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From the foremost living authority on Yoga comes the most comprehensive and reliable treatment of the subject available today. This is a work of impeccable scholarship by a person who has dedicated his life to the understanding and practice of yoga. The book offers a complete overview of every Yogic tradition, from the familiar to the lesser-known forms. It also covers all From the foremost living authority on Yoga comes the most comprehensive and reliable treatment of the subject available today. This is a work of impeccable scholarship by a person who has dedicated his life to the understanding and practice of yoga. The book offers a complete overview of every Yogic tradition, from the familiar to the lesser-known forms. It also covers all aspects of Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina Yoga, including history, philosophy, literature, psychology and practice. In addition, included are translations of twenty Yoga treatises and the first translation of the Goraksha Paddhati.


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From the foremost living authority on Yoga comes the most comprehensive and reliable treatment of the subject available today. This is a work of impeccable scholarship by a person who has dedicated his life to the understanding and practice of yoga. The book offers a complete overview of every Yogic tradition, from the familiar to the lesser-known forms. It also covers all From the foremost living authority on Yoga comes the most comprehensive and reliable treatment of the subject available today. This is a work of impeccable scholarship by a person who has dedicated his life to the understanding and practice of yoga. The book offers a complete overview of every Yogic tradition, from the familiar to the lesser-known forms. It also covers all aspects of Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina Yoga, including history, philosophy, literature, psychology and practice. In addition, included are translations of twenty Yoga treatises and the first translation of the Goraksha Paddhati.

30 review for The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy and Practice

  1. 5 out of 5

    Romola Butalia

    Georg Feuerstein is a well-known yoga scholar. In this ready reckoner of Yoga, he provides an unbiased and lucid understanding of diverse spiritual traditions. The Yoga Tradition is an excellent reference book for scholar and practitioner alike. It provides an overall picture of a subject that has many intricate nuances and requires in-depth study to be able to distil the way Feuerstein has done. This illustrated and well-presented 680-page book, with a foreword by Ken Wilber, is a comprehensive Georg Feuerstein is a well-known yoga scholar. In this ready reckoner of Yoga, he provides an unbiased and lucid understanding of diverse spiritual traditions. The Yoga Tradition is an excellent reference book for scholar and practitioner alike. It provides an overall picture of a subject that has many intricate nuances and requires in-depth study to be able to distil the way Feuerstein has done. This illustrated and well-presented 680-page book, with a foreword by Ken Wilber, is a comprehensive overview of the philosophy and practice of the Yoga tradition, covering Hindu and Buddhist Yoga as well as Yoga in Jainism and Sikhism. It includes translations of the Yoga-Sutra with one of the five sections devoted to Patanjali's Yoga Darshan. There are also translations of Shiva-Sutra, Narada's Bhakti-Sutra, and Goraksha-Paddhati, as well as excerpts from other Yoga scriptures ranging from the ancient Rig-Veda to later medieval works. The different spokes of the wheel of Yoga, namely Raja-Yoga, Hatha-Yoga, Jnana-Yoga, Karma-Yoga, Bhakti-Yoga, Mantra Yoga and Laya Yoga are all explicitly explained. There is an overview of the Yoga of the Upanishads with special references to specific Upanishads, a synthesis and excerpts from the Yoga Vashishtha and a section devoted to Tantra-Yoga. Included is a glossary for those non-initiated to the subject, as well as a chronology for a historical perspective and a detailed bibliography and notes. While it is an easy reference manual, it is also an interesting reader-friendly presentation. This book is a fine balance between a layman's introduction to the subject, a practitioner's guide to the various aspects of yoga and an academic enquiry into the history, philosophy and literature of Yoga. The Yoga Tradition is highly recommended for anyone interested in academic or practical spiritual pursuit.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jason Gregory

