Swami Sivananda's Yoga of Synthesis
Swami Sivananda pointed out that there are four types of human beings: the active, the emotional, the mystic and the intellectual and thus the seers have evolved four paths – karma yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga and jnana yoga to suit those temperaments. As we are endowed with all four but with one aspect predominating Swami Sivananda taught that we need to practice all these yogas with a stress on one system. He called this the Yoga of Synthesis, “the most suitable yoga for the present age.”
In the West the most popular yoga path is Hatha Yoga which is a discipline that involves yoga postures (asanas), and regulation of the breath (pranayama). In the Ashram’s Yoga Hall twenty hatha yoga classes are taught every week. We have 16 teachers on staff offering different styles of Hatha Yoga ie Sivananda Yoga, Satyananda Yoga, Iyengar, Ashtangar, Viniyoga, Dru.
The texts agree that Hatha Yoga is the stepping stone and that ultimate liberation comes from the practice of Raja Yoga (yoga of meditation). Our weekly programme offers practice, study and meditation in the five primary yoga pathways – Swami Sivananda’s Yoga of Synthesis.
“Perfection is a synthesis of all the Yogas. Raja Yoga steadies the mind and Jnana Yoga pours wisdom into it. Feeling is perfected by Bhakti Yoga. ‘Living’ is perfected by Karma Yoga. The instrument with which we are able to practice yoga, the body, is looked after by Hatha Yoga. All these together constitute yoga. They are inseparable, even as the three faculties (thinking, feeling and ‘living’) are inseparable in us.”
What is Yoga?
The word Yoga is derived from the *Sanskrit root yug meaning: to bind together, to join, attach and yoke.
The fundamental thesis of yoga is the unity of body mind and spirit. It also means union or communion. It is the true union of the individual’s consciousness with Universal Consciousness.
*Sanskrit is the classical language of Ancient India
Patanjali and the 8 Limbs of Yoga
There are two important texts which are considered almost text books to yoga. One is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and the other the Bhagavad Gita.
In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali provides the eight limbs of yoga (astanga yoga). The first seven limbs are not merely a set of yoga practices which you resort to for one hour a day but something which covers your entire life. The eighth limb is samadhi (which is not considered a limb but enlightenment itself) .
1. Yama is a group of five virtues,
the cultivation of which makes you a better human being:
Ahimsa: Nonviolence (compassion)
Asteya: Non-stealing or charity
Brahmacharya: Continence (the mind constantly moving in the infinite (Brahman))
Aparigraha: Non-greed (or desirelessness)
2. Niyama suggests a regulated life not only inwardly,
but also embracing your external life:
Saucha: Cleanliness (of body, mind and environment)
Tapas: a simple life, austerity, ascetisicm, self-purification
Svadhyaya: Study of scriptures and self-study
Isvara pranidhana: Surrender to God (what is and what is everywhere at all times is God, Isvara)
Practice of yoga postures for gaining steady posture, health and lightness of body.
Rhythmic control of the breath
Withdrawal of the senses, meaning that the exterior world is not a distraction from the interior world within oneself.
6. Dharana: Concentration
The mind attains the ability to concentrate, to focus its attention – it is the tying of the mind to a limited field.
7. Dhyana: Meditation
Meditation is getting into that limited field (dharana), becoming saturated with it, ensuring that only one thought, concept (or just this ‘I’ feeling) prevails in that small area
8. Samadhi: Enlightenment
In samadhi or super-consciousness this narrowness, or limitation is suddenly destroyed