What is the classical Yoga? What is yoga according to Patanjali? What are the practices mentioned in Classical Yoga? And what are the components of each practices?
The Yoga philosophy and practices based on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra is commonly known as Classical Yoga. The Sanskrit name of Classical Yoga is Raja Yoga.
What is Yoga according to Patanjali?
Patanjali defines Yoga in the very second Sutra - योग: चित्त-वृत्ति निरोध: (yogaś citta-vṛtti-nirodhaḥ). Swami Vivekananda translates this sutra as "Yoga is restraining the mind-stuff (Citta) from taking various forms (Vrittis).” Chitta means mind, vrittis means thoughts or impulses, nirodah means restraining. Thus, Yoga is restraining the fluctuations of the mind.
Practices of Classical Yoga
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra has four chapters containing 196 sutras. It focuses on – 1. Samadhi (blissful state), 2. Sadhana (practice), 3. Vibhuti (power) and 4. Kaivalya (liberation). As per Yoga Sutra, which purposes three kinds of practices from its eight limbs path (Ashtanga Yoga). First five limbs together are considered external practices (Bahiranga Sadhana) as part of Hatha Yoga (though not named as Hatha Yoga in Yoga Sutra) and the last three are limbs together is internal practice (Antaranga Sadhana).
- Hatha Yoga
- Kriya Yoga
- Dhyana Yoga (Samyama)
Components of Practices
Each practices of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra have several components. However, the first Practice is well known and more discussed topic around the world.
Yoga Sutra provided the eight “limbs”, describing the basic principles of Ashtanga Yoga practice. Except the name, it is NOT the same popular Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga which is basically a style of Hatha yoga popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois.
Following are the limbs of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga
- Yama – Ethical rules
- Niyama – Personal disciplines
- Asana – Yogic positions or postures
- Pranayama – Yogic breathing
- Pratyahara – Withdrawal of the senses
- Dharana – Concentration on object
- Dhyana – Meditation
- Samadhi – State of transcendence
Based on the framework of the Ashtanga Yoga, the following three are explained.
Though Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra does not mention about Hatha Yoga, the first five limbs of Ashtanga Yoga is technically part of Hatha Yoga Practice. These are explained in more detail in Hatha Yoga texts, however since the Patanjali’s emphasis is on the mind, he keeps it limited in external practices.
Except the name Patanjali’s Kriya Yoga is not the same as Kriya Yoga taught by Swami Paramahansa Yogananda. This Kriya Yoga is based on the last three Niyama of Ashtanga Yoga, and they are
- Tapas – means persistence, perseverance, and austerity
- Svadhyaya – means the study of scriptures, self-reflection, and introspection of our thoughts, speeches, and actions
- Ishwarparnidhana – means contemplation on Ishvara (God)
Patanjali uses the word Samyama for the last three limbs, which are internal practices in nature. Thus Dharana (Concentration), Dhyana (Meditation) and Samadhi (Absorption/Transcendence) together are basically called Dhayana Yoga.
It literally means practice, but it is not any kind of practice. It literally means do your practice with non-attachment. Thus, it has two components
- Abhyasa (Spiritual Practice)
- Vairagya (Non-attachment)