    There is no doubt that this is the best book on Yoga period. Georg Feuerstein is still one of the most underrated scholars on Yoga and Eastern thought out there. His understanding of classical Yoga is phenomenal. This book has often been referred to as the "Yoga phone book" for its size. But I will tell you, you don't want the book to end once you dive in. Feuerstein explores everything about the Yoga tradition to its nth degree. Actually he covers a lot more than that. He also does a fantastic There is no doubt that this is the best book on Yoga period. Georg Feuerstein is still one of the most underrated scholars on Yoga and Eastern thought out there. His understanding of classical Yoga is phenomenal. This book has often been referred to as the "Yoga phone book" for its size. But I will tell you, you don't want the book to end once you dive in. Feuerstein explores everything about the Yoga tradition to its nth degree. Actually he covers a lot more than that. He also does a fantastic job in covering Vedanta and Samkhya philosophy. He takes you through the whole history of Hindu thought, not just Yoga. Be careful though, this book is the real deal. It is not about the Western version of Yoga that is a poor rip off of Hatha Yoga. This book explains what Yoga truly is and why it is important to follow the tradition and not its cheap imitations. As a writer I find it inspiring to see the length Feuerstein went to produce a piece of work that will be around for hundreds, if not thousands of years. His scholarship is unmatched when it comes to Yoga. But it is his heart and wisdom that keep the fire of this rich tradition burning into the future. Read it now.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Craig Shoemake

    Georg Feuerstein's magnum opus is easily the richest outpouring of yogic knowledge and insight I have ever encountered between two covers. It is an intimidating work. Intimidating because of its length, its size (like a textbook), and the sheer mass of terminology, topics and texts it covers (and even translates-a few for the first time!). At times I felt like I was swallowing a pill that just wouldn't fit down my gullet-though I knew the pill was good for me, so I kept gulping until I got it do Georg Feuerstein's magnum opus is easily the richest outpouring of yogic knowledge and insight I have ever encountered between two covers. It is an intimidating work. Intimidating because of its length, its size (like a textbook), and the sheer mass of terminology, topics and texts it covers (and even translates-a few for the first time!). At times I felt like I was swallowing a pill that just wouldn't fit down my gullet-though I knew the pill was good for me, so I kept gulping until I got it down. There is no easy way to review this book, so I'm going to simply flip open the contents and talk here and there about pieces that particularly intrigued, puzzled, offended or delighted me. (Actually, very little offended me-I'm just being theatrical....) The first chapter, "Building Blocks," is perhaps not so aptly named. It reads like something written for those who already have a bit of the yogic worldview under their belt and subscribe to its way of thinking. For this reason I would recommend newcomers read Feuerstein's other, more introductory books before this one. (I have already reviewed two-The Deeper Dimension of Yoga and The Path of Yoga.) I think the other thing that comes to light from reading these opening pages (this includes the introduction proper) is that Feuerstein is definitely a "believer," and to an extent that is probably not kosher in scholarly circles, writes as one too. There is of course nothing wrong with this, except people who want more "objective" texts may be put off by it. Feuerstein is without doubt one of the most knowledgeable people on the planet as regards the yoga tradition, but still I have to wonder about some of the ideas he ascribes to. For example, his timeline of India in chapters 3 and 4 is certainly not orthodox as regards most contemporary reckonings of Indian history. He grants an age to the Vedic civilization (4500-2500 BC) considerably in excess of ancient Egypt (3500-500 BC) and this based on pretty slim facts I think. (It seems to me his