Yoga Philosophy

Yoga Philosophy

Insight Yoga

All too often, Western students want to bypass the philosophical aspects of Yoga and get on with its practice. But it is impossible to practice Yoga authentically without first having grasped its metaphysics. Conversely, Yoga metaphysics will not reveal its full depth tosomeone who stays aloof from the practical discipline.
Georg Feuerstein

Yoga has developed based on observations and ideas about ourselves and our place in the world, on a deep exploration of our inner world and how we meet life in every moment, in a quest to find real and lasting peace and happiness. It is vital to understand these foundations of our yogic endeavours, otherwise they might become misguided and blunt. Understanding these foundational insights gives eyes to our practice: without it, our practice is blind
In yoga texts, we find the practice of svādyhaya, or “self-study”, which denotes the reading of the scriptures and an inquiry into who we truly are. This demonstrates the central importance of knowing the “why,” and thus having clear intentions and goals in our yoga practice. We also find the highly respected traditions of jñāna or vicāra Yoga, where inquiry into the true nature of things is seen as the key to attain real peace and freedom. This is what I aim for in my yoga philosophy/psychology classes. These classes are not just “the theory” or some dry “history” from long ago, they are a practice in themselves, and alive with inquiry and dialogue.

Since yoga has undergone a cultural transfer from the East to the West, it is particularly important to grasp what the Indian yoga masters were aiming for. In modern western culture, yoga has been commodified and commercialised to the point where some of its original values and goals have been forgotten, and some of its tremendous potential has been lost. These classes attempt to recapture these original aims, and deepen our understanding and practice..

The Yoga Alliance rightly apportions 10% of the teacher training time to this part of yoga.I usually teach about 22.5 hours of yoga philosophy/psychology on a 200-hour training program, or 32.5 hours on an advanced 300-hour syllabus. These classes are interactive, creative and engaging, not just dry lectures. They often challenge the conditioned views that my students have held and never questioned, taking them out of their comfort zones and into new possibilities of seeing the world and their own potential. Coming from a German background, I cherish clear structure, sound teaching methodology and high-quality teaching materials. Obviously, my classes introduce the foundational concepts of yoga first, and then delve into their applications in different systems and scriptures. They include a lot of Dias and other partner and group activities to enliven the exploration.Yoga studios who invite me to teach on their teacher training programs or to hold workshops, can choose the main philosophical topics they want me to focus on. Every topic can be either introduced briefly, or expanded upon in greater detail. Here is a list of your choices:

1. Introduction
1.1 Acknowledgements
1.2 Intention
1.3 Sanskrit
1.4 Invocation

2. Eastern and Western Philosophy
2.1 Classical Western Philosophy
2.2 Eastern Philosophy
2.3 What is Yoga?

3. The Core Concepts of Yoga Philosophy
3.1 Impermanence: Anitya
3.1.1 Not Ground to stand on
3.1.2 The Fallacy of Attachment: Rāga and Dveṣa
3.2 Stress/Suffering: Duhkha
3.2.1 I can’t get no Satisfaction
3.2.2 Addicted
3.2.3 The four ‚Noble Truths’ of the Buddha
3.3 Not seeing things as they truly are: Avidyā
3.3.1 Identification-Disease
3.3.2 No Boundary?
3.3.3 Brainwashed by Society
3.4 Enlightenment
3.4.1 Beyond Words
3.4.2 Different Models
3.5 The conditioned Mind: Citta
3.5.1 Introduction
3.5.2 Western Ideas about how the Mind works
3.5.3 The model of the Kaṭha Upaniṣad
3.5.4 Buddhi, Ahaṃkāra, and Manas
3.5.5 The Metaphor of the Chariot
3.6 Karma and Samsāra
3.6.1 Introduction
3.6.2 You reap what you sow
3.6.3 A simple Principle, yet a complex Web
3.6.4 Good Karma? Bad Karma?
3.6.5 Different Kinds of Karma
3.6.6 Rebirth: Saṃsāra
3.6.7 Saṃskāras and Vāsana
3.7 Ethics – Yama and Niyama
3.7.1 Why Ethics?
3.7.2 Rule/Law or Guideline?
3.7.3 Yama and Niyama
3.7.4 The Pañca Śīla in Buddhist Yoga
3.7.5 Ethical Considerations for Yoga-Teachers
3.7.6 Philosophy Essay: An Ethical Exploration
3.8 The Teacher-Student Link: Guru-Cela
3.8.1 Who is going to lead us out of the Matrix?
3.8.2 Two kinds of Gurus
3.8.3 The Student (Śiṣya)
3.8.4 The critical Importance of the Guru-Śiṣya Relationship in Yoga
3.8.5 Looking for a Teacher
3.8.6 The Danger of Abuse of Power
3.9 Spiritual Materialism
3.9.1 Introduction
3.9.2 The Ego sneaking in
3.9.3 The Lord of Form
3.9.4 The Lord of Speech
3.9.5 The Lord of Mind
3.9.6 Spiritual Bypassing
3.10 Inquiry and Integration
3.10.1 Philosophia Perennis
3.10.2 Is it still Yoga?
3.10.3 Philosophy Essay: Yoga in my Life

