The Tradition

 

Spinal Flow Yoga™ Philosophy

Though I have written most about the science of back pain and exercise, and how it relates to yoga, it was actually the philosophy of yoga that attracted me. Certainly more so than any individual asana, which to be honest I think most modern renditions are less than ideal for mental or physical health. So here I’ll cite some of my favorite yoga (and related) quotes. Over time I hope to comment on how they fit into Spinal Flow Yoga™, or perhaps how I’m making Spinal Flow™ fit into the spirit of those quotes. To a degree I’m cherry picking,  but I’m doing so hopefully in such a way to demonstrate that yoga is a big house and that my seemingly non-traditional yoga sequence fits right in.

– Chad Reilly

Contents

  • Yoga Defined
  • Open Minded & Scientific
  • What’s an asana?
  • The Physical Body
  • Yoga and Healing
  • Fasting
  • The Mind
  • Ethics

Yoga Defined

“Etymologically, yoga derives from the root yuj, “to bind together,” “hold fast,” “yoke…

The word yoga serves, in general, to designate any ascetic technique and any method of meditation.

As we shall soon see, there is a “classic” Yoga, a “system of philosophy” expounded by Patanjali in his celebrated Yoga-Sutras…  …side by side with “classic” Yoga, there are countless forms of “popular,” nonsystematic yoga: there are also non-Brahmanic yogas (Buddhist, Jainist): above all, there are yogas whose structures are “magical,” “mystical,” and so on. Basically it is the term yoga itself that has permitted this great variety of meanings…

Yoga” sometimes means “method,” sometimes “activity,” “force,” “meditation,” or “renunciation” (sannyasa), etc. This variety of meanings corresponds to a real morphological diversity. If the word “yoga” means many things, that is because Yoga is many things.” -Mircea Eliade, Yoga Immortality and Freedom

“When the word Yoga is mentioned, most people immediately think of some physical practices for stretching and stress reduction. This is one aspect of the Yoga science, but only a very small part and a a recent development. The physical Yoga, or Hatha Yoga, was primarily designed to facilitate the real practice of Yoga-namely, the understanding and complete mastery over the mind. So the actual meaning of Yoga is science of the mind.” -Vidya Vonne, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

“Since ancient times, Yoga has been continuously adapted to suit the needs of individuals from different times, cultures and traditions.” -Gary Kraftsow, Yoga for Wellness

Open Minded & Scientific

“Raja Yoga itself is an integral approach. It does not simply advocate meditation but takes into consideration the entire life of the person. It’s philosophy is scientific. It welcomes and, in fact, demands experimental verification by the student.

Sri Patanjali was the epitome of acceptance of all methods and a broad mindedness of approach. He did not limit his instructions to one particular technique, to members of any particular religion or philosophy, or in any other way. He gave general principles and used specifics only as examples.”

Patanjali and Raja Yoga are eminently contemporary. Experimental and scientific, they invite independent questioning and sincere study, analysis and application.” -Vidya Vonne, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

“If there is something useful for you in my words take it and make use of it. If there is anything that is not useful, leave it” -Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali”

“Because yoga is not fixed. Yoga is creation.” -T.K.V. Desikachar

What’s an asana?

”Asana is a steady comfortable posture.” -Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2:46

“Asana means the posture that brings comfort and steadiness. Any pose that brings comfort and steadiness is an asana. If you achieve one pose, that is enough. It may sound easy, but in how many poses are we really comfortable and steady?” -Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

“The benefit to be had from one asana or pranayama can be derived just as well from another that better suits the structure of a person’s body” -Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Mala

“In all the (Yogic) Asanas, the spine has to be kept straight. The Sruti also says: “The breast, neck and the head have to be kept erect.” -Hariharananda Aranya, Yoga Philosophy of Patanjali

“The spinal column is identified with Mount Meru–that is, with the cosmic axis. That is why, according to Buddhist symbolism, the Buddha could not turn his head but had to turn his entire body, “like an elephant”; his spinal column was fixed, motionless, as is the axis of the universe. According to tradition, the Merudanda is made of a single bone–which indicates its ideal, nonanatomical character.” -Eliade, Yoga Immortality and Freedom

The Physical Body

“Beauty, grace, strength, adamantine hardness and robustness constitute bodily perfection.” -Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 3:47

“In tantrism, the human body acquires an importance it had never before attained in the spiritual history of India. To be sure, health and strength, interest in a physiology homologizable with the cosmos and implicitly sanctified, are Vedic, if not pre-Vedic, values. But tantrism marries to its furthest consequences the conception that sanctity be realized only in a “divine body.”

Since the body represents the cosmos and all the gods, since liberation can be gained only by setting out from the body, it is important to have a body that is healthy and strong.

…since liberation can be gained even in this life, the body must be preserved as long as possible, and in perfect condition, precisely as an aid to meditation.

In the Hevajra-tantra, the Buddha (Bhagavan) proclaims that, without a perfectly healthy body, one can not know bliss.