enthusiasm sometimes get the better of him.) That said, it should be admitted that early Indian history is a messy and muddled subject, with few (if any) points of certainty. To give you an idea, the most important Indian of them all, the Buddha, was for a long time considered to have lived from 563-483 BC, but recently has been "relocated" to something more like 490-410. Imagine scholars suddenly announcing that Pericles really lived a hundred years later and you get my drift. So if Feuerstein is speculating, or even wrong in his speculations (and how will we ever know for sure?), he can at least be forgiven. From chapter four on the text follows a pretty historically linear timeline. The Vedas are discussed and then the Upanishads, with translations of several texts sprinkled throughout. In every case the relation of the texts to yoga, its ideas and practices, is elaborated upon. What is clear is that yoga has definitely progressed through stages of development, beginning with earlier "shamanic" practices focusing on tapas (austerities), magic and visions, and this eventually gave way to the more self-transcending orientation of the Upanishads and later texts. Chapters six and seven generously treat of yoga's place in the heterodox traditions of Jainism and Buddhism, though readers particularly interested in these fields should consult the extensive bibliography at the back of the book if they wish to follow further these lines of inquiry. I, for one, was sad to learn that there is very little surviving of Jainism's early textual corpus. Though Mahavira, the religion's founder, gets a bad rap in the early Buddhist texts, my suspicion has always been that he was certainly an extraordinary man, in some ways perhaps the equal of the Buddha. I just wish we knew more about what he really taught. (This is not to say I think he was the equal of the Buddha. It's pretty clear to me that while his attainment must indeed have been great, he was in no way comparable to Siddhartha as an intellectual or communicator. Greatness of insight is not always accompanied by equal development of all other parts of the personality. The Buddha was a rarity-perhaps unsurpassed-on account of his high development in so many aspects. IMHO, of course...) Chapter eight plunges back into Hindu yoga, specifically the Epics and, of course, the Bhagavad Gita. (I have just finished up Feuerstein's translation of this seminal text, and let me tell you, it is a doozy!) Again, there are generous passages from important texts included here; you can certainly get a sense for what this kind of literature is like. Chapters nine and ten exhaustively treat classical yoga (i.e. Patanjali's), and even include a complete translation of the Yoga Sutras! The historical and intellectual place of this little book within the edifice of yoga is made clear-it has proven more an inspiration to practice than to philosophy. The philosophy of yoga, or what began in the Upanishads, finds its consummation in the nondualist schools, which Feuerstein treats in the next four chapters. Nondualism is, of course, the philosophical heart of Hinduism, though it is clearly overlaid with an exuberant wealth of gods and goddesses, rituals and esoterica. These Feuerstein treats extensively, even delving into obscure little groups like the Aghoris (who still exist, btw!). By chapter fifteen we're getting into my favorite stuff-the yoga upanishads, wherein the subject of kundalini comes up. Sikh yoga is briefly touched on, and then it's full steam into tantra and hatha yoga. The book ends in the late medieval/early modern period, looking at the extensive literature of hatha yoga. I would certainly not recommend this as a first book on the subject. That said, if someone has gotten their feet wet and finds they want to get the Big Picture, this then is the book I would recommend. The immense service it provides is to give the reader a morsel, a taste, of so many of the exquisite delights of the yogic tradition that he (or she) may then meaningfully pursue further any of them as he pleases. It is a book meant to lead on, to invite, to incite curiosity. I hope it does this and more for you, and thereby leads you to greener, broader pastures of knowledge and awakening...

