awareness is achieved, a person cannot ever cease being aware; this is moksha, the soteriological goal in Hinduism


  • Axiology in the texts of Yoga school of Hindu philosophy include both a theory of values through the observances of positive values and avoidance of negative, as well as an aesthetic theory on bliss from intrinsic and extrinsic perspectives.
  • The values to be observed are called Niyamas, while those to be avoided are called Yamas in Yoga philosophy.
  • Over sixty different ancient and medieval era texts of Yoga philosophy discuss Yamas and Niyamas.
  • The specific theory and list of values varies between the texts, however, Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Svādhyāya, Kșhamā, and Dayā are among the predominantly discussed ethical concepts by majority of these texts.
  • The five yamas listed by Patañjali in Yogasūtra 2.30 are:
  1. Ahiṃsā : Nonviolence, non-harming other living beings
  2. Satya : truthfulness, non-falsehood
  3. Asteya: non-stealing
  4. Brahmacarya: celibacy, non-cheating on one’s partner
  5. Aparigraha: non-avarice, non-possessiveness

Astang Yoga

  • Patanjali wrote a book known as Yoga Sutras, which contains 195 sutras. Patanjali advocates Ashtanga Yoga, which is widely practiced from the ancient times till today, they are:
    1. Yama (Self-restraints)
    2. Niyama (Observance)
    3. Asana (Psycho-physical postures)
    4. Pranayama (Control of vital energy – breath)
    5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of senses)
    6. Dharana (Concentration)
    7. Dhyana (Meditation)
    8. Samadhi (Absorption or State of liberation)
  • Yoga is the ancient health keeping system developed by Hindu sages and seers thousands of years ago.
  • It not only keeps the body healthy but also cultivates mind and spiritual awareness. It also helps to live a disciplined, yet enjoyable life.
  • It is vaguely considered as an exercise. But it is more than just an exercise. A great sage Patanjali has codified his thoughts, the knowledge of yoga and its practices by encapsulating them in the form aphorisms. They are called as yoga-sutra.
  • The main yoga-sutra are eight in numbers. They are also known as eight limbs of Patanjali or Ashtanga-yoga.

Yama (eternal vows):

Yama is social behavior (moral principles) that describes how one should treat others. There are five yamas:

  • Nonviolence (ahimsa). Do no harm to anybody in thought or deed.
  • Truth and honesty (satya). Always be honest and speak truth.
  • Nonstealing (asteya). Do not steal material objects (a car) or intangibles such as the center of attention or your child’s chance to learn responsibility or independence by doing something on his own.
  • Nonlust (brahmacharya). Avoid lust for anything and see divinity in all your deeds and thoughts.
  • Nonpossessiveness (aparigraha). Free yourself from greed, hoarding, and collecting. Do not accumulate anything, and keep only things that are really necessary. Make your life as simple as possible.

Niyama (Observances)

Niyama is inner discipline and responsibility that describes how one should treat himself/herself. There are five niyamas:

  • Purity (shaucha) It implies both external and internal purity. Achieve external purity by keeping yourself, your clothing, and surroundings clean. Eat fresh and healthy food. Treat your body like a temple. Achieve internal purity by acquiring true knowledge and austerity and truthfulness in mind.
    • Contentment (santosha) Be satisfied with what you have. Seek happiness in every moment. You are state of mind should not be affected by external causes.
    • Austerity (tapas) Show discipline in body, speech, and mind. The purpose of developing self-discipline is not to become ascetic, but to control and direct the mind and body for higher spiritual aims or purposes.
    • Self-education (svadhyaya) Study sacred texts, which are whatever books are relevant to you and inspire and teach you. Education changes a person’s outlook on life.
    • Living with an awareness of the Divine (ishvara-pranidhana). Be devoted to God or whatever you consider divine


  • Yogasana is a posture in harmony with one’s inner consciousness.
  • It helps in balancing and harmonizing the basic structure of the human body. Although nowadays yogasana are practiced as an exercise, they are really meant to prepare yourself for the meditation.
  • For meditation, healthy and sound body and tensionless mind are required.
  • Various postures of yogasana which include standing and sitting asanas help to keep body healthy and tensionfree mind.

Pranayama (breath control exercise)

  • Pranayama is a breathing technique. Breathing is a basic of life. One is breathing means he/she is alive. Most of us breathe improperly.
  • It helps Prana is the life force or energy that exists everywhere and flows through each of us through the breath. Pranayama is the control of breath.
  • The basic movements of pranayama are inhalation, retention of breath, and exhalation. The practice of pranayama purifies body and removes distractions from the mind making it easier to concentrate and meditate.
  • It also balances nervous system and encourages creative thinking.
  • Deep breathing makes sure the enough amount of oxygen to the brain which improves mental clarity, alertness and physical well being.


  • Pratyahara involves rightly managing the senses and going beyond them instead of simply closing and suppressing them.
  • It involves directing the concentration inward. With the withdrawal of the senses, one no longer feels itch or hear or smell anything around or feel hungry.
  • Practice of pratyahara helps to forget everything around and concentrate on meditation.

Dharana (concentration)

  • Dharana involves developing our powers of concentration.
  • Here the goal is to push away superfluous thoughts and fix your mind by concentrating on a particular object such as god’s image.

Dhyana (meditation)

  • All the previous limbs that we learnt are the preparation of meditation.
  • Dhyana means actual uninterrupted meditation. Concentration (dharana) leads to the state of meditation.
  • The goal of meditation is to achieve heightened awareness and realize oneness with the universe.


  • The purpose of meditation is to achieve samadhi or absolute bliss. This is pure contemplation, superconsciousness, in which you and the universe are one.
  • Those who have achieved samadhi are enlightened.
  • In other words, samadhi means free yourself from the cycle of birth and death and merge yourself (your soul) with the almighty.
  • The eight limbs work together: The first five steps — yama, niyama asana, pranayama, and pratyahara — are the preliminaries of yoga and build the foundation for spiritual life. They are concerned with the body and the brain.
  • The last three, which would not be possible without the previous steps, are concerned with reconditioning the mind. They help you to attain enlightenment or the full realization of oneness with spirit.
  • Perhaps, last four limbs (Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi) may be complicated and difficult to understand for us (kids), but the first four are easy to understand. They are also very easy to practice; all we need is determination

The following Yogic practices are being practiced for prevention and management of diseases:

  1. Shatkarma: These are six cleansing techniques in Yoga used to clean the internal organs and systems of the body. These are called as the process of detoxification. Shatkarmas are Neti, Dhouti, Basti, Kapalabhati, Nauli, Trataka.
  2. Yogasana: These are special patterns of body that stabilise the mind through static stretching. Yogasanas are psycho-physical in nature. They play a significant role in toning up the neuro-musculo and glandular systems of the body. There are more than 84 asanas mentioned in the classical texts.
  3. Pranayama: Pranayama is a practice which helps to regulate vital energies through regulation of breathing.
  4. Mudra: These are special gestures/techniques formed with the combination of Asana and Pranayama and are used in channelization of Prana the vital force.
  5. Dhyana: Sustain concentration on the object is Dhyana. Dhyana is an integral part of Yoga practice and is beneficial for psychological and spiritual growth and also helps in health promotion.


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