Such a knowledge must begin modestly, on the basis of an accurate knowledge of the organs and their functions.” -Eliade, Yoga Immortality and Freedom

“Asanas keep the body healthy and strong and in harmony with nature. Finally, the yogi becomes free of body consciousness. He conquers the body and renders it a fit vehicle for the soul.”

“It will be noticed that the very first obstacle is ill-health or sickness. To the yogi his body is the prime instrument of attainment. If his vehicle breaks down, the traveller cannot go far. If the body is broken by ill-health, the aspirant can achieve little. Physical health is important for mental development, as normally the mind functions through the nervous system. When the body is sick or the nervous system is affected, the mind becomes restless or dull and inert and concentration or meditation becomes impossible.”

“Asanas can be done alone, as the limbs of the body produce the necessary weights and counter-weights. By practicing them one develops agility, balance, endurance and great vitality.”

“The yogi never neglects or mortifies the body or the mind, but cherishes both. To him the body is not a impediment to his spiritual liberation nor is it the cause of its fall, but is an instrument of attainment. He seeks a body strong as a thunderbolt, healthy and free from suffering…”

“Here our own body acts as a weight-lifting apparatus and the different directions in which it moves cause the various parts of the body to bear the weight and thereby gain strength.” -Iyengar, Light on Yoga

“The body must be free of disease of any kind, which divert the mind elsewhere. Physical strength, mental strength, and the strength of the sense organs–all these are very important.”

“The first duty is to take care of the body, which is the means to the pursuit of spiritual life” -Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Mala

“Running. Running is intense, high-energy physical exercise that gets the heart pumping, the lungs breathing, and the blood racing through the body. Of all the physical energizers, jogging is probably the best overall toner for the third chakra.” -Anodea, Wheels of Life

Yoga and Healing

[Referring to his father Krishnamacharya] “Indeed the culture and background of each person is different as well. In every case, my father chose what seemed necessary and useful; sometimes it might be asanas, sometimes it was a prayer, sometimes he even told them to stop a certain yoga practice: then the healing occurred.” T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga

“Somebody who has the feeling that blood supply to the head is not good enough then comes to the conclusion that the headstand is the best asana for them…  …Our experience in working with all kinds of people has taught us that people who do this eventually suffer from enormous problems in the neck, that the result in great tension and stiffness in that area and a decreased supply of blood to the whole musculature of the neck–precicesluy the opposite of what they hoped they would achieve.” T.K.V. Desikachar, The Heart of Yoga

“Even when medicine can suggest no effective remedy for the common cold, there can be some advantage in knowing the uselessness of certain popular nostrums.” Alan Watts, The Way of Zen

Fasting

“By austerity, impurities of the body and senses are destroyed and occult powers are gained.” -Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 2:43

“By the physical tapas of fasting, we burn away our excess fat away along with the toxins our bodies have accumulated.”

“We all might have experienced this. The moment we decide to fast, a friend will bring us something delicious to eat. It makes us feel very sad. “Just today I decided to fast. She could have brought this cake over yesterday. Hmm. I think I’ll just postpone my fast until tomorrow.” In this way, we fail our exam. When we take a vow we should stick to it. There will be ample tests to tempt us to break it.”

“Here you might think about what species you may belong to in your next birth. You need not get a human body. If your thoughts are animalistic, the karmas may call for an animal’s body. If someone is always cunning in this life, the reactions will bring forth more cunning actions which might be better expressed through a fox’s body. Or if a person who wants to eat excessively might take a pig’s body so he or she can enjoy that more.” -Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

“…in the Indian view, renunciation has a positive value. He who renounces feels not lessened thereby, but enriched–for the force that he gains by renouncing any pleasure far exceeds the pleasure that he has renounced.” -Eliade, Yoga Immortality and Freedom

“The yogi believes in harmony, so he eats for the sake of sustenance only. He does not eat too much or too little. He looks upon his body as the rest-house of his spirit and guards against over-indulgence.” -Iyengar, Light on Yoga

The Mind

“Misconception occurs when knowledge of something is not based on it’s true form.” -Patanjali Yoga Sutra 1.8

“Never give up. And never think, “Oh I am unfit for meditation.” That is the biggest mistake many people make. They think that the minute they sit and close their eyes everything should be beautiful. If the mind runs here and there they say, “Meditation is not my thing.” But that like practicing piano or playing guitar or cooking… Nothing is learned that easily”

“This very practice itself is called concentration: the mind running your bringing it back; it’s running, your bringing it back. You are taming a monkey. Once it’s tamed, it will just listen to you. You will be able to say, “Okay, sit there quietly.” And it will. At that point you are meditating. Until then you are training yourself to meditate. Training your mind to meditate is what is called dharana.” -Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Ethics

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness towards the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness.” -Patanjali, Yoga Sutra 1:33

“Just be good and do good and the entire wisdom will be yours.” -Swami Sivanandaji, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

Speech should bring tranquility and be truthful, pleasant and beneficial. As the Vedic teaching goes, “Satyam bruvat priyam bruvat.” Speak what is true, speak what is pleasant.. If something is true and unpleasant, we should make it more pleasant by presenting it in a proper way.” -Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

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