  4. 4 out of 5

    Cyndee

    I first read this book in 2000 as part of my 200-hour Yoga Teacher training. Then in 2004-5, I read it again as part of a distance learning course given by the author, Georg Feuerstein. I believe it is the most comprehensive book on Yoga ever published and Dr. Feuerstein to be the foremost Yoga authority in the world today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Simedrea Adrian

    A milestone in yogic studies. I reach out to take notes from it every now and again as I am exposed to different aspects of this extraordinary tradition.

  6. 5 out of 5

    lyle

    “God, in this sense, is not the Creator God of deistic religions like Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Rather, God is the transcendental totality of existence, which in the nondualist schools of Hinduism is referred to as brahman, or 'Absolute.' That Absolute is regarded as the essential nature, the transcendental Self, underlying the human personality. Hence, when the unconscious conditioning by which we experience ourselves as independent, isolated egos is removed, we realize that at the core “God, in this sense, is not the Creator God of deistic religions like Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Rather, God is the transcendental totality of existence, which in the nondualist schools of Hinduism is referred to as brahman, or 'Absolute.' That Absolute is regarded as the essential nature, the transcendental Self, underlying the human personality. Hence, when the unconscious conditioning by which we experience ourselves as independent, isolated egos is removed, we realize that at the core of our being we are all that same One. And this singular Reality is considered the ultimate destination of human evolution. As the modern yogin-philosopher Sri Aurobindo put it: 'We speak of the evolution of Life in Matter, the evolution of Mind in Matter; but evolution is a word which merely states the phenomenon without explaining it. For there seems to be no reason why Life should evolve out of material elements or Mind out of living form, unless we accept the Vedântic1 solution that Life is already involved in Matter and Mind in Life because in essence Matter is a form of veiled Life, Life a form of veiled Consciousness. And then there seems to be little objection to a farther step in the series and the admission that mental consciousness may itself be only a form and a veil of higher states which are beyond Mind. In that case, the unconquerable impulse of man towards God, Light, Bliss, Freedom, Immortality presents itself in its right place in the chain as simply the imperative impulse by which Nature is seeking to evolve beyond Mind, and appears to be as natural, true and just as the impulse towards Life which she has planted in certain forms of Matter or the impulse towards Mind which she has planted in certain forms of Life … Man himself may well be a thinking and living laboratory in whom and with whose conscious co-operation she wills to work out the superman, the god. Or shall we not say, rather, to manifest God?'” “Reality is a continuum that we ourselves divide up into a multitude of discrete phenomena, and we do so by means of language. Our naming of things in a way creates them. Our words reify, or “thingi- fy,” reality. For the most part, this is of practical usefulness when we want to find our way about in our rather complex universe. However, it can also be a handicap, because our words may set up barriers that block understanding and stifle love.” “Jnâna-Yoga is fundamentally different from all other forms and stands really unique in the history of the world. It is not the worship of God as an object different from the self and is not a discipline that leads to the attainment of anything distinct from one’s own self. It may be described as âtma-upâsana (the worship of God as one’s Self).” “What Krishna, the divine Lord in human form, is saying here is that all activity arises spontaneously as part of the program of Nature prakriti). The idea that 'I do this or that' is delusional, a fatal presumption that we habitually superimpose on what is actually occurring. Thus, even our thoughts are not really generated by us. Thoughts, like all processes of Nature, are simply arising. We decide to type into a computer, play the piano, ride a bicycle, or speak to a friend-but these activities, according to Krishna (and the spiritual authorities of Hinduism in general), are not effects of the ego-personality in relation to which they seem to be occurring. In fact, the ego-sense itself arises as one of the spontaneous activities of Nature, presuming itself to be the actor of certain deeds and then presuming itself to suffer their consequences.” “Integral Yoga has no prescribed techniques, since the inward transformation is accomplished by the divine Power itself. There are no obligatory rituals, mantras, postures, or breathing exercises to be performed. The aspirant must simply open himself or herself to that higher Power, which Sri Aurobindo identified with The Mother. This self-opening and calling upon the presence of The Mother is understood as a form of meditation or prayer. Aurobindo advised that practitioners should focus their attention at the heart, which has anciently