4. Historical Overview
4.1 Challenges in mapping out the History of Yoga
4.2 Yoga Timeline
4.3 Horizontal – Vertical – Integral Approaches
4.4 The Indian Idea of cyclical Time: Catura Yuga

5. Vedas
5.1 The four Vedas
5.2 Śruti-Texts
5.3 From Shamanism to Proto-Yoga
5.4 Vedic Deities
5.5 Fire Rituals and Mantra-Yoga
5.6 The Drink of the Gods: Soma
5.7 The few Philosophical Speculations in the Vedas
5.8 Laws of Manu
5.9 The Caste System: Catura Varna
5.10 Phases in Life: Catura Āśrama
5.11 Catura Puruṣartha

6. Indian Mythology: The Purānas
6.1 Overview
6.2 Deities
6.1.1 Srī Ganeśa
6.1.2 Lord Śiva
6.1.3 Śakti
6.1.4 Lord Viṣnu
6.3 Scriptures and Stories
6.4 The Rāmāyāna

7. Upaniṣads
7.1 Introduction
7.2 From outer Rituals to Inner Exploration
7.3 A new kind of Yoga and Yogī
7.4 Illusion: Māyā
7.5 The one Source of everything: Brahman
7.6 The Soul: Ātman
7.7 Going beyond Avidyā: Jñāna Yoga
7.8 The Pranava – 

8. The Mahābhārata (MBh) and Bhagavad-Gītā (BhG)
8.1 Introduction MBh
8.2 Background to the MBh
8.3 The Story in a Nutshell
8.4 Guna Symbology
8.5 Intro BhG
8.6 Background to the BhG
8.7 Summary BhG
8.8 Bhakti Yoga
8.9 Jñāna Yoga
8.10 Karma Yoga

9. Advaita Vedānta Traditions
9.1 Overview
9.2 Śankara
9.3 Rāmānuja
9.4 Madhva
9.5 Caitanya
9.6 Modern Advaitins

10. Buddhist Yoga
10.1 Introduction
10.2 The Life of the Buddha
10.3 The Four Noble Truths
10.4 Dependent Origination
10.5 Non-Self
10.6 Buddhist Psychology
10.7 Mindfulness
10.8 Compassion
10.9 The Hinayāna Tradition
10.10 The Mahāyāna Tradition
10.11 The Vajrayāna Tradition
10.12 Integration into our Practice

11. Compassion in the Yoga Tradition
11.1 The two Wings of the Bird of Liberation: Wisdom and Compassion
11.2 Separation and Suffering
11.3 Pity, the ‘near enemy’ of Compassion
11.4 Interconnectedness leads to Compassion for both Sides
11.5 The “Heavenly Abodes”: Brahma Vihāra
11.6 Bodhicitta and Bodhisattva
11.7 The Practice of Compassion as Karma Yoga

12. Dvaita/Sāmkhya Philosophy
12.1 Overview
12.2 The seductive Creatrix: Prakṛti/Driṣya/Triguna
12.3 The Consciousness-Souls: Puruṣa/Draṣtra
12.3 Sāmkhya’s Map of Evolution

13. Jaina Yoga
13.1 Historical Overview
13.2 Jaina Philosophy
13.3 Karma as polluting particles
13.4 The Levels of Purity: Leśyas
13.5 The Ford-makers: Tīrtankara
13.6 Jaina Yoga Practice

