About yoga

What is Yoga?

The Roots of Yoga

The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word "Yuj" meaning to yoke, join or unite. This implies joining or integrating all aspects of the individual - body with mind and mind with soul - to achieve a happy, balanced and useful life, and spiritually, uniting the individual with the supreme.

In India, Yoga is considered one of the six branches of classical philosophy and is referred to throughout the Vedas - ancient Indian scriptures and amongst the oldest texts in existence. The Upanishads are also broadly philosophical treatises which postdate the Vedas and deal with the nature of the "soul" and universe.

However, the origins of yoga are believed to be much older than that, stemming from the oral traditions of Yogis, where knowledge of Yoga was handed down from Guru (spiritual teacher) to Sisya (spiritual student) all the way back to the originators of Yoga, "the Rishis," who first began investigation into the nature of reality and man's inner world.

Legend has it that knowledge of Yoga was first passed by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati and from there into the lives of men.

The Aim of Yoga

According to the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, the ultimate aim of Yoga is to reach "Kaivalya" (emancipation or ultimate freedom). This is the experience of one's innermost being or "soul" (the Purusa), and the attainment of absolute knowledge of the difference between the spiritual which is timeless, unchanging and free of sorrows, and the material which is not. Although Yoga is ultimately a spiritual quest the student also gains health, happiness, tranquillity and knowledge on their journey.

The Schools of Yoga

Various schools or styles of Yoga have grown which emphasise different aspects of the paths of yoga, or a combination of them, in their practical methodology. Some of the most well known modern schools or styles of yoga include: Iyengar, Astanga Vinyasa, , Scaravelli, Bikram, Vini, Kundalini and Sivananda. Interestingly, 3 of the most popular schools today - Iyengar, Astanga and Vini Yoga - were all developed by students of Sri T. Krishnamacharya.

Particular styles or methods may be considered more effective than others or may suit an individual's temperament better. That said, it must always be remembered that all these are merely different methods of reaching for the same ultimate goal. They are all aspects of the overall philosophy of Yoga.

The Philosophy of Yoga

The philosophy of Yoga comes from many sources and has been presented in many fashions with differing emphasis depending on the understanding of the author.

The Vedas and Upanishads give some of the earliest references to the paths of yoga. These scriptures form the basis of Indian religious practices but contain many varied references to yoga and other things.

There are the Puranas, also ancient, which deal with the nature of the universe. Famous epics such as the Ramayana and Mahabarata contain stories of the gods and lectures on moral and philosophical subjects with references to yogis and yogic practices.

The Bhaghavad Gita is a particularly famous part of the Mahabarata which contains a detailed discourse on yoga by Krisna to Arjuna.

Other texts such as the Hatha Yoga Pradipika are more "technical manuals" of yoga which go into detail on technique as opposed to just the theory.

In general all these texts discuss Yoga from the particular standpoint of the authors and the paths to Yoga they have followed. In many ways this subject can be confusing for lack of a clear overview. This need is answered in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

The varied philosophies and methodologies of Yoga itself were clearly and methodically brought together and presented by the sage Patanjali in his set of 196 aphorisms called "The Yoga Sutras," written some 2200 years ago. The Sutras bring together all the various strands of theory and practice from all sources of yoga and present them in one concise, integrated and comprehensive text. How all the aspects interrelate and form part of the whole body of yoga are clearly elucidated. There are 8 disciplines to yoga as presented by Patanjali (thus Astanga yoga - 8 limbed yoga) which must be practiced and refined in order to perceive the true self- the ultimate goal of Yoga:

The key elements of all the paths of yoga are presented in a balanced perspective and legend has it that Patanjali was himself a realised being and so writing from experience. These Sutras were and are still considered a most profound and enlightening study of the human psyche. Patanjali shows how through the practice of Yoga, we can transform ourselves, gain mastery over the mind and emotions, overcome obstacles to our spiritual evolution and attain the goal of yoga: liberation from the bondage of worldly desires. Written in Sanskrit, many commentaries and translations have been written over the centuries by various scholars and practitioners; each interpreting as per their era and understanding.

BKS Iyengar is one amongst several contemporary authors, having completed Light on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.

What is Vajrasati yoga?

The name itself is composed from the two ancient Indian words ‘Vajra’ -thunderbolt/diamond (Sanskrit) and ‘Sati’-awareness (Pali). The meaning seems to keep revealing more depths, but generally it is taken to mean ‘unobstructed awareness’.

The name also reflects the more traditional terms ‘ha’ and ‘tha’ and their association with sun/moon union (Hatha yoga) - the sun being associated with the vajra and the moon with the sati.

It is a name for classical Indian yoga in the Astanga (eight branched) style as pointed out in the Patanjali Yoga Sutras.

Vajrasati yoga was founded in 2000 by Buddhist-influenced Jim Tarran who has trained in Hatha and Iyengar Yoga. Vajrasati synthesises all these traditions, becoming more than the sum total of its parts. Vajrasati uses the tools of yoga practice (asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation) safely and clearly, to reveal the essence of yoga and ultimately release the full potential of our humanity, an internal, local connection with ‘intuitive intelligence’ (Ishvara Pranidhana).

The philosophy of Yoga (Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras) is incorporated into Vajrasati Yoga, so that whether a class is dynamic or static, strong or gentle, with props or without props, the intention is that whichever choice is made in these is for the main purpose of bringing the student closer to absorption. We encourage non violence, honesty, investigation, as well as using a sense of trust or letting go to find a deeper connection with what we do.

Classes vary from fluid and playful, to stronger and meditative. An emphasis on a connection with the breath however, is underlying in all classes. This breath connection helps bring about a deep release and the feeling of absorption which underlies the Vajrasati principles.

But Yoga can still be fun! Enjoyment and a sense of humour help us see life from a positive angle and forget our fears. You won’t always be trying to achieve the biggest stretch or the strongest workout, but you will leave feeling grounded, more in touch with yourself at that very moment and more comfortable in your body.