been the secret gateway to the Divine. Faith, or inner certitude, is deemed a key to spiritual growth. Other important aspects of Integral Yoga practice are chastity (brahmâcârya), truthfulness (satya), and a pervasive disposition of calm (prashânti).” “What is the Self? Sage Yâjnavalkya put it thus in the Brihad-Âranyaka-Upanishad (3.4.1): He who breathes with your inhalation (prâna) is your Self (âtman), which is in everything. He who breathes with your exhalation (apâna) is your Self, which is in everything. He who breathes with your diffusive breath (vyâna) is your Self, which is in everything. He who breathes with your up-breath (udâna) is your Self, which is in everything. He is your Self, which is in everything. When asked how that Self is to be conceived, Yâjnavalkya continued: You cannot see the Seer of seeing. You cannot hear the Hearer of hearing. You cannot think the Thinker of thinking. You cannot understand the Understander of understanding. He is your Self, which is in everything. Everything other than Him is irrelevant. (3.4.2) This passage epitomizes the essence of the Upanishadic mystery teachings, which were passed from Self-realized teacher to disciple by word of mouth: The transcendental ground of the world is identical with the ultimate core of the human being. That supreme Reality, which is pure, formless Consciousness, cannot be adequately described or defined. It must simply be realized. Upon realization, the Self will be found to be infinite, eternal, utterly real, and free, as well as unqualifiedly blissful (ânanda).” “The Hînayâna tradition, which survives today in the form of the Theravâda school of Sri Lankâ, was individual oriented in so far as it placed the goal of the complete extinction (nirvâna) of desire above everything else. By contrast, the various Mahâyâna schools came to regard this approach as relatively barren and selfish and tried to replace it with a more holistic outlook. This included a revision of the value of the emotive and social aspects of human life and of the nature of the Buddhist goal itself. In keeping with this reorientation, nirvâna was no longer conceived as a goal 'out there' but as the ever-present substratum underlying phenomenal existence: The famous Mahâyâna formula is nirvâna equals samsâra, that is, the immutable transcendental Reality is identical with the world of impermanence, and vice versa. What this means is that the realm of changeable forms is inherently empty (shûnya) and that nirvâna must not be sought outside samsâra.” “The second truth is that desire, the thirst or tanhâ (trishnâ) for life—corresponding to Nietzsche’s 'will to live'—is the cause of the universally experienced suffering.6 Our very cells are genetically programmed to perpetuate the biological conglomerate that we call “our” body-mind: We desire to be alive as individuals, and yet our very individuality is the factor that complicates our existence, because we separate ourselves from everything else and then look for ways to reduce or overcome the resulting sense of isolation and fear. We approach the matter from the wrong end, however. We tinker with our experiences rather than allow our understanding to penetrate to the root of our separative disposition and its accompanying survival motive. Since desire is anchored in ignorance of our true nature, the Mahâyâna teachers look upon ignorance rather than desire as the cause of suffering.” “Emptiness is not nothingness, but no-thing-ness. When we consider phenomena most profoundly, they reveal themselves to us as illusory. But even this illusoriness is illusory, for, practically speaking, there are phenomena that form the content of our experiences. In reality, nirvâna and samsâra are both constructions of the unillumined mind, and the yogin must rise beyond them.” “According to the Yogâcâra school, the objective world is “mere mind” (citta-mâtra), which is also the basic position of the Lankâ-Avatâra-Sûtra. What this means is that our entire experience is simply that: experience, flashes of consciousness, without objective substratum. But that fleeting consciousness is, in truth, the ever-lasting transcendental Consciousness.” “The masters of Sahajayâna taught that Reality cannot be discovered by placing unnatural restraints of one kind or another on human nature. Instead they insisted that we should follow what is the most natural in us, that is, be true to our own personal imperative. Of course, they did not preach that we should simply abandon ourselves to our passions or instincts. Rather, their natural or spontaneous approach is the way of abiding in what is inherently true of us, which is blissful freedom.” “At the other end of the spectrum is the Zen tradition, which is firmly anchored in self-effort. It acknowledges Bodhidharma (470-543 C.E.), a learned South Indian monk, as its first patriarch. He arrived in China in the year 520 C.E., where he became known as Tamo (Japanese: Daruma). He inaugurated the Ch’an or meditation tradition, which was inspired by the Yogâcâra school. Bodhidharma was received by the Emperor Wu-Ti, a fervent Buddhist. When asked to define the essential principle of Buddhism, Bodhidharma laconically replied, “Vast emptiness,” which disturbed the emperor greatly. After this encounter, Bodhidharma withdrew to a monastery, where he meditated in front of a blank wall for nine years. Later he observed that the mind has to become like a straight-standing wall.” 