Yoga is a widely practiced form of exercise and relaxation worldwide.
The lotus flower is represented in yoga through poses and the tradition of religious practice.
We will explore yoga and the philosophies associated with the practice of yoga and how each benefits the mind and body.
The Relation of the Lotus and Yoga
The lotus flower is represented in the practice of yoga in both postural positions and in the teachings.
In the Asian and Hindu cultures, the lotus flower is symbolic of purity.
One of the Hindu deities, Vishnu, is referred to as the “Lotus-Eyed-One” who is believed to have the lotus flower springing out of his navel when he is in Yoga Nidra (the state of the conscience that is between sleeping and waking.)
The teachings of yoga instruct one that when they are in “yoga nidra,” they envision the lotus flower rising from within them bringing forth a pure and refreshed state of mind.
Hatha yoga teaches that a postural pose called the “lotus position” signifies one reaching up to the highest level of consciousness.
This position is achieved when sitting with legs crossed, and the arms are extended above the head with the palms of the hands together.
The chakra located at the top of the head is referred to as the lotus chakra, thus reaching above the head to arrive at the chakra.
Where did yoga come from?
It is unclear historically when yoga came into existence.
Some say it dates as far back as 5,000-10,000 years ago. What has been established is the four periods in which yoga has evolved.
- Developed in India over 5,000 years ago.
- The word “yoga” was discovered in an ancient sacred text called “Rig Veda.” These texts recorded the songs, rituals, and mantras of the Vedic priests.
- Further on, 200 yoga scriptures were recorded in the “Upanishad,” which instructed one to sacrifice their ego through learning, action, and wisdom.
- During this period of yoga, there were many conflicting beliefs adopted.
- Defined by the ancient text of “Yoga-Sutras,” which paved the way for “Raja Yoga.”
- Yoga practice was organized into the “eight-limb-path,” which highlighted the steps and stages to take towards enlightenment.
- Yoga developed further into practices that were targeted to extend life. The prior teachings of Vedics were replaced with the belief that enlightenment was achieved through embracing the physical body.
- “Tantra Yoga” was developed to cleanse the body and the mind while exploring the physical-spiritual connection.
- Westernized yoga was developed and became known as “Hatha Yoga.”
- Yoga gurus from the far east brought yoga to the west.
- The “Divine Life Society” was established in India as the first Hatha Yoga
The Basis of Yoga
Before diving into the “Twelve Philosophies of Yoga,” we want to point out that when meditating in yoga, one is taught to visualize their heart as the lotus flower which unfolds in the center of their chest.
Similar to the lotus, the heart contracts and reopens, and respectively, the spiritual heart is awakened through the different practices in yoga.
One particular physical position in yoga is called the “lotus pose” which is symbolic of purity in our body, our actions, and our mind.
The lotus flower serves as an example of how beauty can emerge from something undesirable.
The Twelve Philosophies of Yoga
Five Yamas of Yoga (first of the eight-limb-path)
- Ahimsa: The practice of non-violence towards self and others.
- Satya: Living and speaking truth all of the time.
- Asteya: Do not steal.
- Brahmacharya: Do not be materialistic.
- Aparigraha: Possess only what you need and do not envy others.
Five Niyamas of Yoga (second of the eight-limb-path)
- Shaucha: Surround self with a pure environment (our diet, who we associate with, what we listen to, what we watch, our home, our method of travel.)
- Samtosh: Be happy with what life gives to us.
- Tapas: Do that which you do not want to do that will have a positive impact on your life.
- Svadhyaya: Look inward to see where your true self lives.
- Ishvara Pranidhana: Devote your actions to a higher power.
The Vedas (most sacred texts of India)
- Rig-Veda: Songs and mantras
- Sama-Veda: Songs to elevate consciousness
- Yajur-Veda: Instructions on ceremonial worship of deities
- Atharva-Veda: Spells and charms to destroy evil, disease, misfortune
- Sacred texts that teach how to have a deeper understanding and exploration of the mind and spirit.
The Hatha Yoga Pradipika
- Internal cleansing
- Energy seal
- Energy lock
Moksha and Maya
- Freedom from desires, actions, and consequences in the state of oneness.
- Our sense of reality distorted by memory, how we conceive things, how we judge, and how we have experienced something.
- Creating awareness of how we see things.
The 3 Gunas of Nature
- Tamas: Avoid heavy meat, spoiled foods, chemical treated or processed food, don’t oversleep, overeat, be inactive, or fearful.
- Rajas: Avoid fried or spicy foods, don’t overexercise, overwork, listen to loud music, or overthink things.
- Sattva: Enjoy activities that give you joy.
Sankhya’s Map of the Universe
- Tattvas: the universe divided into 25 principles that are our guideposts to keep ourselves oriented within the map.
- Shariras (body, mind, spirit)
- Koshas (sheathes)
- Annamaya Kosha (food)
- Pranamaya Kosha (life force energy)
- Manamaya Kosha (mind)
- Vijnanamaya Kosha (knowledge)
The Inward Journey Through the Koshas
- The exploration on the deepest levels of our being; the inward journey of yoga.
The Kleshas (cause of suffering)
- Avidya (ignorance)
- Smita (ego)
- Raga (attachment)
- Dvesha (repulsion)
- Abhinivesha (will to live)
The Law of Karma (reap what you sow)
- Choose how you respond and react to events.
The Infinite Paths of Yoga
If one is not familiar with yoga and the background it was based upon, it can be confusing and overwhelming.
Modern-day, westernized yoga is generally not practiced for religious means, but for the physical benefit, it provides.
There are even Christians that practice yoga for the physical benefits, but forego the teachings of yoga because of the Hindu belief system it was founded upon.
There are both physical and mental gains to be had with doing yoga regardless of your religion or spiritual background.
And just as the lotus flower, we too can lift ourselves up from the muck of life in general and reach for a more healthier and positive self through yoga or any other form of exercise or meditation!
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