Ashtanga Yoga, etymologically is made up of two words ashta (अष्ट) + anga (अंग ), where asta means eight and anga m6eans limbs. So the synthesis of both words implies that Ashtanga Yoga is the eight limbs of Yoga. As per the Kaula Siddha Dharma, Ashtanga Yoga i.e the eight limbs of Yoga prevalent in the modern day is the advanced modified form of Vrata Yoga. Little do the people know about Vrata Yoga is a form of Yoga that was only confined to the Himalayan Yogis and Himalayan Yoga traditions because it has always been passed down through the Guru/Sishya tradition and lineages.
Vrata Yoga is a form of Yoga that has six limbs compared to that of Ashtanga Yoga which has eight limbs. It was somewhere in the medieval era of the Siddhas that the Vrata Yoga was changed to the Ashtanga Yoga by the Rishi/Munis. Vrata Yoga/Ashtanga Yoga is also not to be confused with the Ashtanga Yoga of Patanjali. Both have similar contents but they differ in their meanings.
Origins and History of Ashtanga Yoga/Vrata Yoga
- 1 Origins and History of Ashtanga Yoga/Vrata Yoga
- 2 Lineages and traditions of Ashtanga/Vrata Yoga
- 3 Six limbs of Vrata Yoga
- 4 Modern day Ashtanga Yoga:
- 5 Eight limbs of Modern Ashtanga Yoga:
- 6 Difference between Siddha’s Ashtanga Yoga with Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga
- 7 The authentic way of learning Siddha’s Ashtanga Yoga
- 8 Books and literature
According to the Kaula Siddha Dharma, Vrata Yoga originated from Lord Shiva in the Mount Kailasha. It originated with the ‘agama-nigama’ i.e the conversation between Lord Shiva and Ma Parvati. Vrata Yoga is also considered to be ‘Yoga Agama’ i.e Ma Parvati enquires with Lord Shiva the best and the most simplest form of Yoga with Lord Shiva and he replies her with the best among Yogas i.e “Vrata Yoga”.
As per the Kaula Siddha Dharma, once Ma Parvati after having learnt the 108 forms of Yoga, she got confused so as to which Yoga should she choose for herself for her daily practice and also the Yoga that frees her from her own ambiguity, she then enquired to Lord Shiva to which Lord Shiva replied that he out of his unwavering love for her, would answer her query. He then replied Ma Parvati that the best and simplest form of Yoga that she should practice was the Vrata Yoga. The Vrata Yoga was then imparted to Ma Parvati by Lord Shiva.
Lineages and traditions of Ashtanga/Vrata Yoga
It was Lord Shiva who initiated and imparted Vrata Yoga to Ma Parvati. He later also initiated Sanakadi Rishi and Lord Brahma to the lineage of Vrata Yoga. So, basically as per Kaula Siddha Dharma, the lineages and traditions of Vrata Yoga started from Lord Shiva but it flowed down in three streams i.e the Sanakadi Rishi, Brahma and Ma Parvati traditions. The Yoga wisdom reached to the Kaula Siddha Dharma through all of the streams.
The Sanakadi Rishi’s stream or the lineage of Sanakadi Rishi passed down the Yoga wisdom to other Maharishis and they again infused the wisdom to the Kaulantak Peeth through their own Guru/Sishya tradition.
Another stream also flowed down from Sanakadi Rishi to the Himalayan Siddha tradition and Adi 84 Siddhas. They then initiated the Siddhas of the Kaulantak Peeth.
The Lord Brahma stream or the lineage of Lord Brahma passed down the Yoga wisdom to Mahasiddha Kapila, Mahasiddha Yajnavalkya etc, they then imparted the Yoga wisdom to Rishi Vamana etc. Then again the Yoga wisdom was infused to Kaulantak Peeth through their Guru/Sishya lineage and tradition.
Lord Brahma also initiated Maharishi Kratu and he imparted it to one of his Yoga disciple Maharishi Sandipani, the Guru of Lord Krishna. Maharishi Sandipani then infused Kaulantak Peeth with the Yoga wisdom.
Likewise, Ma Parvati initiated Lord Ganesha, Lord Kartikeya, Lord Nandi and Guru Shukracharya. They then directly initiated the Siddhas of Kaulantak Peeth with the Yoga wisdom.
Vrata Yoga Samhita
The ‘Vrata Yoga Samhita’ is still considered to be the authentic text of Vrata Yoga. It was compiled by Maharishi Sandipani. The text of Vrata Yoga Samhita has already been destroyed and is not available in the market but the oral tradition of the Vrata Yoga and the text is still practiced and known by the Siddhas of Kaulantak Peeth.