😂 “'Yoga is the restriction (nirodha) of the fluctuations of consciousness (citta). (1.2) Then the Seer [i.e., the transcendental Self] abides in [its] essential form. (1.3) At other times [there is] conformity [of the Self] with the fluctuations.' (1.4) Comment: In the unenlightened state, we do not consciously identify with the Self (purusha), but consider ourselves to be a particular individual with a particular character. This does not mean, however, that the Self is absent. Rather, it is merely obscured.” “We will start this review of Post-Classical Yoga with the more extreme sects of the ramified Shaiva tradition, which has its root in the Vedic Era. Some of the Shaivite practices are rather radical, inasmuch as they severely challenge conventional morality. They are considered to be “left-hand” schools, because they champion the literal enactment of the ultimate truth of nonduality, while the “right-hand” schools, by and large, condone only the symbolic expression of that truth. The difference between these two approaches is best epitomized in their contrasting attitudes to sexuality. While the adherents of the right-hand schools generally see sexuality as a threat to spiritual growth, the followers of the left-hand path within Shaivism employ sexuality for their spiritual transformation. In India, as in many other parts of the world, the left side is associated with inauspiciousness or pollution, and the right side with auspiciousness, purity, and what is good. The Sanskrit term vâma-âcâra (“left conduct,” written vâmâcâra) has negative connotations in conventional contexts, but it is used by the left-hand schools themselves, though not because they admit to being partial to evil. Rather, in their exploration of our spiritual potential, they acknowledge the existence of the dark or shadow aspects of the human personality and of life in general. More than that, they actively associate with that which the “normal” person fears, avoids, or represses. The reason for this eccentric approach is partly to reclaim the repressed aspects of human existence and partly to demonstrate that life can and should be lived, under all circumstances, from the point of view of the ultimate truth of nonduality: If there is only the singular, all-comprising Being, then, to put it bluntly, it must also be the essence of genitals, death, and garbage.” “Yoga is understood as a gradual ascent to the transcendental Source, which involves the progressive penetration of the various layers of illusion that are created by the mâyâ principle. While success on the spiritual path depends on the guidance of a realized master, ultimately it is the grace of Shiva that bestows liberation on the deserving practitioner.” “Perhaps the most extraordinary teaching of the Bhâgavata-Purâna is the “Yoga of hatred” (dvesha- yoga), according to which a person who thoroughly hates the Divine can achieve God-Realization as readily as one who deeply loves the Lord. Sage Nârada, a frequent spokesman for the Bhâgavata religion, expresses it thus: 'All human emotions are grounded in the erroneous conception of “I” and “mine.” The Absolute, the universal Self, has neither “I”-sense nor emotions. (7.1.23) Hence one should unite [with God] through friendship or enmity, peaceableness or fear, love or attachment. [The Divine] sees no distinction whatsoever.(7.1.25)'” “Tantra is a comprehensive enough movement to contain its own antithesis. Thus, the pronounced ritualism characteristic of most Tantric schools is, for example, overcome and even criticized in the schools of the Buddhist Sahajayâna, the 'Vehicle of Spontaneity.' The adepts of this current take the doctrine of the identity between the conditional world and the ultimate Reality as literally as possible. They prescribe neither a path nor a goal, because from the viewpoint of spontaneity (sahaja) we are never truly separated from Reality. Our birth, the whole adventure of our life, and also our death occur against the eternal backdrop of Reality. We are like fish who do not know that they are swimming in water and are continuously sustained by it. The term sahaja means literally “born(ja) together (saha),” which refers to the fact that the empirical reality and the transcendental Reality are coessential. The word has come to connote 'spontaneity,' the natural approach to existence prior to interfering thought constructs about Reality. The sahaja-yogin lives from the point of view of enlightenment, of Reality. When we breathe, it is the Divine that breathes as us. When we think, it is the Divine that thinks as us. When we love and hate, it is the Divine that loves and hates as us. Yet we are forever in search of a 'higher' Reality, and this very quest merely reinforces our illusion of being separated from that Reality. The adepts of the Sahaja tradition, therefore, refused to put forward any program of liberation.” ”Yoga is not [attained] through the lotus posture and not by gazing at the tip of the nose. Yoga, say the experts of Yoga, is the identity (ailcya) of the psyche (jîva) with the [transcendental] Self.”