14. The Pātañjala Yoga Śāstra (PYŚ)
14.1 Introduction
14.1.1 We know little about Patañjali
14.1.2 Different Angles of Interpretation
14.1.3 The Sāṃkhya-Angle
14.1.4 Influences
14.1.5 Sequencing
14.2 Samyoga-Abhavah – The Disappearance of Association
14.2.1 Avidyā – False identity
14.2.2 Kleśa – The primal causes of suffering
14.2.3 Prakṛti – The Play of Gunas and how it fools us
14.2.4 Citta – The conceptual mind
14.2.5 Puruṣa – Superior witnessing Consciousness
14.2.6 Viveka – Discrimination
14.2.7 Vṛtti-nirodha – Stilling consciousness
14.3 Vṛtti – Fluctuations
14.3.1 Patañjali’s definition of his yogic path in a nutshell
14.3.2 Patañjali defines what ‘vṛtti’ are
14.3.3 How the vṛtti are finally stopped
14.4 Karma and Saṃsāra – Binding Cyclic Existence
14.4.1 How Karma relates to suffering
14.4.2 How to free one’s self from Karma
14.5 Nirvāna – Patañjali on Enlightenment
14.5.1 The practice
14.5.2 Kaivalyam – Aloneness/Isolation [of the Soul]
14.6 Abhyāsa and Vairāgya – Letting go of the Material World through Practice
14.6.1 The importance of practice
14.6.2 Abhyāsa – Sustained stillness
14.6.3 Vairāgya – Detachment/Renunciation
14.6.4 Antarāyāh – Obstacles
14.6.5 Pratisedha – Counteracting the Obstacles
14.6.6 Practices commonly practiced in Patañjali’s time
14.6.7 Īśvara – the special Puruṣa
14.6.8 The practical use of Īśvara
14.7 Yogānga – The Limbs of Yoga Practice
14.7.1 Aṣtānga – The eight Limbs
14.7.2 Yama and Niyama – Liberating Conduct
14.7.3 Āsana – Yoga Posture
14.7.4 Prāṇāyāma – Regulating and Stilling the Breath
14.7.5 Pratyāhāra – Withdrawal from Attention to the Senses
14.7.6 Dhāranā – Concentration on one Object
14.7.7 Dhyāna – Meditation
14.7.8 Samādhi – Communion with the Essence of an Object
14.8 Samyama – Integrated Consciousness
14.8.1 Dhāranā + Dhyāna + Samādhi
14.8.2 Vibhūti/Siddhi – Relative Accomplishments through Samyama’s direct Perception
14.9 Ways of Integrating Patañjali into our Practice
14.9.1 Philosophical Considerations
14.9.2 Contemporary Challenges
14.9.3 Possibilities

15. Tantra Yoga
15.1 Introduction
15.2 The Tantric View of the Body and the manifest World
15.3 Three types of spiritual practitioners
15.4 Introduction to Tantric Philosophy
15.5 Neo-Tantra – look carefully for its Authenticity as a Liberation Teaching
15.6 The Importance of a Guru in Tantra
15.7 Tantric Literature
15.8 Classical Practices
15.9 Different Schools or Paths of Tantra: Dakṣina Mārga
15.10 Different Schools or Paths of Tantra: Vāma Mārga
15.11 Tantra in Comparison to other Philosophies

16. Hatha Yoga
16.1 Hatha Yoga and the Body
16.2 What exactly is Hatha Yoga?
16.3 Study the Texts yourself – Svādhyaya
16.4 Maps of the Human’s Subtle Physiology
16.5 Prelimaries and Foundations
16.6 Yama and Niyama
16.7 Ṣatkriyā
16.8 Āsana
16.9 Prāṇāyāma
16.10 Mudrā
16.11 Bandha
16.12 Meditation Practices
16.13 A brief Comparison between Hatha Yoga and Patañjala Yoga

17. Modern Postural Yoga
17.1 Introduction
17.2 Cultural Transfer: Problems and Opportunities
17.3 Physical Culture in the 19 th und 20 th Century
17.4 The main Modernisers of Yogas in the 20th Century
17.4.1 Manibhai Haribhai Desai (Śrī Yogendra)
17.4.2 Jagannatha Ganesha Gune (Swami Kuvalyananda)
17.4.3 Tirumalai Krishnamacharya and his famous Students
17.5 Critical Acclamation
17.5.1 Text Study
17.5.2 Homework: My Yoga
17.6 Scientific Research

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