yoga teacher educationBy Faye Martins

As the various forms of Yoga continue to spread from India to the outside world, there will be more and more individuals that will be drawn to the ancient practice and become increasingly involved in not only the physical aspects of Yogic methodology, but to the philosophical and spiritual aspects of it as well. Many 200-hour Yoga teacher training programs briefly cover the surface of Vedic literature.

The farther one explores the Vedic literature or Hindi culture, the more frequently one may come across significant religious scriptures, such as the Upanishads. What are these Vedic writings and are they necessary to be known by modern students outside of India?

What Are The Upanishads?

The Upanishads are part of Vedic literature and one of the most important collections of texts that belong to those that follow the dharmic religions of Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism and more. While many of the texts in the Vedic texts do discuss religious subjects, there are a fairly large amount which deal with secular topics including philosophy, psychology, rules of society, and guidelines for traveling along the path to unity, which is known as Yoga. These writings may seem to only have religious undertones, but many scholars argue that the collections can also be seen as some of the earliest records that have shaped Indian government and society in addition to religion.

How Do They Connect to Modern Yogic Practices?

All Yoga training styles seek to achieve the same thing: Balance and unity with the body, mind, and soul. For centuries, Yogis and their students utilized the teachings of the Upanishads to further achieve greater understanding about themselves, the world, and the purpose of it all.

These writings offer insight as to why one practices the asanas, why one meditates during the day, and why one must balance the mind and body in order to create a more harmonious being. The Upanishads can act as a catalyst to deepen ones resolve and drive to practice Yogic techniques.

Do I Need to Study the Upanishads if I Practice Asanas?

No, although the Upanishads are incredibly rich in knowledge and give insight into Indian culture, it is not necessary to read the Upanishads for one to practice a Yogic lifestyle, and some Yoga certification courses don’t discuss them at all.

One of the reasons Yoga is so appealing to many people is that it does not have one set path or direction: Yoga simply means the path to unity, and how an individual achieves that unity is entirely their own path. While some people may find guidance within the scriptures, others may find it from asana, mantra, pranayama, meditation, nidra, or something else.

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