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    Three stars is probably not really accurate, it is just hard to rate an overview when you do not feel you have enough comprehensive information on the topic being overviewed to give an educated rating on the accuracy of the aforementioned overview. The book covers a lot of information, but I cannot confirm its accuracy so three stars for being relatively interesting but still feeling quite a bit like a list. I also am not sure how I feel about the way in which it was organized.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Massive and very informative.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Marco

    Un passage obligé de la littérature sur le yoga, pour tous les étudiants de n'importe quelle famille du yoga. Une revue foisonnante et riche en multiples références. L'auteur vulgarise très bien les textes anciens et offre une relecture intéressante de plusieurs concepts yogiques.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alejandra

    This book is a bowl of spaghetti. The author uses terms that he the defines eight chapters in. At least I could very effectively use it to fall asleep every night for over two months.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pradnya

    Awesome, encyclopedic work. Really admirable.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Littrell

    The most extensive and detailed work on yoga in English This extraordinary work represents a lifetime of devotion to yoga by its preeminent Western scholar. It is at once a distillation and compilation of all that Georg Feuerstein has gleaned in his extensive travels both academically and spiritually. It greatly broadens the usual scope of yoga to include its manifestation in other religions and goes back in time to the edge of the prehistory. Feuerstein understands that yoga is both an ancient p The most extensive and detailed work on yoga in English This extraordinary work represents a lifetime of devotion to yoga by its preeminent Western scholar. It is at once a distillation and compilation of all that Georg Feuerstein has gleaned in his extensive travels both academically and spiritually. It greatly broadens the usual scope of yoga to include its manifestation in other religions and goes back in time to the edge of the prehistory. Feuerstein understands that yoga is both an ancient practice, and, by itself, a profound and venerable religion. More than anything, however, it is a salient expression of the culture and philosophy, the lifestyle and history of the Indian subcontinent where it was the midwife of the great religions of Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism and of course that great body of belief and practice known as Hinduism. Feuerstein is in one sense a true believer. He has devoted his life to the study of yoga and attendant phenomena, in particular Hinduism and the broad Tantric tradition. One gets the sense that even here in this lengthy work, he knows much more than he is conveying; that there is a synergistic power in his extensive knowledge that allows him to know things that he cannot express. One feels his intense desire to say something that perhaps cannot be said, something spiritual and personal that can only be experienced. In another sense he is a hard-working scholar who reports on what he has learned without passing unnecessary judgments or drawing unwarranted conclusions, although he does interpret. He is, in this sense, the American expression of the great French scholar Mircea Eliade with perhaps a pinch of the Indian philosopher Sri Aurobindo, on the one hand, and the English tantrist Sir John Woodroffe, on the other, folded in. The book begins with a thorough definition of yoga and then an overview, and then its inescapable conjoining with Hinduism. This is "Part One: Foundations." Then Feuerstein looks at "Pre-Classical Yoga" and overviews the entire Vedic tradition including the yoga of the earliest Upanishads, culminating in its expression in the Bhagavad Gita. Then in "Part Three: Classical Yoga," he comes to Patanjali and the yoga of the eight limbs, the famous yoga of the aphorisms. Part Four is "Post-Classical Yoga" from the later Yoga-Upanishads from the Middle Ages in which the focus is on bhakti, technique, mantra and meditation. It is here that Western readers will find much that is new, or at least not readily available in English. And it is here that a non-dualistic yogic philosophy (as opposed to the dualism of Patanjali) holds sway. Part Five is on tantrism and "Yoga as Spiritual Alchemy." It is in this last part that the so-called "subtle body," with its nadis and pranas, its cakras ("psychoenergetic centers") and the mysterious serpent power of kundalini, is explored in depth. Here too we have the ritualistic practice of the five forbidden things from tantra yoga, the infamous "left-handed path." Here is Feuerstein's take: "Practitioners of the left-hand path ()--vâma means both "left" and "woman"--know they are breaking profound social taboos, and their only justification for their conduct is that their goal is not sensual gratification but self-transcendence in the context of bodily existence." (p. 484) To me--and I have studied and practiced yoga for 28 years--yoga is first and foremost a profound psychology, a way of life that has evolved along with the human experience, from the prehistory to today, a guide on how to live that has come down to us in part (only in part: so much has been lost) as a philosophic and religious tradition. Feuerstein's book is at once a great reference and a heart-felt exposition on the power of yoga to transcend this world in which we are enveloped in the "food sheath," where we are both the eater and the eaten, but with our eyes on the stars. The book includes numerous black and white illustrations, passages from yogis works, and an extensive, selected bibliography. There is a chronology, a glossary and an excellent index. --Dennis Littrell, author of “Yoga: Sacred and Profane (Beyond Hatha Yoga)”