As per the ‘Kaula Siddha Dharma’, the Vrata Yoga Samhita which was compiled by Maharishi
Sandipani was divided into three kalpas or parts. They were:
The Shaiva Kalpa was mainly based on the physical part of the Yoga. The Shaiva Kalpa dealt with action oriented physical subjects like Asana, Pranayama, Yoga Kriyas, Yoga Suddhi Kriyas, Mudras and Bandhas. It advocated Asana and Pranayama to be performed with force and strength.
The Shakta Kalpa dealt with other Yoga utilities like trataka, sammohana, Dhyana etc. Besides, it also advocated that the asanas, pranayamas, trataka, dhyana etc should be performed in soft and beautiful manner exactly opposite to the Shaiva Kalpa.
The Sama Kalpa dealt with the topics of Samadhi and the techniques to attain the state of Samadhi through dhyana. It advocated complicated inner sadhanas which was extremely needed for any yogis for perfection of Yoga. The practice had to be done regularly so that the mind was controlled and perfected.
Six limbs of Vrata Yoga
The Vrata Yoga consisted of six limbs. The limbs are as follows:
Sankalpa or Resolution
Sankalpa meant the resolution taken by the Yogi to go the extreme of any endeavor with the desire to succeed in it. It is one of the vital precepts of Vrata Yoga.
Dhyana or Concentration and focus
Dhyana as per the text meant mind in thoughtless state. The first step of dhyana was ekagrate or concentration. Tratak was prescribed to perfect concentration.
Deha Kaushalam and Aahar Vihar
The food and water is considered to be the most important part of any Yogi’s life. The food we eat dictates the thoughts we produce. and thoughts become things. Similarly, pure water was also recommended for the body of Yogis. To further strengthen the body of the Yogi’s, they were prescribed asanas so that they perfect their body.
Gyana meant the inner capacity of any Yogi to differentiate between right and wrong. When a Yogi realizes the difference between the state of sleep, awake and maya, then the Yogi would be capable of differentiating between right and wrong.
Yagya also meant the study of the self. It also meant constant strive for knowledge. It also meant extrospection and introspection of the self.
Dana means offerings and donations. The Yogis had to donate and offer their knowledge and experience to the society for the betterment of human.
Vrata Yoga post Mahasiddha Dattatreya
As mentioned above, the Vrata Yoga was passed down to Mahasiddha Dattatreya by Lord Brahma himself. Mahasiddha Dattatreya then passed down the wisdom to his disciples Mahasiddha Kapila and Mahasiddha Yajnvalkya. The Vrata Yoga then took a sudden change of direction.
The lineages of Mahasiddha Kapila and Mahasiddha Yajnavalkya who were also apt in Hatha Yoga and Patanjali Yoga, their lineages disciples being inspired from both infused certain aspects of both into Vrata Yoga which they received from their masters. The Vrata Yoga received the hatha yoga from Hatha Yoga Pradipika and eight limbs from Patanjali Yoga giving rise to a new yoga named Ashtanga Yoga. Vrata Yoga was then officially converted into Ashtanga Yoga by constant practice and propagation from their lineages.
In short, the Vrata Yoga post Mahasiddha Dattatreya became Ashtanga Yoga. The Ashtanga Yoga that is now prevalent in the society is nothing but the blend of Vrata Yoga, Hatha Yoga and Patanjali Yoga.
Vrata Ashtanga Yoga of Maharishi Shringa
As mentioned above, Maharishi Shringa received the knowledge of “Vrata Yoga” from two sources, first from his own father Maharishi Vibhandaka and later from Sanakadi Rishi. He was very instrumental in correcting the Vrata Yoga that was tempered by the disciples of the lineages of Mahasiddha Yajnavalkya and Mahasiddha Kapila.
The Vrata Yoga when got converted to Ashtanga Yoga by the disciples of the lineages of Mahasiddha Yanjnavalkya and Mahasiddha Kapila, it was Maharishi Shringa who corrected the Ashtanga Yoga. Since Vrata Yoga originated from Lord Shiva, therefore to maintain the purity and sanctity of the Yoga wisdom, he corrected the Ashtanga Yoga and named it as Vrata Ashtanga Yoga thus separating Vrata Yoga with Ashtanga Yoga. He then started initiating the Siddhas of the Kaulantak Peeth to the wisdom, the Siddhas then initiated sages, saints and they in return propagated the wisdom to the societies. The modern day Ashtanga Yoga is the Vrata Ashtanga Yoga.
Maharishi Shringa was the modern day propounder of the Vrata Ashtanga Yoga to the society.
