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Classical Yoga
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Around the time of Christ's birth, Yoga entered its Classical Stage. PatanjaliThis is defined, by the Yoga Sutras, as a series of short verses compiled by a sage named Patanjali. In the Yoga Sutras the ideas of Yoga were systemized in a form that was truly coherent. This text is considered one of the most studied Yoga texts.

After the turn of the millennium, the spread of Yoga in its different forms gave rise to the need for standardization. Thus in the second century B.C., Patanjali composed a seminal text, Yoga-Sutra and defined Classical Yoga. The 195 aphorisms or sutras that comprise the Yoga Sutra, expound upon Raja-Yoga (the eightfold Yoga path). The Yoga Sutra is meant to be memorized as a means of internalizing its wisdom. The real ground breaking characteristic of Yoga-Sutra however, is its precept of philosophical dualism.

The Eight Limbs of Classical Yoga are:
  • yamas, or restraint,
  • niyamas, or observance of purity, tolerance and study,
  • Asana, or Physical Exercises,
  • Pranayam or breath control,
  • pratyahara, or preparation for Meditation
  • dharana, or concentration,
  • dhyana or Meditation and
  • samadhi or absorption in the sublime.
Patanjali advocates studying the sacred scriptures as part of the Yoga practice, which becomes Classical Yoga's distinct feature.

Patanjali remains a mysterious figure as nothing definitive is known about him. George Feuerstein points out in The Yoga Tradition that it is reasonable to assume that Patanjali was a Yoga master and he probably headed a Yoga school of some kind.

Patanjali believed that separation of the matter (prakriti) and spirit (purusha) was necessary to cleanse the spirit to absolute purity. This is in stark contrast to Pre-classical and Vedic Yoga, which adopts the unification of the body and the spirit. The teachings of Patanjali represent a departure from traditional non-dualistic Yoga and laid the groundwork for Postclassical Yoga. For centuries after Patanjali, the dualism of Yoga was predominant. Yogis focused almost exclusively on Meditation and neglected the Asanas. They were attempting to exit the mortal coil and merge with the ultimate reality through contemplation. But with the advent of alchemy, a precursor to chemistry, the Yoga masters rekindled their belief in the body as a temple. Contemporary thought shifted to health, longevity and maintenance. As such, the Yoga masters attempted to demonstrate that new Yoga techniques fundamentally alters the body's biochemistry and makes it immortal. This led back to the Pre-classical and Vedic Yoga belief about the primacy of the Asana and to the beginning of Postclassical Yoga.


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