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ivan Granger

    This is not a collection of poetry, but an excellent book to help you make sense of the ancient, complex philosophies, practices, and beliefs that make up yoga. The Yoga Tradition is truly encyclopedic. This book will free you from the misconception that yoga is just an elaborate form of stretching. It introduces us to ancient and modern yogic philosophies and practices. The many expressions of Hindu yoga, Jain yoga, Buddhist yoga, Sikh yoga, saints, philosophers, and reformers… This book helps This is not a collection of poetry, but an excellent book to help you make sense of the ancient, complex philosophies, practices, and beliefs that make up yoga. The Yoga Tradition is truly encyclopedic. This book will free you from the misconception that yoga is just an elaborate form of stretching. It introduces us to ancient and modern yogic philosophies and practices. The many expressions of Hindu yoga, Jain yoga, Buddhist yoga, Sikh yoga, saints, philosophers, and reformers… This book helps us to get oriented amidst thousands of years of complex history with a refreshingly coherent approach. Very highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michal

    Very informative and lots of information. Origins of yoga and other religious and philosophic traditions around India. Includes translated parts of original sources with comments. Somewhat tiresome to read, due to lots of information, mix of English and Indian words, extensive comments - so sometimes the main information might get lost, especially if one is not at home on this topic. All in all a good overview on the subject. Probably something to reread later :)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Cherie

    B Super dense, super technical, EVERYTHING abt yoga and its history….Is great for those interested in every single level, and def not meant to be read in one sitting (but I was sick and this is all that I had near me….). Full of interesting anecdotes. More of the theory, foundation, history, than practice. But very interesting.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Malissa Larson

    I pieced trough this work. It was a dense compilation of traditions and solid factual information behind them. This is a great jump around reference book of your looking to learn about specific yogic subjects. In my opinion this book would be very difficult as a front to back read. However it will never leave my library as a resource

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    I am a text book crazy person. I have held on to many over the years. I bought this one to self educate myself on the details of yoga as a western exercise, any information that I may have missed. I would recommend any self sturdier, this manual. Everything you ever wanted to know about yoga is here. Detailed and concise.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tom

    [Revised] After reading several "classic" yoga texts, I returned to this book, and my opinion rose a lot. It's fairly encyclopedic and does an excellent job of summarizing and comparing the available sources and information. I do, however, recommend starting out with other texts and only then turning to this volume as an overview.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leigh

    This was way too much like a text book for me to get any enjoyment out of it. I was reading it at the same time as another book and I found that I kept reaching for the other book when given the choice. Maybe I'll come back to this some day but for now, the library can keep it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Frank

    Though now arguably outdated since some pretty major contributions have been made to the field since Feuerstein's death, this massive tome is still worth reading as the best single resource on the basics of the history and teachings of the yoga tradition.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    An introduction into the philosophy and practice of yoga. If you are looking for instruction on poses, seek a different book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stedwards

    hugely useful resource/textbook style. comprehensive, western-reader oriented.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Cuevas

    A really complete summary of Yoga tradition I recommend this book to anyone who wants to deepen their understanding of the Yoga tradition. I really enjoy reading this book!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    i got this from the library. i would have to be really really dedicated to understanding yoga philosophy to actually read this. seems like it'd be a good reference book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    annemm

    great reference. always reading a few pages.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    dry, dry book

  27. 5 out of 5

    Stefanie

  28. 4 out of 5

    Xia

  29. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  30. 4 out of 5

    Joana Manego

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