Modern day Ashtanga Yoga:
The Modern day Ashtanga Yoga was propounded by Maharishi Shringi after separating Vrata Yoga with the Ashtanga Yoga. Though he renamed Ashtanga Yoga to Vrata Ashtanga Yoga, it again started to be renamed as “Ashtanga Yoga” in the modern day because of its resemblance with the “Ashtanga Yoga” of Patanjali Yoga. Patanjali Yoga since was so popular in the modern day society, the Vrata Ashtanga Yoga got overshadowed by Patanjali Yoga’s Ashtanga Yoga and people out of seer confusion mistook it and a new version of confused Ashtanga Yoga is now prevalent in our society.
Eight limbs of Modern Ashtanga Yoga:
The modern Ashtanga Yoga has eight limbs. They are:
The Yama means the series of ethical rules prescribed for ones proper conduct. It is usually five in numbers but sometimes it is also presumed to be ten. They are:
a) Ahimsa (non-violence)
b) Satya (truth)
c) Asteya (non-stealing)
d) Brahmacharya (chastity)
e) Aparigraha (non-possessiveness)
f) Kshama (forgiveness)
g) Ghriti (fortitude)
h) Daya (compassion)
i) Aarjawa (sincerity)
j) Mitahar (balanced diet)
Niyama are the rules one follows to develop strict habits, behavior and observance for ones own development. There are five niyamas:
a) Saucha (cleanliness)
b) Santosha (contentment)
c) Tapas (austerity)
d) Svadhyaya (self introspection)
e) Ishvaraparinidhana (contemplation of Ishvara)
Asana means the posture that the Yogis perform for the perfection of his body. It is believed that they are 84 lakhs asanas that was revealed to the society by Lord Shiva. Perfection of the body is also the perfection of the mind.
Pranayama means controlling or regulating the breathing pattern to achieve the desire result. Pranayama is used to control the mind because mind is connected to the breath and breath is controlled by pranayama. Lord Shiva is believed to have revealed 72 pranayamas to the Siddhas.
Pratyahara means a conscious act of an individual to control what he/she intakes through different senses. This is the one of the most important part of Ashtanga Yoga which people do not pay attention to.
Dharana is precepts that one harbors intentionally or unintentionally towards anything. Dharana might be intended or unintended. Dharana in a way is food for the mind.
Dhyana means the state of thoughtless mind. When the mind becomes thoughtless then the state of dhyana is achieved.
Samadhi is the state of yoga where the yogi becomes fully enlightened. It is the last stage of Ashtanga Yoga.
Difference between Siddha’s Ashtanga Yoga with Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga
The Siddha’s Yoga or the ‘Vrata Ashtanga Yoga’ of Maharishi Shringa and Patanjali ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ is almost similar but they only differ with the approach of how asanas, pranayama, dhyana, dharana are performed.
Maharishi Shringa explains the Ashtanga Yoga with exact precision with subtle minor details like the breathing rhythm, yoga laya krama (yoga vinyasa), asanas rhythm and also the techniques on performing asanas, pranayamas, mudra and bandas which is absent in Patanjali’s Yoga.
As far as dharana is considered, Maharishi Shringa has explained the details with more subtle precisions then Maharishi Patanjali. Maharishi Shringa’s “ishwarapranidhana” is more subtle then Maharishi Patanjali’s work. Maharishi Shringa has also explained trataka with more details and has given greater emphasis on tratak then Maharishi Patanjali.
The authentic way of learning Siddha’s Ashtanga Yoga
The Siddhas have always been practicing the Ashtanga Yoga from time immemorial and have also spread its knowledge to the society. It is because of the Siddhas, the Ashtanga Yoga is still alive today. Therefore, it is always important to study Ashtanga Yoga from the Kaula Siddha lineage or any authentic Siddha’s lineage so as to receive the authentic knowledge of the Ashtanga Yoga and not the tempered Ashtanga Yoga’s prevalent in the society.
The Kaula Siddha Dharma has an educational branch called “Kaulantak Siddha Vidhyapeeth”. It is the Kaula Siddha Dharma’s equivalent of university. It conducts different levels of Ashtanga Yoga trainings like beginner’s level, advance level and teachers training course. The Ashtanga Yoga course training conducted by Kaulantak Siddha Vidhyapeeth encompasses the complete syllabus of Ashtanga Yoga.
Books and literature
Siddha’s Ashtanga Yoga
It is the book that covers up the whole syllabus of Kaula Siddha’s ‘Ashtanga Yoga’ and this would serve as the perfect first book for everybody who would like to start their journey to the world of Yoga.